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Can a crime victim sue a property owner for inadequate lighting?

Have you ever left a store at night and felt uncomfortable walking back to your car? Maybe you parked close to a parking lot light to decrease your risk of danger?

In the unfortunate event something bad does happen, you know that you have recourse against the perpetrator by filing charges with the police department. But did you know that you could also file a civil lawsuit against the owner of the property where the incident happened in Ohio?

Premises liability is a concept in the law that allows a person to sue the property owner of an area where some condition related to the property caused or contributed to physical harm or other loss to you. One of those potential sources of liability arises from the owner's failure to properly light areas to ensure the safety of its customers.

The problem is of such concern that the United States Department of Justice has even addressed the issue in a 2008 study. The study addresses questions such as whether better lighting does indeed deter or reduce crime, whether better lighting in one area just pushes crime into an adjoining area, and whether the costs to property owners to improve lighting to correct dangerous property actually create a reduction in crime.

The last issue is probably the most relevant in the points to be considered in a civil lawsuit. If studies show that improving lighting in the area of the crime would be exorbitant in comparison to the likely effect on crime, then the property owner may be able to argue that it would not be reasonable to expect it to make the improvement.

Another concept in premises liability law is that, even if the property owner improved the lighting after the incident you experienced, the owner's action after the crime may not be admissible in court to prove that the lighting was inadequate at the time of the crime.

As this brief summary of premises liability law demonstrates, the questions to be considered in litigation are not clear-cut.  Someone who has been the victim of a criminal act due to alleged inadequate lighting would benefit from contacting an attorney with experience in this complicated area of the law. Compensation may be appropriate in your situation, but many elements of law must be proven in order to recover.

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