Visitor Question

Fell down stairs and cut leg due to inadequate lighting…

Submitted By: Darlene (Bear, DE)

I was walking down stairs in an apartment complex which were poorly lit. Once I got towards the end of the steps I thought I was at the landing, but I went to step and fell down two concrete steps. It hurt pretty bad. We then went and dropped the dog off at the sitters, and when we returned home and I removed my high leather boots we saw blood from a gash.

At that point we tried to control the bleeding but couldn’t. I went to an urgent care facility and the doctor couldn’t believe how bad it was. Twenty two stitches later we were sent home. There’s now an infection and we are being referred to a surgeon. I’m scared and don’t know what to do about this situation.

Does the apartment have to pay for all these medical costs? How does that happen? Do I have to get a lawyer and file a lawsuit? Thank you for any information you can provide.

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Darlene,

The apartment owner is bound by the legal doctrine of premises liability, which refers to a property owner’s legal duty to do everything within reason to to make the property (premises) safe for tenants, visitors, business people, and others who are legally upon the property.

Read more about the liability of property owners and visitors.

While we were unable to locate any laws within the State of Delaware dictating the degree of brightness an apartment owner must project onto stairwells, it is fair to say there must be sufficient light for those walking up and down the stairwell to clearly see the steps. From the facts you present, it appears the stairwell was not sufficiently lit. As a result, you were unnecessarily injured.

The apartment’s owner’s failure to properly light the stairwell can be considered a breach of his or her legal duty of care. That breach is also referred to as the apartment owner’s “negligence.”

When negligence becomes the direct and proximate cause of an injury, the negligent party becomes responsible (liable) for the injured person’s damages.

Damages can include medical and therapy bills, out of pocket expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

There are some injuries resulting from negligence which can be handled without legal representation. These are generally referred to as “soft tissue” injuries.

They include minor cuts and abrasions, strains and sprains, whiplash, and like injuries.

Your injuries are more serious “hard injuries.” Hard injuries generally include deep gashes requiring stitches, scarring, fractures, head trauma, and the like. Hard injuries almost always require legal representation.

Be sure to take photos of the gash and photos of the stairwell. Take the photos of the stairwell at about the same time you fell. You said “We then went and dropped off the dog…” This means you have at least one witness. That will help if you decide to pursue a negligence injury claim against the apartment owner.

It would also be in your best interest to visit with a plastic surgeon. This will be especially important when your attorney is negotiating a settlement agreement with the apartment owner or his or her insurance company.

If you intend to pursue the matter, seek the advice and counsel if several personal injury attorneys in your area. Most do not charge for initial office consultations. Bring along with you photos of the stairwell taken at night, your witness(s), copies of your medical records and bills.

Once several attorneys have reviewed your documentation they will be able to answer other questions you may have. In all likelihood, they will also be able to tell the strength of your claim, the approximate time it will take to finalize the claim, and a general idea of the amount the claim will settle for.

Learn more here: Apartment Building Injury Claims

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney.

Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call 888-972-0892.

We wish you the best with your claim,


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