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Potholes in Parking Lots

I’m Katelyn Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss personal injury law topics.

Today’s question comes from a caller who said she fell after stepping into a pothole in a poorly lit parking lot. She wonders whether the owner or operator of the commercial premises may be held liable for personal injuries caused by a defective or dangerous condition of a parking lot.

The answer is that yes, in general, the owner or operator of a parking lot may be held liable for injuries suffered by a person lawfully using the lot when the owner or operator fails to use reasonable care to maintain the lot.

Parking lot operators can be liable for injuries caused by a pothole. Or from slipperiness caused by snow or ice. Or a danger posed by a condition such as an oil spill.

As a general rule, a parking lot owner or operator is under a duty to exercise reasonable care to keep the premises safe for business patrons and others who are on the premises lawfully. A lesser duty of care may be applicable where the injured person is a mere trespasser.

The owner or operator of a parking lot breaches the duty of reasonable care where he allows to exist a condition that presents a foreseeable unreasonable risk of harm to parking lot users.

Liability would be relatively easy to establish where a parking lot has numerous unpatched potholes. Especially if the potholes have existed for days, weeks, or months.

Potholes present a condition that parking lot operators should know present a danger. The danger can increase if the lot is usable at night and there is poor lighting. The hazard can be enhanced further where the holes are deep and filled with water after or during a rain event.

On the other hand, a parking lot owner or operator will not be held liable for injuries to a business patron where the injury was caused by unexpected and unforeseeable circumstances. For example, suppose a customer suffered a radiator or oil leak and left a slick patch on the pavement that the parking lot had no opportunity to learn about. In such a case, liability would be unlikely. Yet, if the slick patch again existed for days or weeks, the parking lot operator very well might be held liable.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you are a victim of someone’s carelessness, substandard medical care, a product defect, work injury, or another personal injury, please call (219) 736-9700 with your questions. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at DavidHolubLaw.com – while there, make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth.”