What Makes a Poorly Lit Parking Lot So Dangerous?

Published on Mar 30, 2022 at 11:40 am in Premises Liability.

dim light over parking spaces

Stop and think for a minute about how many times you’ve been in a situation where you’ve found yourself walking in a dark parking lot. While inclement weather, equipment failure, or a timer set to prematurely turn off might be to blame for the lack of lighting, none of these are valid excuses for situations where lighting exists but is ineffective.

A parking lot may be poorly lit for various reasons, including inadequate placement of lighting or usage of incorrect wattages of bulbs. Even obstructions, such as tree limbs that haven’t been adequately cut back or a lack of maintenance, can cause an existing light not to fully illuminate an area as brightly as it should. These factors can result in poor lighting and increase individuals’ risks of getting hurt on someone’s premises.

Throughout the remainder of the article, we’ll highlight dangers associated with poorly lit parking lots in hopes that it will help you avoid an injury incident yourself.

Slips, Trips, and Falls Are a Risk in Poorly Lit Parking Lots

Ask one of our premises liability attorneys in Jackson, MS, and they’ll tell you that there are many moving parts in parking lots. Parents may have kids to wrangle, things to put in or take out of their cars, or a shopping cart to return. Plus, there’s the added movement of people walking around, often distracted by their environment, latest purchase, or smartphones.

As you can tell, there are a lot of things vying for someone’s attention in a parking lot. There are a lot of other dangers lurking there too, though. These hazards and the potential harm that they pose include some of the following.

Runaway Shopping Carts

This phenomenon most commonly occurs when customers fail to return their carts to the corral or try to place them in one that’s blocked or already full.

If you ever stop to read the signs placed atop these corrals, you’ll notice where it says the store can keep your prices low by you returning your cart there. At the same time, that sign generally mentions that a store isn’t liable for damages if a cart gets loose.

If you wonder why the sign says the latter, it’s because it doesn’t take a very strong wind to blow an unsecured cart into someone or something. After all, if you look at these corrals, you’ll notice there’s not much more than a metal ridge of less than two inches potentially keeping the cart in place.

While many shopping carts are a shiny stainless silver hue, some are red, black, green, or other colors that can be challenging to see in a poorly lit parking lot at night. A shopper or employee may not see one if it gets loose and heads in their direction. Individuals can and do suffer significant injuries, such as blunt force trauma, when this happens.

Unobservant Motorists

How many times have you found yourself needing to dodge a vehicle while walking into or out of a place of business? It probably happens a lot. Why?

Differently sized cars are often tightly packed into spaces within parking lots, making it feel like motorists have barriers or blinders around them. Drivers tend to assume that if they don’t see anything behind them from their rearview mirror, it’s safe to pull out without ever looking around any further.

Darkness only makes matters worse. Individuals tend to appear as, at best, mere shadows in a poorly lit parking lot. As if the risk of a pedestrian or another motorist wasn’t high enough on a clear day, it’s even more significant when it’s dark outside.


Parking lots are exposed to wear and tear, both from use and exposure to the elements. It doesn’t take long before a freshly paved parking lot becomes weathered and looks poorly maintained.

The most notable sign of wear and tear in a parking lot is potholes. These don’t only pose a danger in terms of potentially damaging your physical property (like your car’s tires or shocks) but also put you at risk for physical harm. How?

There are so many different stimuli in a parking lot. You might be keeping a watchful eye over your kids, trying to avoid being struck by another car, or thinking about what you’re going to buy or do.

Probably the last concern on your mind is staring at the ground. You might not be able to see it anyway if lighting is poor. You could be coming upon a pothole and not know it.

A pothole, depending on how wide or deep it is, can easily result in a strained or sprained ankle. It’s not uncommon for a foot fracture to result from someone stepping into a pothole, either. As bad as they are, those are often recoverable injuries. Some potholes can cause individuals to trip and fall, resulting in them striking their heads on the pavement and suffering a head injury.

The prospect of a motorist not seeing the fallen pedestrian in an inadequately illuminated parking lot and running over them, taking their life, is a real danger as well.


As you’ve ventured out, you may have noticed both marked and unmarked curbs, ones with different breaks in them, and ones that come in varying heights. Just because there are standards for constructing curbs doesn’t mean that everyone follows them.

Many trips and falls that occur in parking lots happen because of poor curb design or user oversight. Pedestrians either don’t see these curbs’ rises or their drop-offs. This issue is even more prevalent when it’s dark outside, there’s poor lighting in the area, and a curb is unmarked.

Pedestrians may not notice the subtle differences between the colors of the concrete curb and the sun-beaten, washed-out asphalt down below—especially when it’s dark and there’s little to no illumination. If a trip occurs, then the incident can result in lower limb or head injuries, much like what can happen if a pedestrian encounters a pothole.

Wheel Stops

Whether you want to make sure that your vehicle is appropriately parked in its space or you are trying to navigate back to your car after having left an establishment, you’re likely to encounter wheel stops. These are the low concrete barriers at the end of the parking space that keep you from striking a car parked in front of you.

Wheel stops also commonly cause trips and falls in parking lots. As if that weren’t bad enough, there’s also the risk of individuals becoming impaled by the rebar that holds them in place if they fall.

If you think that wheel stops aren’t dangerous, then think of how many times one might have tripped you up and how many you’ve seen that have been displaced or are in disrepair yet seem to go unaddressed. Much like curbs, a poorly lit parking lot makes it challenging to see these hazards, increasing your risk of getting hurt.

What To Do if a Poorly Lit Parking Lot Has Left You Injured

The list of potential hazards you may encounter in parking lots is endless. Poor lighting or complete darkness decreases visibility, increasing the likelihood of an adverse event happening.

Property owners have an obligation to ensure that their premises are reasonably safe. If you can prove that inadequate lighting, lack of upkeep, or any other negligence contributed to your injuries, then you may have a valid premises liability claim.

Since each case is unique, one of our attorneys at Pittman Roberts & Welsh, PLLC will want to review the specifics regarding your legal matter to determine if negligence indeed occurred. Provided it did, we will guide you through the process of taking legal action to protect your rights.

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