Michigan Slip and Fall Lawyer
Trips, slips, and falls are common. That doesn’t make their consequences any less painful, inconvenient, or potentially permanent. If you or a loved one is seeking compensation to assist with recovery, you need to know your legal rights.
Table of Contents
What Is Premises Liability?
When you’re trying to demonstrate premises liability, you’re attempting to show that a specific injury resulted from a specific defective or unsafe condition on the legal property of someone else.
Picture a floor with a thin layer of water after mopping where no wet floor sign has been placed, and you’ll get the idea. Many states have laws indicating that land and property owners must keep their premises in a safe condition. This is to protect visitors and protect property owners from being legally liable for any injuries that may happen on their property.
If you’re familiar with your legal terms, you may wonder if that has anything to do with general negligence.
What’s the Difference Between Premises Liability and General Negligence?
The difference comes down to a shift in perspective. According to the Michigan Bar Journal:
“Premises liability arises from conditions of the premises under the defendant’s control, while general negligence stems from the conduct of the defendant.”
If a property owner receives a claim of premises liability, the result might be that they need to use an ordinary amount of energy or assets to eliminate or reduce a designated risk. That risk, in the case of premises liability, should be something that the owner should know about while exercising ordinary levels of care.
General negligence has more to do with the actions or conduct of the owner instead of the state of their property. For example, if an object has been carelessly laid upon the floor, it is premises liability; if the owner is actively carrying an object and bumps into you with it, it is negligence.
Premises Liability: Slip & Fall in a Fast-Food Restaurant
Plaintiff slipped and fell on the floor of a fast-food restaurant. The defendant was negligent for not placing caution signs to warn patrons. Plaintiff required back surgery.
Premises Liability: Slip & Fall at the Airport
After purchasing a cup of coffee in an airport lounge, the client encountered water on the floor that leaked from an ice machine – known by the property owner to be defective – causing him to slip and fall. As a result, the client suffered herniated discs in his lumbar spine and a labrum tear of the hip requiring surgery, post-operative care, and rehabilitation.
Premises Liability: Slip & Fall on a Convenience Store Floor
A customer slipped and fell on a convenience store floor that had recently been mopped. Store employee negligently failed to place caution signs to warn customers of the wet floor. Plaintiff suffered a lower back injury.
Premise Liability / Landlord / Tenant Negligence
The client used the staircase at a rental home when the hand railing detached from the wall causing her to fall and suffer multiple subdural hematomas requiring a craniotomy procedure to drain fluid from the brain. Discovery revealed Landlord had notice of the defective handrail and negligently repaired it.
Slip and Fall Injury Facts and Statistics
How often do slips and falls commonly occur? Let’s take a quick look at the demographics of these types of cases.
Common Locations for Slips, Trips, and Falls
These types of accidents can occur anywhere, but there are some locations where they tend to happen more frequently. These include:
- Mopped floors without a wet floor sign;
- Poorly lit or dirty staircases;
- Rugs or carpets concealing holes in the floor, or those with loose threads;
- Black ice in parking lots or driveways;
- Concrete or asphalt defects.
Common Causes of Slip, Trip, and Fall Cases
If you’re considering legal action over a slip or trip, it’ll greatly help your case if you can identify a specific cause. While the specifics of your situation are unique, several common causes of slips, trips, and falls include:
- Wet floors, whether due to rain, spills, or cleaning activities
- Slippery floors, as distinct from wet floors (think: freshly-polished, tiled entrances)
- Loose floor coverings (e.g., mats)
- Icy conditions
- Loose flooring (e.g., chipped and protruding wood panels)
- Uneven flooring (e.g., poorly installed tiles)
- Trailing cables
- Bad lighting
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Laws in Michigan for Slip and Fall Cases
There are a few Michigan laws that most directly affect slip and fall cases, including the statute of limitations regarding personal injury and laws surrounding premises liability and comparative negligence. These include:
- Michigan Codified Law 600.5805, which states that the period of time in which someone can initiate legal action related to a death or injury is three years after the incident.
- Michigan Codified Law 600.2959, which concerns comparative fault and reduced damages.
- Michigan Codified Law 554.139, which requires that landlords of residential properties keep the premises and common areas fit for use and keep the premises in reasonable repair during the term of the lease.
Frequent Injuries of Slip and Fall Accidents
While a slip may seem innocuous, these types of frequent accidents can result in serious injury. Here are several of the most common slip and fall injuries:
- Broken bones
- Soft tissue injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Hip fractures
- Sprained wrists or ankles
- Cuts and abrasions
- Spinal cord injuries
- Neck and shoulder injuries
- Knee injuries
- Wrongful death
Clearly, some of these potential injuries are more serious than others. A scrape may not result in as comparatively high a level of suffering as a traumatic brain injury. A spinal cord injury will likely require more care and recuperation than a simple sprain.
However, none of these injuries, even the seemingly smaller ones, should be discounted. There are also less obvious mental injuries that can result from a slip or trip, such as trauma, stress, or fear. Finally, there’s also the possibility that a relatively minor abrasion gets infected after the fact.
What Should I Do After a Slip and Fall?
Immediately after a slip and fall incident has taken place, you should document what happened. Consider the following actions:
- Take photographs of any injuries you may have immediately sustained.
- Take photographs of any environmental triggers that led to your fall or nearby information that seems relevant. (This could be anything from a crack in the sidewalk to the nearby restaurant sign to help you remember precisely where you are — or who might be liable.)
- If there are any eyewitnesses nearby, ask for their information. They may be valuable resources later on, as you are proving your slip and fall claim.
- Whether your injury seems large or small, it’s always a good idea to be examined by a doctor after a slip and fall. Obtaining that medical report can be a compelling piece of evidence should you decide to pursue compensation for your suffering.
Filling Out an Incident Report
In addition, it will likely be in your best interest to contact a local authority and fill out an incident report.
This may feel like an overreaction, particularly if your trip or fall seems inconsequential at the time. Remember that injuries like internal bleeding and “soft tissue” damage to the neck and back are not always immediately visible. Taking the time immediately after the incident to file a report may help you later. To file a report, consider taking the following steps:
- Notify security, the property owner or manager, or even the police as soon as possible.
- When you’re speaking to the person filing the report (or if you’re filling it out yourself), make sure it contains the following information: Your contact details, the location and time of the incident, a description of the accident scene, the contact details for the property owner, the contact details of any present witnesses, and a description of your injuries.
- Make sure that you get a copy of the incident report.
- If the police or local authorities were not involved in creating the incident report, make sure that your local station or relevant authority gets a copy of that report.
Should I Speak to an Insurance Adjuster?
If your injuries are immediately and clearly severe, you will need resources to heal adequately. Whether your medical bills are large or you need to take time off work to recuperate, it may quickly be evident that you will need to file an insurance claim or similar action.
Unfortunately, the property owner and their insurance company may be less than helpful when it comes to getting you the compensation you deserve. As you start to speak with insurance representatives, you can easily give seemingly-innocuous statements that could reduce your ability to recover damages. For example:
- Guesses or estimations. In general, any statement that begins with ‘I think’ may serve as a trigger for an insurance adjuster to dig deeper, which may not be in your best interest.
- Any statement of fault. This includes apologies. If you have intimated that you are even remotely at fault, the insurance adjuster may be able to use that against you to deny you compensation.
- Minimization of injuries. Whether you were hurt badly or not, you may instinctively say that you didn’t suffer too badly or that your experience could have been worse. Do not admit this. This type of statement can also be used against you. (Remember, you may not be aware of the extent of your injuries, even a few days after the event.)
It can be very easy to misspeak and say something that could negate your chances of pursuing damages effectively. Since this is the case, it may be in your best interest to avoid speaking with insurance adjusters until you’ve secured legal representation.
Filing a Slip and Fall Lawsuit
Your Michigan slip and fall lawyer will be able to handle your case, complete all the paperwork, and help you determine the best basis possible for your slip and fall lawsuit. Here, we’ll take some time to go over the procedures and elements of a successful slip and fall suit.
Will My Case Go to Court?
The specific way your case progresses will depend on the particulars of your situation, but, in general, you may be able to handle your case out of court if you, the defendant, the insurance company, and all other involved parties can agree on a settlement. If not, then your case may need to be handled in court.
Proving a Slip and Fall: Elements of a Proper Claim
To prove or determine liability in a successful slip and fall suit, you’ll need to prove the following elements:
- Injury. You’ll need to demonstrate evidence of a real injury. Typically, a doctor’s confirmation or medical report will be helpful to prove this element.
- Causation. You’ll need to demonstrate that there was a dangerous condition on the property (or a similar type of cause) that directly led to the incident and injury. Photographs and witness statements can be very helpful in this regard.
- Notice. The process of proving negligence may require clear evidence that the property owner knew about the dangerous condition on their property, had the opportunity to deal with the condition, and didn’t. You may also need to demonstrate that the dangerous condition has been in effect for an unreasonable period of time or had unique characteristics, such that the owner should have corrected it.
- Not Open and Obvious. The law requires injured parties to have exercised reasonable care on their own behalf. If the defect or thing that injured you would have been seen by the average person using “casual observation”, the landlord is exempt from liability. You will need to demonstrate that not only did you fail to see the hazard before the fall, but the average person using an ordinary level of care would have also missed it. This does not mean “constantly scanning the premises” looking for dangers, but it does mean an “informal” or “haphazard” effort.
- Purpose on the Property. The duties owed to you by a landlord will vary depending on whether you were there for a business purpose, social purpose, or whether you were on their land without permission. You should consult an attorney as to the effect of each legal status. Generally, most premises cases involve people who are there for a business purpose; the premises owner owes those people a duty to inspect the premises and to remove dangerous conditions.
Another element of a completed slip and fall claim is the amount of damages awarded to the slip and fall victim. In a later section of this guide, we’ll discuss settlements in more detail.
Slip and Fall on Public vs. Private Property
How much does location matter in a slip and fall case?
Is there a difference if the victim experienced the fall on public or private property?
Claims for trips and slips that occur on private property may seem relatively straightforward, at least in terms of figuring out who may be the liable party. When the victim falls at a library, in a government establishment, on a sidewalk, or on a public playground, who’s liable for damages?
The government entity technically responsible for the area — e.g., the public works department or a similar organization — will be able to put up a more complex argument against their liability. For example, they may try to claim some form of governmental immunity.
What is governmental immunity?
Under state law, if a government employee is doing their government job when any negligence occurs, you may not be able to sue the government successfully.
However, there are exceptions to government liability. If your slip and fall involves government-maintained locations or functions, you may be able to file a claim, particularly with an experienced Michigan slip and fall attorney at your side. However, there will be additional notice requirements and protections in place. For example, this could include: a public building or a public sidewalk. If your fall involves a public entity, you should immediately contact an attorney as specific, time-sensitive notice requirements may apply.
Please note that for federal or state-owned buildings, additional notice and legal protections may apply, including a prompt requirement to submit notice of the injury. You should immediately contact an attorney if your slip and fall involves a federal or state-owned building.
Settlements in Slip and Fall Cases
While there is not an average settlement amount for Michigan slip and fall cases, as each one is different, you and your attorney can work together to determine what might be the proper amount in your case based on specific factors of your situation.
Factors that could influence the amount of your settlement include:
- Where the injury occurred
- The nature of the condition that caused the injury
- How long the dangerous condition was in place prior to your fall
- The specific medical and psychological injuries resulting from the fall
- The types of medical treatment necessary after the fall
- The amount of pain and suffering you experienced because of the fall
- The future recommended medical treatment for the victim of the fall
- How much work the victim will be missing
- The total dollar amount of the medical bills and the wages lost
- The effect on the victim’s life (e.g., lack of mobility, lack of enjoyment)
Your Michigan personal injury attorney will work with you to determine the maximum compensation achievable in your specific case. Depending on the different factors at play, your settlement could vary drastically in amount. While some premises cases do not receive any settlement offers, some cases have received settlement offers in excess of one hundred thousand dollars, depending on the extent of injury and liability. Results vary from case to case and you should consult an attorney before conclusively deciding the value of any case.
Suing for Pain and Suffering
It may be a surprise to learn that you can obtain damages for pain and suffering after your slip and fall injury in Michigan. You will have to prove your pain and suffering in some way, and clearly connect your suffering to the injury or trauma after the central slip and fall event. Doctor’s statements, photographs, witness testimony, and even video can all be helpful to support this connection.
The following types of pain and suffering may be included in your claim:
- Physical suffering and pain related to your fall
- Mental anguish
- Shock and fright
- Lost enjoyments
- Lost social pleasure
- Humiliation or embarrassment
- Shame, anxiety, and other forms of mental pain
Understanding Comparative Negligence
In Michigan, a defendant in a slip and fall case may argue comparative negligence, under Michigan Codified Law 600.2959. The defendant may argue that the damages awarded to the victim of the slip and fall event should be lowered, depending on the negligence of the victim themselves. If the victim is deemed to be more than 50% at fault, they will not be able to recover damages for pain and suffering (non-economic damages), and their other monetary (economic) damages will be reduced.
Where intoxication is involved, an “absolute” defense to damages may apply where the cause of the injury is deemed to be 50% or more due to a person’s voluntary intoxication, under Michigan Codified Law 600.2955a. For a lesser degree of fault from voluntary intoxication (below 50%), damages are still reduced. For slip and falls involving restaurants, bars, and pubs, you should always keep this statute in mind.
Under comparative negligence, if the defendant can show that the victim was intoxicated, wasn’t paying attention to where they were walking, or was otherwise responsible for their fate, the victim may be limited in the amount and type of damages they can recover, even if the liability elements above are met.
How to Hire the Best Michigan Slip and Fall Attorney
When you’re looking for the best possible professional to help you with your case, look at the firm’s history of success. You’ll want to see that your potential Michigan slip and fall attorney has been able to help people in your exact position work towards maximum compensation. Then, give your prospective attorney a call, and ask them about their plans for your case. Above all, make sure that your attorney seems like someone you can trust. You’ll want to be able to put your case in their hands entirely, so you can concentrate on recovering with your loved ones.