More than one million Americans suffer a slip and fall injury each year according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and of those more than 17,000 die. And, the CDC reports, slip and fall injuries also account for 15 per cent of all job related injuries.
According to OSHA slip and fall incidents are the second leading cause injuries and deaths after car accidents. The CDC and OSHA studies dispel quickly the false notion many people have that slip and fall lawsuits are frivolous in nature and are filed by greedy individuals in search of a quick buck.
Lawsuits are filed because the victims are badly hurt, possibly disabled for life or killed, because of the carelessness and neglect of others. I think that has more to do with justice than greed.
“Slip & Fall” is an injury claim based on a fall that occurs on someone else’s property, is caused by that property owner’s negligence, and requires a Michigan slip and fall accident lawyer. A Slip & Fall occurs not because the victim was not paying attention and stumbled, but because another person’s negligence lead to the fall.
Our own slip and fall accident attorney team’s research revealed that thousands of people are injured every year because of hidden hazards on property or because of flagrant dangerous conditions that property owners fail to correct. Falls are one of the most common sources of injuries in the United States.
Among the hidden hazards or flagrant dangerous conditions that can produce valid Slip & Fall claims are:
- Ice or snow on sidewalks
- Poor lighting
- Defective flooring
- Clear ice
- Standing water puddles
- Improperly secured floor mats
- Unsafe stairways or steps
- Hidden drop offs or holes
Slip and fall cases fall under a broader category known as ‘premises liability. Under the premises liability area of law, property owners and businesses have a duty to provide a safe environment and if they fail to do so, and someone is injured as a result, they may be held liable for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
But you must prove that the property owner knew or should have know about the hazard and that he had a reasonable amount of time to correct the hazard but failed to do so. In the case of an overnight winter storm, the property owner may not be liable if a reasonable amount of time to clear the walkway had not passed.
Slip & Fall laws have undergone several significant changes in Michigan. State Supreme Court and Michigan Appellate Court rulings in recent years have resulted in restrictions being placed on the ability of victims to seek justice.
To be successful in making a Slip & Fall claim the victim must have a demonstrable injury. The injury does not have to be serious to file a claim but an injury normally has to be serious to win a judgment. If the injury is mild, make sure you consult with legal consul about the chances of litigating successfully.
To prove a claim, the victim must prove that the dangerous condition on the property was directly responsible for the fall and subsequent injury. As an example, a storeowner may have failed to remove snow from the sidewalk but to establish the owner was at fault it must be shown the snow caused the fall. The successful claimant also will be able to demonstrate that the injury suffered was caused by the specific Slip & Fall incident.
To prove a property owner negligent in Michigan to win a Slip & Fall claim requires:
- Showing that the property owner should have had knowledge of the dangerous condition
- Showing the property owner had the chance to correct the problem causing the fall or give warning of the problem.
- Showing that the property owner negligently failed to give warning or correct the problem.
Sometimes a property owner can escape responsibility by asserting an “open and obvious doctrine” defense. This defense is based on whether the existence of the hazard was openly visible and seen by the victim before the fall.
Generally the law does not require a property owner to remove ice or snow that accumulates outside the building as a result of weather. But if an unnatural accumulation of ice or snow occurs, than the owner can be liable. And if a snow removal service is employed, the owner can be held liable if negligence can be proved. So many issues are involved with a slip and fall on an icy walkway that an attorney should be hired to review the facts.
There is no precise formula that can be used to determine when the property owner is responsible if you slip or trip. Each case turns on whether the property owner acted carefully so that slipping was unlikely to happen and whether you were careless in not seeing or avoiding the condition that caused your fall. That’s why you must seek the advice of an attorney who can make that determination for you.
Another important issue in a Slip & Fall case is whether the victim was “invited” by the property owner to enter the premises. A business customer is understood to be invited by the owner and therefore must be given a high duty of care. The landowner must inspect his business site for defects periodically to identify and eliminate any risks to customers.
A business owner is expected to take reasonably prompt action to remove defects, eliminate hazards, or post warnings about the existence of a hazard or defect. Failure to do so can constitute negligence.
A property owner has a lesser duty to a licensee. A licensee is someone with limited permission to enter the property, such as a meter reader, mail carrier, newspaper carrier, social guest, firefighter or police officer.
A property owner has a limited duty of care owed to a trespasser. There are obligations, however, if the trespasser is a child or if the property owner set a trap for a trespasser.
The doctrine of “comparative negligence” often applies in slip and fall cases, and that generates another set of issues to be explored by legal counsel. The comparative negligence standard looks whether the victim had a legitimate reason to be at the place where the hazard existed, if a careful person could have observed and avoided the hazard, if any warnings existed, and if the victim was distracted.
Slip and fall victims will want to make sure the lawsuit is filed on time, which is very important. For instance, if you fall on a sidewalk owned by a municipality than you might have less than 90 days to file a claim.