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Slip & Fall Accidents

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Slip & Fall and Trip & Fall accidents are typically called premises liability legal actions.

These cases can be filed by a victim who is hurt because of the negligence or carelessness of someone else. In Michigan, thousands of victims are eligible to make these claims every year.

The following are some of the dangerous conditions that can cause injury and may be the basis for a premises liability claim:

  • Cracked or crumbling staircases
  • Clear ice
  • Black ice
  • Uncleared snow
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Defective flooring
  • Improperly secured mats
  • Standing puddles of water
  • Stairways and steps that violate building safety codes
  • Hidden drop-offs
  • Concealed holes
  • Improperly maintained escalators, elevators, or moving walkways

 

If you or a loved one has been injured from a fall due to slipping or tripping, contact us as soon as possible.

Submit a simple, free consultation form now.

We are ready to help. Get the Bernstein Advantage® today.

Legal Resources

The following sections have more information on Slip & Fall Accidents:

  • How long do I have to pursue a slip & fall claim?

    In general, the Michigan Statute of Limitations (the time in which you can file a lawsuit) is THREE YEARS from the date of an accident that occurs on private property. Children have until one year after their 18th birthday to either resolve a claim or file a lawsuit. However, it is not wise to delay pursuing a claim. Often, physical evidence of the conditions causing the accident will disappear as time passes.

    If you or a loved one has been injured from a fall due to slipping or tripping, contact us as soon as possible.

    Submit a simple, free consultation form now.

    We are ready to help. Get the Bernstein Advantage® today.

  • How much is a Slip & Fall claim worth?

    The facts surrounding the accident and the extent of the injury will significantly impact the value of a claim. Often, the true value of a claim cannot be determined until investigation and a complete medical diagnosis of your injuries is complete. Every case is different, and it is important to consult with our office concerning the value in light of your particular circumstances.

    The negligent party is responsible for all reasonable damages that directly flow from its negligence. That is, the owner or the possessor of the property is responsible for medical and hospital expenses, medications, nursing care, wage loss, and pain and suffering.

    If you or a loved one has been injured from a fall due to slipping or tripping, contact us as soon as possible.

    Submit a simple, free consultation form now.

    We are ready to help. Get the Bernstein Advantage® today.

  • What are the elements of a Slip & Fall Claim?

    In order to successfully bring a slip and fall claim, a victim must be able to prove four elements.  Each element is described in detail below:

    1. Injury: To succeed in a Michigan slip and fall or trip and fall claim, it is necessary to demonstrate damages. The accident victim must have evidence of a real injury, usually the injury is confirmed by a physician.
    2. Causation or “Proximate Cause”: The victim also must prove that a dangerous condition on the property directly caused the fall and resulting injury. This legal requirement, known as “causation” or “proximate cause”.For this reason, when our firm takes on a case, we commit considerable resources to investigating the accident site and obtaining witness testimony, medical records, and other evidence to establish the direct connection between the negligent action or omission and our client’s accident.
    3.  Negligence: Proving negligence under Michigan law may require evidence that:- The property owner actually knew, or reasonably should have known, about the dangerous condition, and
      – The property owner had the ability and opportunity to correct the problem or warn of its existence, and
      – The property owner negligently failed to do so.This concept is known as “notice” or “constructive notice”.  Even with notice, a property owner is not required to fix a hazard immediately. Instead, the law permits a reasonable amount of time to correct a dangerous condition. Even if a property owner had “notice” of a dangerous condition, they may try to use a legal defense called the “open and obvious doctrine” to escape responsibility.

      These standards are further complicated by legal distinctions based on the type of property where an injury occurred and the reason for the victim’s presence on the property.

      In some cases, it is difficult to prove how long a hazardous condition existed on a property. Establishing this element of the case requires considerable effort by a skilled lawyer. Contact us for help now.

    4. Purpose on the Property: The reason that the injured person was on the property is an important factor in a premise liability case. Regardless of which legal category that you believe may apply to your situation, you should consult with our law firm to get a proper determination.The following are the legal terms used to describe the purpose for a victim being at the place where the injury occurred:Invitee
      A business owner owes a high duty of care to a customer, who is also known as an “invitee.” A landlord must use the same high level of care to protect a tenant. In either situation, the owner not only must warn the “invitee” of dangers, but also regularly and actively inspect its premises to identify defects, and take reasonably prompt steps to repair any potentially hazardous conditions.

      Licensee
      A property owner owes a lesser duty to a “licensee,” who may be a social guest or someone else who is allowed on the property, but not invited for the owner’s economic benefit. The owner only has to warn that visitor about dangers which the owner knew or should know about, but which the guest is unlikely to be able to see or avoid.

      Trespasser
      A property owner owes very limited duties of care to a “trespasser,” that is, a person who does not have permission to be on the property. However, the owner may have some obligations to a trespasser who is a child, when the owner or possessor of land knows or reasonably should know of the child’s presence. Additionally, the owner or possessor of land cannot set a trap to try to cause injury to a trespasser.

    If you or a loved one has been injured from a fall due to slipping or tripping, contact us as soon as possible.

    Submit a simple, free consultation form now.

    We are ready to help. Get the Bernstein Advantage® today.

  • What is the Open and Obvious Doctrine?

    Even if a property owner had “notice” of a dangerous condition, they may try to use a legal defense called the “open and obvious doctrine” to escape responsibility. Years ago, the doctrine prevented slip & fall claims by individuals whose injuries resulted from their own carelessness.

    The open and obvious doctrine asks whether a person of “average intelligence” should have discovered the hazardous condition upon casual inspection. If a hazard causing a fall is found to be open and obvious, the victim is typically left with no cause of action.

    When applying the open and obvious doctrine to conditions involving the natural accumulation of ice and snow, Michigan courts continue to assert that it is reasonable to have a common knowledge of weather hazards that occur during the winter months. However, when the potentially hazardous condition pertains to “clear” or “black” ice the answer to whether it will be considered open and obvious will depend upon the specific facts of each individual case.

    If you or a loved one has been injured from a fall due to slipping or tripping, contact us as soon as possible.

    Submit a simple, free consultation form now.

    We are ready to help. Get the Bernstein Advantage® today.

  • How does Black Ice affect a claim?

    Unless there is some showing that the black ice in question would have been visible on casual inspection prior to the fall or without some other indication of a potentially hazardous condition in the area, the Court has refused to find that black ice, by itself, is an open and obvious danger.

    Michigan winters can be dangerous due to slip & falls on snow and ice.  Frequently, individuals fall because the ice is not visible because it is “clear ice” or “black ice.”

    Until recently, there was not a published decision on the issue of whether black ice, in and of itself, was an open and obvious condition. In a recent case, published by the Michigan Court of Appeals, the court defined black ice as having an overriding principle of being “invisible or nearly invisible,” and held that the definition is inherently inconsistent with the open and obvious doctrine. Using this black ice definition, the courts have declined to extend the open and obvious doctrine to black ice cases where there was no evidence that the ice would have been visible on a casual inspection and in the absence of some other, visible factors of a potentially hazardous condition.

    However, under certain conditions where other facts should alert individuals to the likelihood of the slippery condition, ice may be considered open and obvious. In cases where the open and obvious rule is allowed to prevent a claim, the defense is able to point to some additional evidence that the victim should have known that the conditions may be slippery. For example, the court has held the conditions to be open and obvious where:

    • It was actively snowing
    • The victim slipped before actually falling
    • The victim witnessed others slipping or taking precautionary measures to avoid from falling
    • Ice camouflaged by a layer of snow

    If you or a loved one has been injured from a fall due to slipping or tripping, contact us as soon as possible.

    Submit a simple, free consultation form now.

    We are ready to help. Get the Bernstein Advantage® today.

  • Should I fill out paperwork at the business where I fell?

    Usually, it is wise to report and document a slip & fall incident. However, questions on these forms are frequently worded to make victims give statements that may minimize the legal responsibility of the business in question. If you have any questions, you should consult our office immediately. If you fill out an incident report, be sure to ask for a copy of the report on the spot. Keep your answers on the report truthful and focused. Never sign or fill out anything that you do not understand.

    If you or a loved one has been injured from a fall due to slipping or tripping, contact us as soon as possible.

    Submit a simple, free consultation form now.

    We are ready to help. Get the Bernstein Advantage® today.

  • What is “Governmental Immunity”?

    If you are injured as a result of a premises or walkway defect, the first step is to determine who owns or is responsible for maintaining the property.

    With few exceptions, Michigan has complete tort immunity when it comes to governmental functions that cause injury.1  In other words, you normally cannot sue the government in the state of Michigan.  One exception is the highway safety exception, in which each governmental agency having jurisdiction over a highway shall maintain the highway in reasonable repair so that it is reasonably safe and convenient for public travel.2  A person who is injured as a result of the government’s failure to maintain a highway in reasonable repair and reasonably safe and fit for travel may recover for damages from the governmental agency.

    Under the statute, “[h]ighway includes a bridge, sidewalk, trailway, crosswalk, or culvert on the highway….”  However, the statute goes on to state that regarding the state and county road commissions, “the duty of a governmental agency to repair and maintain highways, and the liability for that duty, extends only to the improved portion of the highway designed for vehicular travel and does not include sidewalks, trailways, crosswalks, or any other installation outside of the improved portion of the highway designed for vehicular travel.” 3

    Thus, although the general provision of the statute optimistically suggests that the government is, indeed, liable for injuries cause by defective sidewalks, in fact it is only responsible for highways that are designed for vehicular travel, which certainly does not include sidewalks.  Roadways are still covered, and an injured party may recover for damages caused by an improved road’s unreasonable defect.

    The government remains liable when its failure to maintain a public building causes personal injury, as long as the building is open to the public, and the governmental agency knew about and failure to correct the defective condition that caused the injury.

    Private entities, such as apartment complexes, nursing homes, retail shopping centers, and office buildings, remain liable for the repair and care of their walkways and common areas.

     

    1. MCL 691.1407
    2. MCL 691.1402
    3. MCL 691.1401
  • Are the rules different if I was on public property?

    Yes. If you are suing a city, state, or other government agency, the type of defect must meet specific standards. Otherwise, the doctrine of governmental immunity may bar your claim. You have a much shorter amount of time to bring a legal claim against a government agency. Please contact an attorney immediately if you are injured on public property.

    If you or a loved one has been injured from a fall due to slipping or tripping, contact us as soon as possible.

    Submit a simple, free consultation form now.

    We are ready to help. Get the Bernstein Advantage® today.

  • History of Slip/Fall Law

    In Michigan, a premises possessor owes a duty to an invitee* to exercise reasonable care to protect the invitee from any unreasonable risk of harm caused by a dangerous condition on the land.1  The exception to this duty is the open and obvious doctrine, under which a premises possessor is protected from liability if the danger is an open and obvious one.  The test to determine if a danger is open and obvious is whether “an average user with ordinary intelligence would have been able to discover the danger and the risk presented upon casual inspection.” 2  The reasoning is that the open and obvious nature of the dangerous situation serves as a warning to the invitee, who is expected to recognize the potential danger and to protect him/herself against it.  Current case law in Michigan holds that if the special aspects of a condition make even an open and obvious risk unreasonably dangerous or the danger is “effectively unavoidable”, the premises possessor has a duty to undertake reasonable precautions to protect invitees from that risk.

    Restatement of Torts

    The open and obvious doctrine was originally based on the Restatement of Torts, under which a premises possessor is not liable to invitees for harm caused by known or obvious dangers unless the possessor anticipates that harm despite the knowledge and obviousness.  A possessor should warn or protect an invitee against open and obvious dangerous conditions.

    Riddle v McLouth Steel Prod Corp, 440 Mich 85 (1990)

    Prior to 1990, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the doctrine of open and obvious was abolished in favor of comparative negligence.   In 1990, the Michigan Supreme Court reinstated the open and obvious doctrine in premises liability cases, and held that an invitor has the duty to warn or protect invitees from danger only when the invitor should anticipate harm to the invitee, despite the invitee’s knowledge of the danger.

     

    Lugo v. Ameritech Corp., 464 Mich. 512, 516 (Mich. 2001)

    The open and obvious doctrine was modified when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that if the special aspects of a condition make even an open and obvious risk unreasonably dangerous, the premises possessor has a duty to undertake reasonable precautions to protect invitees from that risk.  A special aspect exists when the danger, although open and obvious, is unavoidable or imposes a “uniquely high likelihood of harm or severity of harm.”  This standard was affirmed by the Supreme Court multiple times, including  Mann v. Shusterinc Enters., 470 Mich. 320, 328-329 (Mich. 2004), Hoffner v. Lanctoe, 802 N.W.2d 648 (2010), and Attala v. Orcutt, 857 N.W.2d 275 (2014).

    Black Ice

    Black ice, or ice that is not visible from a walking height, has been an issue of dispute when it comes to the open and obvious doctrine.  The Michigan Supreme Court has held in numerous cases that the open and obvious doctrine does apply to black ice.  In 2008, the Court of Appeals held the opposite in Slaughter v Blarney Castle Oil Co., stating “that a question of fact remained regarding whether an average person of ordinary intelligence would have been able to discover the danger of the black ice.”  Later, in Ball v. Micu, the court held that black ice was open and obvious where the plaintiff noticed the ice and was aware of the snowy conditions.  As a result of these two cases, black ice may not be considered open and obvious if the injured party was not aware of the conditions and circumstances surrounding the ice.

    Summary

    To summarize, the general rule is that a premises possessor is not required to protect an invitee from open and obvious dangers, but, if special aspects of a condition make even an open and obvious risk unreasonably dangerous, the premises possessor has a duty to undertake reasonable precautions to protect invitees from that risk.

     

    *An invitee is an individual who enters another’s premises as a result of an express or implied invitation of the owner or occupant for their mutual gain or benefit.

     Bertrand v Alan Ford, Inc, 449 Mich 606, 609 (1995)

    2  Baillie v. Dietz Org, 2003 Mich. App. LEXIS 3021, 4-5 (Mich. Ct. App. 2003)

  • Should I take photographs of the accident scene?

    Physical evidence of a claim will often fade, disappear, or be corrected in time. You should take steps to preserve evidence. However, do not try to take photographs of an accident scene if you feel this might cause you any physical danger. Our law firm usually sends a professional investigator to photograph the accident scene.

    If you or a loved one has been injured from a fall due to slipping or tripping, contact us as soon as possible.

    Submit a simple, free consultation form now.

    We are ready to help. Get the Bernstein Advantage® today.