While slip and fall accidents can happen any time of year, winter brings the added risks of icy parking lots, steps and walkways. If you live in an apartment, you may wonder who is responsible if you or a visitor are injured in a fall. Is the landlord liable for the hazardous conditions that caused the accident? Are you entitled to receive compensation from the landlord or property owner?Do You Have a Case?
Here are potential hazards in your apartment building or complex that may cause you to slip, trip or fall. Depending on the circumstances, these situations could be grounds for a slip and fall lawsuit.
In most cases, yes. While Michigan law requires landlords to maintain their rental properties and keep them free from hazards and unsafe conditions, this does not mean the landlord is automatically responsible if someone is injured. Even if the landlord fails to uphold this duty, the victim must prove negligence on the part of the landlord or property owner. This means demonstrating the property owner knew, or should have known, about the hazard and failed to remedy the situation.
Because this typically entails a lengthy and complex legal process, hiring an experienced slip and fall attorney is the best way to achieve a successful result.
Below are some of the most common challenges plaintiffs face in slip and fall lawsuits:
“OPEN AND OBVIOUS” DOCTRINE
The “open and obvious” law is one of the most frequent defenses used by property owners in slip and fall lawsuits. Instead of addressing a landlord’s duty to remove a hazard or warn visitors about its inherent risks, it focuses on the victim’s ability to recognize – and therefore avoid – the potential danger.
The legal standard for applying this law, as upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals in a 2008 case involving black ice, is “whether an average person of ordinary intelligence would have been able to discover the danger and risk upon casual inspection.”
Unfortunately for victims, most hazardous conditions meet this criteria.
However, the law provides exceptions for conditions that are “unreasonably dangerous,” such as a 30-foot deep pit in the middle of a parking lot, and those that are “effectively unavoidable,” such as an icy sidewalk that visitors must use to exit a building.
Recommended Reading: How the Open and Obvious Law Affects Michigan Slip and Fall Cases
Under Michigan’s modified comparative negligence statute, settlements in personal injury cases are affected by the victim’s role in an accident. For example, someone who did not see a step because they were focused on a cell phone, or an individual who wore high heels to walk through an icy parking lot would be considered partially responsible for the accident that caused their injuries. In those cases, the amount of compensation may be reduced according to the degree of fault assigned to the plaintiff.
Furthermore, a victim who is more than 50% responsible for an accident may not receive compensation for non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. In most injury cases, including slip and fall claims, non-economic damages are often the most substantial part of a settlement.
MICHIGAN’S “NATURAL ACCUMULATION” RULE
Additionally, liability is also affected by Michigan’s “natural accumulation” rule. Similar to the open and obvious law, this principle is used as a defense by landlords who claim the victim should have expected slippery conditions and acted accordingly.
Nevertheless, it is possible to prevail in a winter slip and fall case, especially when the accident takes place in the common area of a multi-unit apartment complex. If a sidewalk or walkway is covered with ice, the landlord may be in violation of the duty to keep the area “fit for its intended use” as required under Michigan law.
However, the same rules do not apply to apartment complex parking lots, according to the legal theory that parking lots are not intended for pedestrians. Therefore, even though it is necessary to walk through a parking lot to get to or from a car, the law often exempts landlords from responsibility for apartment parking lot accidents.
Furthermore, landlords and property owner are responsible for maintaining the parking lots in shopping centers and office buildings.
Recommended Reading: Slip and Fall Statute of Limitations in Michigan
Here are the steps to take if you are injured in a fall on someone else’s property:
The Sam Bernstein Law Firm takes every slip and fall accident claim seriously, and we know what it takes to win the compensation you and your family deserve.
“Michigan slip and fall cases are challenging because the laws are extremely complex,” says Mark Bernstein of The Sam Bernstein Law Firm. “That’s why it’s important to call us right away if you or a loved one is injured in a fall.”
Slip and fall cases are complicated, but finding the right slip and fall lawyer is simple.
Click the button below to fill out a brief form or call 1-800-CALL-SAM for a free, no-obligation remote consultation from the safety of your home.
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