Michigan winters inevitably bring snow and ice. But one of the most dangerous aspects of wintertime in Michigan is the black ice that forms on many roadways, streets, parking lots and sidewalks. By its very nature, black ice is difficult to see and the cause of many serious injuries.
But the law in Michigan is not easy for people injured from black ice. That is why it is important to contact a Michigan slip and fall lawyer after an accident and get your questions answered.
What is Black Ice?
Black ice refers to ice that is clear and not easy to see. This can occur for a number of reasons, but usually black ice forms when water freezes and forms a smooth surface that blends in with the pavement underneath it. Black ice gets its name because the ice looks “black” or dark upon a quick inspection. It is especially dangerous at night, when dark pavement can completely obscure a large smooth ice patch.
Black ice can form on just about any hard surface so long as it is cold enough. But it forms best on top of asphalt and concrete road surfaces, such driveways and parking lots.
What Do I Do If I Slip and Fall on Black Ice?
If you slip and fall on black ice, it is important to ask for help and seek medical attention immediately. If you feel you are badly injured, stay stationary. Do not attempt to move because you may make your injury worse or even create additional injuries. Try to call out for help or call 911 for an ambulance and medical assistance.
If you can, try to let the owner of the property know about the dangerous condition so it doesn’t hurt anyone else. It also is important to take photographs or video of the area to use later if necessary.
If you believe the black ice was unreasonably dangerous, then contact a lawyer for free advice. Not all slip and falls from black ice can result in compensation, but a slip and fall lawyer can help explain the law to you and answer your questions. Calling a lawyer quickly is important so evidence can be preserved and you can focus solely on recovering.
Can I Sue for a Slip and Fall on Black Ice?
Every situation in Michigan is different, but in many cases you can file a lawsuit for compensation for injuries sustained from a slip and fall due to black ice. To have a slip and fall lawsuit, the injury victim must first show the landowner, whether at a commercial or residential property, was negligent.
Showing negligence means the landowner owed a duty to the public and breached that duty by failing to remove or an unreasonably safe condition. Allowing patches of black ice to remain in a busy parking lot for an unreasonable amount of time is an example of negligent conduct. Instead, the landowner must take reasonable precautions to remove or mitigate the dangerous condition, such as applying salt to the ice area or plowing.
Once negligence has been established, the injury victim must then show the negligence is what caused the injuries to occur. This is known as causation. To show causation, a person must show that “but for” the dangerous black ice, the injuries would not have occurred.
In addition, the plaintiff must also show the injuries were a reasonably foreseeable consequence of allowing the black ice to remain on the property. This is known as proximate cause.
Last, the plaintiff must show he or she was injured by the black ice. A new injury or an aggravation of a pre-existing condition is all that is required to meet this last threshold.
Why is Black Ice So Dangerous?
Black ice is dangerous because it is so difficult to see. People who don’t suspect black ice will walk at the same pace and not take any precautions to prevent an injury. When we fall, our bodies react instinctively to protect ourselves. Many people will naturally reach out with their hands and arms to grab something or to break the fall. This can cause fractures and broken arms and hands as the amount of force placed on our extremities is too great.
Because we lose control of our momentum when we slip on ice, the amount of force on the underlying hard surface can increase. If a person lands on their side, this can cause a traumatic impact with the hip area. Broken hips and legs are common injuries due to a slip and fall on black ice.
Black Ice Settlements in Michigan
The amount of a settlement following injuries from black ice in Michigan can vary. The settlement amount depends on the severity of the injuries sustained by the injury victim. There are two types of damages for a Michigan black ice case.
The first type of damages is called “economic” damages. These damages include:
- Past medical expenses incurred due to medical treatment
- Future medical treatment that may be required in the future
- Past lost wages
- Future lost wages or loss of earning capacity due to inability to work or lower pay
- Out of pocket costs
- Reimbursement to Medicare, Medicaid, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, HAP, and other health insurance companies for liens they assert on the slip and fall lawsuit
The second type of damages are called “non-economic” damages. These damages include:
- Past pain and suffering
- Future pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of society
- Anxiety and depression
- Scarring and permanent disfigurement
- Wrongful death
What is the Law for Black Ice Cases in Michigan?
The current laws for slip and fall cases in Michigan are very favorable to the property owner. Under Michigan case law, if there was an indication from surrounding conditions (such as piles of snow or other ice patches) that black ice may exist in the area near the fall, the ice may be considered “open and obvious.”
What Are Common Black Ice Related Injuries?
Black ice that is considered open and obvious may not make any sense. How can black ice, which by its very nature is difficult to see, be considered “open and obvious?” This is a good question, but our state courts have repeatedly held when there is an indication that black ice may exist, it is considered “open and obvious” and there to be seen. And under the current interpretation of the “open and obvious” defense in Michigan, a property owner owes no duty to the public to get rid a condition that is open and obvious. And when a landowner owes no duty, they cannot be held negligent or responsible for the injury that occurs on their land.
However, the Michigan Supreme Court is reviewing the way the open and obvious defense is used in Michigan. Sometime during 2023, it is expected the Supreme Court will issue a decision that makes it harder for landowner to use the open and obvious defense as a way to completely skirt from responsibly maintaining their properties. This will also affect black ice cases and injuries due caused by black ice.
Injuries from slip and falls due to black ice can vary greatly. The angle and force a person hits the ice, the way they land, and the natural makeup of the person are all variables in how a person is injured from a fall. Common injuries from falls due to black ice include:
- Broken hips
- Broken femurs and tibias
- Broken ankle
- Broken arms and elbows
- Low back pain
- Neck pain
- Concussion and traumatic brain injury
- Ligament and tendon damage
- Fractured skull and internal bleeding
Are Landlords Responsible for Black Ice on Their Properties?
Yes. Landlords are responsible for the removal of black ice from their properties. This includes rentals such as apartment complexes, condos, townhouses, duplexes, and mobile home parks. Landlords have a duty to maintain a reasonably safe condition. This includes the removal of snow and ice, in particular black ice, after a reasonable amount of time has passed.
Landlords must plow, shovel or apply salt to dangerous areas that tenants and their visitors will use. Allowing black ice to remain on a property can lead to serious injuries. Landlords have an obligation under Michigan law to ensure their properties are in reasonable repair and fit for their intended use. MCL 554.139.
Do Most Black Ice Slip and Fall Cases Settle Out of Court?
The vast majority of Michigan slip and fall cases due to black ice settle before trial. However, insurance companies will do anything in their power to get the case dismissed or pay the least amount of money possible.
That is why it is so important to contact a Michigan slip and fall lawyer as quickly as possible after an injury occurs. Property owners have a lot of defenses they can use to minimize a case or get a case dismissed outright.
An experienced and good slip and fall law firm in Michigan will move quickly to preserve evidence, take photographs and video of the dangerous condition, hire necessary experts and do what it takes to ensure your case is successful.
Property owners and their insurance companies will have lawyers working on their side to win. That is why it is vital to have someone working on your side willing to take them on.
Michigan Slip and Fall Lawyers Who Win Big Settlements
The Michigan slip and fall lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm are some of the most knowledgeable and experienced attorneys in Michigan. Our team of dedicated and compassionate lawyers and paralegals work tirelessly to ensure a winning outcome and full justice for our clients.
Call our office at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) for a free consultation. We take our cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning we don’t charge an attorney fee or costs until we win your case. Get your Michigan black ice slip and fall questions answered today.