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6 Common Detroit Slip and Fall Questions

detroit slip and fall

Slip and fall injuries in Detroit happen every day and sometimes the property owner is negligent and a slip and fall lawyer is needed. But trip and fall cases depend on a number of different factors. They are not simple cases. To get full compensation for your injuries, you need strong legal representation who knows the law. Below are some answers to questions involving Detroit slip and fall injury cases.

Are Slip and Fall Cases Hard to Win?

Slip and fall cases are not the same as auto accidents or other personal injury cases. They are not simple and the law is generally not on the injured person’s side. The reasons are multiple.

First, as described in more detail below, the injured person must prove the store owner, landowner or property owner was negligent. Just because a person slips and falls on another person’s property does not mean they automatically are entitled to compensation. Instead, the injured person must prove the condition that caused the fall was unreasonably dangerous.

Second, the condition that caused the fall cannot be “open and obvious” The open and obvious defense is a major obstacle. As currently interpreted by Michigan courts, a land owner has no duty to any person on their property who slips and falls on a condition that is open and obvious.

Another defense the property owner can use is called “comparative negligence”. This is the fault of the plaintiff or injured person in causing their own slip and fall. A judge or a jury can apportion fault to the plaintiff as well. And if the plaintiff is found to be more than 50% at-fault for the slip and fall, he or she is not entitled to any pain and suffering compensation.

An additional factor to consider is something called “notice.” To be held responsible for injuries that occur on their land, the property owner must have notice of the defective condition. There is both actual notice and constructive notice. 

Actual notice is where the defendant knows of the defective condition first hand. Constructive notice is when the landlord or property owner knew or should have known of a dangerous condition on the land which the injured person was not aware of and the defendant fails to fix the defect or warn the public of the defective condition.

To prove constructive notice, a plaintiff must present evidence the defect is of such a character or has existed for a sufficient length of time that the landlord or property owner should have knowledge of its presence.

Proving notice is not so simple. The burden of proof of is on the plaintiff. The defendant can use the “ostrich defense” which means they can put their head in the sand and just say they had no idea about the dangerous condition. This defense is commonly used in many slip and fall cases. The plaintiff has the burden showing the defendant did know about the snow and ice, or the puddle of water, but failed to do anything to get rid of it.

What Does Open and Obvious Mean?

Currently under Michigan law, open and obvious means an “average user with ordinary intelligence would have been able to discover the danger and the risk presented upon casual inspection”. It is an objective standard. This means just because you did not see the black ice or the raised cement does not mean it isn’t open and obvious. So long as an average person could have seen it, then the condition is considered open and obvious.

The major problem is in almost all situations, premises owners owe no duty to the public for open and obvious conditions. These means the owner of the property does not owe a duty to warn or remove the dangerous condition.  Without a duty, there is no negligence.

For example, a snow-covered parking lot is open and obvious. The slippery snow is there to be seen. As currently interpreted, under most situations if a person slips and falls in a snow-covered parking lot, the parking lot owner is not responsible for the injuries that may occur for failing to timely plow and remove this snow. The public assumes the risk.

As you can imagine, the open and obvious defense is very powerful. It goes straight to the duty element of a negligence claim. The land owner owes no duty to get rid of open and obvious conditions.

No other state in America interprets the open and obvious rule in such a matter. However, it is anticipated the Michigan Supreme Court is going to review the way the open and obvious defense can be utilized by property owners. The slip and fall lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm are closely monitoring the Supreme Court and any rulings that come down from the Court. We are hopeful things will become fairer for the public very soon.

Can you win a slip and fall lawsuit in Detroit without documentation from the hospital?

The goal of a personal injury lawsuit, including a slip and fall lawsuit, is to obtain compensation for your injuries. To prove injuries though, a person must have medical documentation to substantiate their injuries.

A hospital visit is not required. Just because a person did not go to a hospital following a slip and fall or trip and fall does not mean they don’t have a case. However, there must be medical treatment. This can include visits to a regular doctor, urgent care, physical therapy or chiropractor.

How long does it normally take to settle a slip and fall lawsuit in Detroit?

This is a very fact specific question. We all want quick resolutions to our legal problems. That is human nature. However, personal injury claims do take some time to resolve.

There are a number of factors to consider when thinking about how long a slip and fall lawsuit takes.

First, the severity of the injuries is important. The worse the injuries, the more medical treatment that is required. If a person requires surgery, then it does not make sense to settle the case before the surgery occurs. The insurance company for the property owner will not give full value for the surgery and the subsequent treatment that involves.

Second, the complexity of the case matters. More complex cases take longer. A slip and fall case against a single landlord in Detroit is a very different case than a construction accident with multiple defendants in Detroit. When there are more defendants, there are more depositions. A deposition, which is a question-and-answer session taken under oath, take time to schedule and go. With more defendants comes more finger pointing and more time for discovery. This will make resolution of the slip and fall lawsuit take longer.

Third, one must consider whether a lawsuit is necessary. Many cases can be resolved without a lawsuit, or at the pre-litigation stage. This means the attorney and the insurance company for the defendant settle the case without going to court. When this occurs, many cases can be resolved within 6 months. However, once a lawsuit is filed, the time until settlement occurs is much longer.

How does one prove negligence in a slip and fall accident?

To prove negligence in a slip and fall accident, the person has to prove the landowner or homeowner had a duty in the first place. Under Michigan law, a premises owner owes a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the public rom an unreasonable risk of harm caused by a dangerous condition on the land. 

Next, you have to prove there was a breach of this duty by the property owner. The breach of duty is important. Without a breach there is no negligence. Breach of duty means the property owner failed to live up to the reasonable care standard.

Showing or proving a breach of duty can be done in a number of ways. For example, if a store owner allowed a spill to be on the floor for a long enough time, and did nothing to clean it up, then the store owner breached his or her duty to the public.

Next the injured person must prove the breach the proximate cause of the plaintiff’s injury. This means the plaintiff must prove the slip and fall caused the injuries. There is commonly known as “causation.” Proving causation is sometimes not so simple. If a person has pre-existing medical conditions that were aggravated due to the slip and fall injury, then the lawyers for the property owner will try to pin the pain on those pre-existing conditions. This is where an experienced Michigan slip and fall lawyer can help you prove your injuries.

Last, the plaintiff must show he or she suffered damages. What are damages? Damages is a legal term that basically means the harms and losses the injured person and her family sustained from the property owner’s negligence.

These harms and losses come in two different forms, economic and “non-economic” damages. Examples of economic damages include” 

  • Past medical expenses
  • The cost of future hospital and doctor care
  • Medical equipment
  • Past and future lost wages
  • Loss of earning capacity
  • Out-of-pocket expenses.

Non-economic damages include items like:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Mental anguish
  • Fright and shock
  • Denial of social pleasure and enjoyments
  • Embarrassment, humiliation or mortification

Slip and fall cases are not simple. Negligence is usually heavily disputed. That is why it is essential to have an aggressive and knowledgeable Michigan slip and fall accident lawyer on your side who knows how to approach and win these cases. 

How do I know if I need a slip and fall lawyer for my slip and fall injuries?

Michigan is not an easy state to get compensation for injuries from a slip and fall. In fact, without an attorney it is almost impossible to get fair compensation and justice. The law is currently too tilted to the property owners and their insurance carriers to handle these cases without legal representation.

What sometimes happens is the insurance company for the store, gas station or supermarket may offer some money directly to an injured person. But what people don’t realize is this offer is not payment for pain and suffering or liability. It is just payment for basic medical expenses they are obligated to pay anyway.

That is why it is important consult with a Michigan law firm who specializes in slip and fall cases. That way you can get a better understanding of your rights and the potential of your case.

The slip and fall lawyers who can win your case

The lawyers at the Lee Steinberg Law Firm P.C. are experts in slip and fall cases. We have handled cases throughout Michigan. Our team of attorneys know what it takes to win. Call us at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) with any questions you may have. The consultation is free and we never charge a penny until we win your case.