In a Michigan Slip-And-Fall Case, What Do I Have to Prove?

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What Do I Have to Prove in a Michigan Slip and Fall Case?

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Detroit Slip and Fall Lawyers

Slip and fall accidents occur every day in Detroit and Michigan. Often, the injuries are minor. But sometimes the injuries require extensive treatment, including physical therapy and surgery. Lost wages and medical bills can pile up from a broken arm, broken leg, damaged knee or other injuries. The injury can leave the injured person in a difficult, sometimes hopeless situation. In Michigan, just because you are injured due to a slip and or trip and fall does not mean you automatically get compensated. 

Instead, under the law, you have to show the court certain things. In general, you must prove (1) duty, (2) breach of duty or negligence, (3) injury, and (4) the negligence was a proximate cause of the injury. This article will help explain premises liability law in more detail, along with some examples and typical defenses used by insurance companies and their lawyers. 

Remember, these cases are not simple. That’s its important to hire a knowledgeable Detroit slip and fall attorney who can walk you through the process and help you get the compensation and justice you deserve

What is Negligence in a Detroit Trip and Fall Case?

Under the law, a land owner such as a landlord, homeowner, or commercial property owner has a duty to ensure their premises is in a reasonably safe condition. Land owners must act in a reasonable manner to prevent harms that threaten the safety to those who enter their land. When land owners fails to do this, the land owner has breached this duty. This is known as negligence. 

However, under Michigan law property owners do not have to guarantee the safety of every person who comes onto their property. Instead, a person who enters a property must exercise common sense and prudent judgment when confronting hazards on the land. 

So there is a balance between the land owners duty to make sure the property is reasonably safe and the individual’s obligation to assume personal responsibility to protect themselves from apparent dangers. 

Example of Negligence in Michigan Slip and Fall Case:

A good example of a slip and fall case in Detroit is when a porch or stair collapses while a person is using it. For example, a person is walking down the stairs after leaving an apartment complex to get to their car. While walking, the rotting and weak wood step breaks, causing the individual to fall and injure herself. The owner of the apartment building knew the steps were in bad condition, but took no actions to fix or repair them. 

In this instance, the landlord had a duty to keep the stairs in a reasonable safe condition. The landlord failed to do this and breached his duty. As a result, the person was injured from the fall. The injured person can bring a negligence lawsuit or claim against the landlord for failing to ensure the steps were safe. 

What is Comparative Negligence and How Does it Affect the Case?

One of the most important defenses to a slip and fall case is comparative negligence. Comparative negligence is the fault the defendant property owner can assert on the plaintiff for failing and getting injured. It’s basically the “you weren’t paying attention” defense.

Under Michigan’s apportionment of fault statute, MCL 600.2957, the liability or fault of each person is allocated by the judge or jury. So each defendant and plaintiff is allocated a percentage of fault for the injury. Sometimes, the jury will find the plaintiff was 0% at-fault. This means the plaintiff had no comparative negligence. 

However, under MCL 600.2959, if a plaintiff is allocated some percentage of fault, that reduces the compensation award. For example, a man injures his knee because of snow and ice that was not plowed or salted. A jury awards the plaintiff $100,000 for his injuries and pain and suffering. However, the jury finds the plaintiff was 25% at-fault for his own injuries. In this situation, the plaintiff gets $75,000. 

Under this rule, if a jury finds the injured plaintiff to be more than 50% at-fault for the injury, then the plaintiff is awarded no non-economic damages. This means the person recovers no compensation for pain and suffering. They can still receive economic damages (medical bills and lost wages), but the amount is reduced by the percentage of fault. 

Comparative negligence is one of the most important defense to consider in a slip and fall or premises liability case. Studies have shown that juries are pre-disposed to believe they would not get hurt or fall if they were in the same situation as the plaintiff. They think “I would have seen that clear wet puddle in the grocery aisle” or “I would have avoided falling on that rotted out step.” In doing this, juries can take out this natural way of thinking out on the plaintiff who brought them to court in the first place. 

This is something an experienced Detroit slip and fall accident lawyer must overcome when litigating these cases. 

What is Proximate Causation?

I don’t want to spend too much time on this, but in simple terms proximate causation is that the danger that caused the injury was reasonably foreseeable. Sometimes the defendant and her attorneys will argue the injury was not related or caused by the fall. This is a different form of the causation argument. 

When this happens, the defendant is trying to blame the injury on a pre-existing condition or something else other than the negligent act. This defense is prevalent for neck and back injuries. Insurance companies love to argue a person’s low back pain from a fall was just the same pain the person already had from an accident years earlier. An aggressive Detroit slip and fall attorney will attack this defense by highlighting the lack of treatment before the fall and the change in the plaintiff’s life after the fall. 

What Are Typical Damages or Injuries from a Detroit Slip-and-Fall Accident

The damages or money awards an injured person can get from a slip and fall incident is comprehensive. The defendant landowner (really their insurance company) is responsible for paying the following types of things:

  • Past medical bills
  • Future medical bills
  • Past lost wages
  • Future lost wages or loss of earning capacity
  • Out-of-pocket costs like copays, deductibles and prescriptions
  • Pain and suffering 
  • Scarring and disfigurement
  • Loss of companionship, loss of society
  • Emotional distress and anxiety

There are really no hard and fast rules as to what a person can claim from a trip and fall or premises liability lawsuit in Michigan. The defendant is responsible for all harms and losses created by their negligence. The amount a person receives is based on what a jury believes the injured plaintiff is entitled to get under the circumstances. 

Although there are typical value ranges for slip and fall cases, the range can be very wide. That it is why it is best to consult with a Detroit slip and fall lawyer after an incident so you can find out your options.  

What is the Open and Obvious Defense in Michigan? 

The open and obvious rule is another major defense a property owner can use in defending a slip and fall case. Under Michigan law, a danger is open and obvious if a “an average person with ordinary intelligence could have discovered the condition upon casual inspection. The open and obvious rule in Michigan is interpreted differently than in most other states. In Michigan, it goes straight to the duty element. This means an owner of land in Michigan has no duty to warn customers or other people of dangers and hazards that are there to be seen. Because the landowner has no duty, there is no negligence case against the property owner. If there is no negligence, there is no case – no matter how injured the person is from the fall. 

Because of this interpretation, the open and obvious defense has been used to get dismiss most slip and fall cases. The leading case in Michigan for open and obvious is Lugo v. Ameritech Corp, Inc., 464 Mich 512 (2001). This decision completed changed the landscape for victims of slip and fall accidents in Michigan. The decision made it much harder for victims to bring a case against a landlord. 

The open and obvious defense is quite perverse. Why? Because it basically encourages a land owner to not take care of their property. The worse condition a parking lot or rental property is in, the more open and obvious the danger is. The more open and obvious the danger is, the more likely the defendant can get the case dismissed in court. 

The good news is that the Michigan Supreme Court is reviewing the Lugo decision. Hopefully we will see the playing field become more level in the near future. In most other states, land owners and property possessors still have a duty to warn and of dangerous conditions, even if they are open and obvious. 

Landlord-Tenant Injuries and Michigan Law

Renters and tenants have special protections that a normal person at a grocery store or bank does not enjoy. The landlord has a special duty to protect their renter or tenant. This is because of MCL 554.139, which says: 

  (1) In every lease or license of residential premises, the lessor or licensor covenants:

(a) That the premises and all common areas are fit for the use intended by the parties.

   (b) To keep the premises in reasonable repair during the term of the lease or license, and to comply with the applicable health and safety laws of the state and of the local unit of government where the premises are located, except when the disrepair or violation of the applicable health or safety laws has been caused by the tenants willful or irresponsible conduct or lack of conduct.

This statute is important. It means a landlord must keep it’s building, including all porches, stairs, stairwells, walkways, sidewalks hallways and other areas in reasonable repair. Failing to keep it in reasonable repair is a violation of the law. And if a person is injured due to a violation of the law, the landlord can be held responsible for the injuries that result. 

In addition, the law says the building and all common areas – like a parking lot – must be fit for their intended use. If they are in such bad shape they are not fit for their intended use, then the landlord can be held responsible.

An important thing to know is that the landlord-tenant statute trumps the open and obvious rule. Because the landlord must by law keep the apartment complex or house in reasonable repair, a landlord cannot use the open and obvious rule as a defense in a slip and fall case. A metro Detroit slip and fall law firm that specializes in these cases can assist you.

How Do I Know If I Have a Good Case?

It’s simple. Call a lawyer and ask questions. Ask to speak to a Detroit slip and fall law attorney. That attorney should ask you how the slip-and-fall occurred, why it occurred, and what happened afterwards. Then the lawyer should be able to tell you if your case is viable or not. If it is viable, then you can seek compensation for your injuries. 

The Lee Steinberg Law Firm has represented thousands of individuals injured due to the negligence of a landowner or landlord over the past 40 years. Our team of professional Detroit slip and fall lawyers has helped our clients recover tens of millions of dollars. We have helped our clients get their bills paid, lost wages reimbursed and money for pain and suffering to make up for the harms and losses they suffered. 

Please call us toll free at 1-800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) with your slip and fall questions.