Although the winter months feature many things to look forward to, such as skiing, snowmobiling and other outdoor fun, the snow and ice can be extremely dangerous. This is particularly true when walking on slick and icy walkways, snow-covered parking lots and sidewalk. Every year, Flint and Genesee County residents are injured from slipping and falling due to dangerous snow and ice conditions that were not removed in a timely fashion. In these situations, a Flint snow and ice injury lawyer may be able to get you compensation for your injuries and financial losses.
Can I Sue for Slip and Fall Injuries Caused by Snow and Ice?
In Michigan, you can sue a property owner for injuries sustained from a slip and fall due to snow and ice. However, not every slip and fall is a case. The injured party must prove the defendant property owner or manager was negligent. This means showing the owner had a duty to exercise reasonable care to protect the public from an unreasonable risk of harm caused by a dangerous condition on the land.
Just because a person slip and falls on snow or black ice in Flint does not mean they automatically have a case. Instead, there are multiple factors to consider. It is important to contact an experienced Flint slip and fall lawyer who has handled these cases for decades.
How Do I Prove Negligence from Snow and Ice?
In Flint, homeowners, building owners and landlords are required to keep the conditions of their property reasonably safe. This is especially true when it snows and the conditions result in black ice and other dangerous conditions. If someone is injured on a property owned by another person, the property owner could be found negligent. This is called premises liability.
However, just because you are injured on another person’s property doesn’t guarantee that you’ll receive compensation. There are four things you need to prove in order to recover money damages from a property owner.
The Property Owner Must Owe A Duty
The first element you need to prove is that the owner owed you a legal duty. What this basically means is that you were legally on the property. A person is legally allowed to be inside and outside of a store, assuming they aren’t loitering. If a person slips on ice that had not been removed, the property owner owes the individual a legal duty.
The Property Owner Breached Their Duty To the Public
The injured person must also prove the restaurant, grocery store, parking lot owner or store owner violated their legal duty to you. What this means is that you need to be able to show the property owner was aware of should have been aware of the unreasonably dangerous condition, but failed to fix it. In legal terms, the land owner’s conduct was below the general standard of care.
The Property Owner’s Negligence Caused The Injuries
Third, you need to prove the store owner’s negligence is what caused your injury. Your injury needs to have primarily resulted from the slippery conditions. You can’t just fall outside of a store due to snow or ice and collect compensation. The fall needs to have directly resulted from the property owner’s violation of legal duties.
Last, the final element is that you need to have been injured from the slip and fall. You can’t collect compensation if you weren’t injured. The property owner could be held liable for damages such as:
- Lost wages
- Future lost wages
- Medical bills
- Future medical expenses
- Pain and suffering
What Defenses Do Property Owners Have in Snow and Ice Cases
Property owners now have three main defenses when defending a snow and ice case. One of the most powerful defenses, the “open and obvious” defense, has been recently taken away by the Michigan Supreme Court. This is explained in more detail below.
The first defense is known as comparative negligence. This is the amount of negligence the plaintiff has for causing his or her own injuries. Under Michigan law, if a plaintiff is more than 50% at fault for causing his or her own injuries, then they may not recover any non-economic damages. This is found under MCL 600.2959. The percentage of comparative fault is then decreased from the total settlement or verdict amount.
For example, a man slips and falls on snow and ice outside a gas station. The gas station failed to plow or salt the near the gas pumps and the person fell while walking to the station to pay for gas. The man broke his ankle. The jury awards the man $100,000 for his injuries, but found him to be 30% at-fault for not paying better attention while walking. The man will received a $70,000.
The condition must be unreasonably dangerous
The plaintiff must also prove the defective condition was unreasonably dangerous. So what is considered unreasonable dangerous? This is not defined in the law. But it means the condition that caused a person to slip and fall must be something more than just dangerous. Instead there must be circumstances about the condition that the defendant allowed it to become unreasonable. A Flint snow and ice lawyer can walk you through the process of determining whether the condition was unreasonably dangerous.
A landowner’s duty arises when the defendant has actual or constructive notice of the condition. Notice is central in every slip and fall case. Without proving the property owner had notice of the dangerous defect that caused the injury, you cannot hold them responsible. Notice comes in two form – actual notice and constructive notice:
Actual notice is when the defendant has actual knowledge of the dangerous condition. For example, a restaurant knew it snowed outside and did nothing to it’s walkways or parking lots to make it safer for customers.
Constructive notice is when plaintiff provides evidence that the defect is of such a character or has existed for a sufficient length of time, the property owner should have knowledge of its presence. In other words, the black ice conditions existed for a long enough period of time that the restaurant owner should have know about it and fixed the problem.
Has There Been a Major Change to Slip and Fall Law?
Yes, Michigan law has changed drastically for slip and fall cases, including cases involving snow and ice. For over 20 years, snow and ice was considered “open and obvious.” And under Michigan law, a property owner had no duty to get rid of open and obvious conditions. Because there was not duty, they could not be held negligent.
This gave property owners a free pass in not plowing their parking lots, salting, or shoveling the sidewalks and walkways near their store or restaurant. As you can see it was a major defense for property owners. They were able to get many snow and ice cases dismissed in courts all over Michigan.
But in El-Sayed v. F&E Oil, Inc., the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that an “open and obvious” condition, such as a snow-covered parking lot, does not relieve the owner of a duty to use reasonable care. Instead, the open and obvious nature of the snow and ice on the property goes to the comparative negligence – or fault – of the plaintiff.
In addition, this analysis looks at whether the landowner breached their duty to the injured plaintiff by not removing the snow or ice in time. It no longer attaches to a landowners duty. This is crucial because it places the blame on both parties, the injured plaintiff and the defendant property owner, rather than just the plaintiff.
What are Typical Injuries from Black Ice or a Slip and Fall due to Snow?
Slip and fall accidents in Flint caused by snow and ice can result in many different types of injuries. Some of the most common injuries include:
- Broken ankle, broken leg, broken arm
- Fractured hip
- Broken elbow or wrist
- Sprained knee
- Low back pain and neck pain
- Closed head injury
- Cuts, bruising and scarring
What If I’m Injured on Black Ice?
One of the most dangerous conditions in the winter time is the dreaded “black ice.” Black ice gets its name because the ice disappears and hides into the ground or pavement it is covering. It blends in so much that a person cannot even see the ice they are walking on. Black ice is extremely dangerous and causes serious injuries. They are prevalent on concrete surfaces, such as parking lots and sidewalks.
If a person falls on black ice they can pursue a claim for compensation against the individuals or company responsible for maintaining the area where it existed. However, the plaintiff has the burden of proof. He or she must prove the black ice existed at the time of the fall, the landowner had notice and failed to take reasonable precautions to remove the black ice.
Black ice cases in Flint and Genesee County are a special type of case. Usually, a weather expert such as a meteorologist is needed to substantiate the conditions were ripe for black ice. It is important to get witness information as early as possible. Photographs of the dangerous condition are also crucial. Contact a Flint snow and ice lawyer for a free consultation.
Flint Slip and Fall from Snow and Ice Injury Attorneys
Slip and fall injuries due to snow and ice happen all the time. However, just because a person falls and is injured does not mean they get compensation. Instead Michigan law mandates the injured person show the property owner was negligent. These cases are fact specific. That is why it is important to contact a Flint slip and fall lawyer today who specializes in snow and ice cases.
Contact our Flint office today at 810-275-1829 or click here for a free consultation.