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How Do You Prove Fault in A Slip and Fall Case?


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Slip-and-fall accidents, when someone loses their footing on a slippery, loose, uneven, or otherwise unsafe surface, occur all too often in Michigan. Injuries that result may be serious and include broken bones, head, neck, and spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and even death.

Survivors may require extensive treatment such as physical therapy and surgery, and medical and household bills can pile up at a time when it is impossible to work.

If you or a loved one has suffered a serious injury or someone has died from a fall on another party’s property, an insurance claim or slip and fall lawsuit could help you recover compensation for your injuries.

While no money can make up for the suffering involved, fair compensation can alleviate your financial burdens and pay for the care you need to help you get well.

Compensation may include a damage award for:

  • Your economic damages, for monetary costs which can be calculated, such as medical bills, lost wages, and property damages, and also

  • Your noneconomic damages which do not have a specific dollar value but negatively impact your life, such as physical and emotional pain and suffering and loss of consortium and quality of life.

However, to win a slip and fall case, you must prove that another party, the defendant in the case, was negligent and at fault for causing the conditions that led to your injury.  Doing so can require careful investigations and producing evidence that someone else was negligent, which is not easy to do on your own.

Insurance companies are out for profit and will try to make it seem that you did something that caused or contributed the accident so they can deny or minimize your claim. Michigan injury laws are complicated, and making mistakes can be costly, so at this difficult time, it is a good idea to get help from an experienced slip-and-fall lawyer.

Your attorney can take care of all investigations, negotiations, and legal hurdles involved with winning the compensation you deserve, so you can concentrate on your recovery.

How Do You Prove Negligence in a Slip and Fall Case?

Under Michigan premises liability laws, property owners in Michigan have what is known as a duty of care -- a duty to make sure that their property is safe for guests, customers, and other visitors who come on their property, whether the visitor is there for business or just a simple social call.

They must ensure their property is properly maintained to prevent injuries to others and fix unsafe conditions they know or should know exist, in a timely manner. Unfortunately, some property owners do not take that responsibility seriously and negligently allow conditions such as slick surfaces, broken walkways, uneven paths, and unmarked spills to exist.

These conditions can result in slip and fall injuries on the property, and if you are injured due to this negligence, you may have a valid slip and fall case.

Examples of negligence that leads to slips and falls are:

  • Rain, ice, and snow that hasn’t been removed from sidewalks, hallways, parking lots, and other common areas, especially on commercial properties

  • Spilled liquids on the floor, or wet floors that were not clearly marked

  • No warning signs posted about dangerous conditions

  • Floors that are broken, cracked, have holes, or are uneven; loose rugs and trip hazards

  • Stairs that have broken or missing railings

  • Poor lighting in stairwells, hallways, and outside pathways

  • Broken locks or lack of security in dangerous neighborhoods.

All these and other situations that lead to slip and fall accidents may be the basis of negligence. However, while property owners have to keep their property reasonably safe, they are not required to keep it perfectly safe.

For example, after a Michigan snow storm, while property owners must clear ice and snow from walkways, there may still be some slick areas remaining, and people must still exercise care while walking or they may not have a valid injury claim if they fall.

Property owners and managers will use this to argue that you bear some responsibility for what happened. For example, if you were distracted by using your phone or eating while walking or walking in an area that was restricted or you ignored signs, this may be held against you.

Michigan has a "modified comparative negligence" rule that reduces your settlement by the percentage you are found to be at fault. In addition, according to Michigan law (Michigan Compiled Laws section 600.2959), if you're found to be more than 50 percent at fault for the accident, not only will your economic damages be reduced according the percentage of fault you bear, you will also not be able to receive non-economic damages for you pain and suffering.

This is why proving negligence is important in your slip and fall case.

Proving Negligence for Your Slip and fall

Whether the property owner or manager can be held liable for your slip and fall injuries depends on whether you can legally prove that party, the defendant in the case, was negligent and therefore at fault for causing the accident.  To win your case, your attorney must be able to establish there was negligence by the defendant by showing:

  • The defendant had a duty of care to keep the property safe. As long as you were legally on the property, the owner owed you some duty of care to keep their property safe. Business owners generally owe a higher duty of care to their customers than homeowners owe to guests, since they often profit by inviting customers in.

  • A dangerous condition on the property posed an unreasonable risk of harm. This can be shown by witness testimony, photographs, videos, documents such as incident reports, and repair records.

  • The defendant knew or should have known about the condition. This can be shown by previous complaints about the dangerous condition, records of previous falls that happened at the location, or by showing the condition existed for such a length of time it should have been known to the owner.

  • The defendant had time to remedy the condition but failed to do so and was negligent and failed to properly fix or warn about the defect. This can be shown through repair records, photographs and videos, and records of past problems and complaints that occurred over time.

  • You suffered damages as a result. Your costs and damages can be shown through your medical and rehabilitation records and accident reports from police and first responders.

In a slip and fall lawsuit, the negligent party is frequently the property or business owner or manager. Still, there may be multiple parties involved, such as joint owners and management companies, or even a municipality that had a duty to fix a broken sidewalk.

Your slip and fall attorney will strive to prove that any or all of these parties, the defendants in the case, were negligent and at fault, as they all may have assets and insurance that can go toward a settlement.

How to File a Slip and Fall Claim

After a slip and fall accident, it is best to contact an attorney as soon as possible while evidence is fresh and witnesses can be found, so your attorney can file a claim with insurance or a lawsuit if a settlement cannot be reached out of court.

Be aware that there are time limits for filing. According to Michigan statutes (section 600.5805), there is a statute of limitations, a deadline, that is generally 3 years after the time of the death or injury to file a lawsuit. Except for some rare exceptions, the date the clock starts running is the date of the slip and fall accident; if you do not file on time, the courts are likely to refuse to hear your case.

Get Help from an Experienced Michigan Slip and Fall Lawyer

If you have been involved in a slip and fall accident, be aware that the right attorney can play a crucial role in the outcome of your case.

At Goodman Acker, our legal team has a long record of success and is passionate about providing our clients with representation that will make a difference in their claims. When you have us on your side, we will:

  • Meet with you to discuss the circumstances of the accident, who the negligent parties may be, and determine what your case may be worth

  • Investigate the accident scene and gather evidence, to find where another party was negligent and show why you were not at fault

  • Take care of all paperwork needed to file a claim in a timely manner

  • Hire experts in accident reconstruction and experts to testify as to your costs and the care you will need into the future

  • Deal with insurance companies and aggressively negotiate for a fair settlement

  • Build your case and take it to court if an agreement with insurance cannot be reached.

Our Goodman Acker attorneys have had significant experience in thoroughly investigating these claims and a proven track record of obtaining maximum compensation for slip and fall accidents.

The team at Goodman Acker has a success rate of 99% for cases we conclude.

We offer a free consultation to discuss the circumstances of your slip and fall and determine the best way to move forward. Call us today at 248-286-8100 if unsafe conditions in a building, a business, or on the grounds of a property caused you to be injured in a slip and fall accident.