Premises Liability and Slip & Fall Lawyers
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
Slip and Fall accidents can result in serious injuries and prolonged pain and suffering. With Slip and Fall accidents resulting in more than one million emergency room visits in the U.S. every year, the costs in terms of medical bills and lost working days is very real indeed.
But when you experience a slip and fall accident, who should be held liable? What parties can you attempt to recover compensation from? And what are your rights under Michigan State law?
What is a Slip and Fall Accident?
The terminology surrounding these sorts of accidents can often be confusing. The three main words you will hear are; Slip, Trip, and Fall. If you hear someone talking about solely a fall accident, it is usually something that happens from a height and it may or may not involve a slip or trip. A slip usually occurs when there is a slippery surface of some type, perhaps due to spilled liquids or ice. A trip happens due to some sort of hazard such as an uneven sidewalk or cables left where they should not be. But when we talk about Slip and Fall accidents, they can also involve tripping as well as slipping.
The Real Costs of Slip and Fall
The first thing many people think of when you mention slip and fall is the slapstick comedy of Buster Keaton or Charlie Chaplin. But the realities of slip and fall accidents in modern America are far from funny. Broken bones, lost wages, ongoing pain, and even potential loss of quality of life are all factors that victims of a slip and fall accident have suffered. Knowing the truth about slip and fall accidents can be a real eye opener.
- Slips and fall incidents are the primary reason for lost days from work.
- Slips and falls accidents are the major factor in workers’ compensation claims.(85%)
- The primary cause of occupational injuries in the over 55s are slip and fall accidents.
- Around half of accidental deaths that happen at home are caused by a fall.
- There is around a 5% chance that you will break a bone in a slip and fall accident.
- There are severe injuries in some 20-30% of slip and fall cases.
- In the 65-84 age group, falls are the 2nd biggest cause of death.
- The chances of being injured in a slip and fall accident increase with age.
- Every year, over 300,000 people over the age of 65 suffer a hip fracture due to a fall.
- Over half of those over 65 who suffer a hip fracture cannot return home.
- 22% of all slip and fall cases caused absence form work of more than 31 days,
- The total costs – compensation and medical costs – of slip and fall incidents is around $70 billion every year.
As you can see, the costs of a slip and fall accident go far beyond the costs for medical treatment. The compensation paid out for injuries received and the lost working days are contributing to costs of tens of billions of dollars to society and to the workplace.
Who is Liable?
While many slip and fall accidents happen at work and you will be able to pursue workers’ compensation benefits, many more happen to general members of the public when out shopping, walking, or engaging in other activities. Who can be held liable for a slip and fall injury if you do not have access to workers’ compensation?
There are two main types of liability in such cases:
- Carelessness. This happens when someone’s carelessness has caused the accident. It could be when workmen leave unattended cables across a pathway or thoroughfare
- Negligence. This type of liability occurs when someone’s negligent actions have failed to remove a hazard. An example of this could be broken flooring in a shopping mall.
What is Premises Liability
In most cases involving a slip and fall, your slip and fall attorneys would examine the question of premises liability. Sometimes, differentiating between premises liability and general negligence can be difficult under Michigan’s sometimes complicated laws.
For premises liability, the general idea is that the owner of business premises – or the lessee – owes a duty of care to the people entering those premises. That duty of care includes a responsibility to ensure that any public areas are hazard-free and not in a dangerous condition. That duty will then also include a responsibility to warn of any dangers (usually through some sort of signage – think of the many “Caution – Slippery Floor signs you have seen in supermarkets and shopping malls). These hazards will always be temporary – the slippery floors or workmen making repairs – but the responsible party should also be making regular inspections of the premises in order to identify – and sign – any new hazards that have appeared (a good example of this would be worn carpets in a department store) and to ensure that their premises are in a safe condition for customers and employees alike.
However, premises liability is not all-encompassing and there are exceptions. In rare situations where the hazard is already known to the person who suffered an injury – or where the danger is so obvious that any reasonable person would be expected to see and avoid the hazard – then the owner or lessee can claim that they are not open to a premises liability claim. When these circumstances arise, the court may view that the owner or lessee does not owe the same level of duty of care.
Premises liability is an area of Michigan law that can come up in a wide range of cases, particularly cases involving nursing homes as it is expected that the duty of care in those premises are of an especially high standards due to the vulnerability of residents.
How Does the Court Decide?
As with similar questions in other personal injury cases, the courts in Michigan consider a simple question: would it be reasonable to expect an ordinary person to discover or notice any hazard without close inspection. The court tends to focus more objectively on the condition of the premises rather than subjectively on how much care the victim showed.
There is no simple “one size fits all” solution to these cases. In two apparently similar cases, the court may rule that there was premises liability in one incident and negligence in another. By engaging experienced premises liability lawyers such as the team from Cochran, Kroll & Associates, you have a far better chance of receiving the compensation you deserve for an injury received on someone else’s property.
As these cases can be very much decided on a case by case basis, your legal team will not only examine the circumstances surrounding your own injury, but also examine legal precedents and previous court decisions where the circumstances are similar.
Of course, many slip and fall accidents never see the inside of a courtroom. Where liability is obvious and clear cut, it is more likely that the business owner’s insurance company will seek to settle out of court. This will happen in the majority of cases though, as with other cases involving insurance companies, any initial offer is likely to be lower than you might expect. Your law firm will probably advise you to reject that first offer then negotiate on your behalf for an improved settlement. There are standard damages that we would be seeking on your behalf:
- Coverage of all your medical expenses for initial treatment
- Any future medical bills incurred as a result of the injury.
- Any lost earnings due to time off work.
- Where the injury means you cannot return to the same role or employer, we would be seeking damages to cover your loss of earning capacity and possibly funding for vocational rehabilitation.
- Pain and suffering damages if you meet the threshold requirements.
- Any additional expenses that are related to your injury. For example, adaptations to your home or vehicle if your mobility has been affected.
Were You Partly Liable?
The one other aspect of Michigan law that can complicate matters is comparative liability. Michigan courts consider whether there was any liability on the part of the plaintiff in all personal injury cases. This only happens once the jury has decided in your favor and has awarded damages. At that point, they will then look at whether you also hold any liability.
If they decide that you do, they will apportion a percentage of the blame to you. So, for example, if the jury has awarded you $60,000 in damages but has decided you were 25% to blame for the accident, then you will only receive $45,000. However, if the jury decides that you were more than 50% to blame for the incident, then you will be barred from pursuing any non-economic damages such as pain and suffering.
It is worth noting that comparative liability may play some part in out of court settlements too. If there is any evidence that you hold some of the liability, then the insurance company may lower their offer by the percentage they believe you were to blame.
As with other areas of personal injury law, the question of premises liability can often be complicated and difficult to prove. Defense lawyers – or insurance companies – will use every trick in the book to deny liability or to at least reduce the amount of liability they admit to. Knowing how to deal with any defense or obfuscation can take years of experience and knowledge.
As one of Michigan’s leading law firms, Cochran, Kroll & Associates have been dealing with slip and fall cases for many years. Our expertise can make a real difference between a paltry settlement and one that reflects the extent of your injuries. To evaluate your case and give you more detailed advice, we offer a free consultation. If you would like to book an appointment with one of our team, please call us today at (866)-779-7331.
Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.