What You Must Prove to Win a Slip and Fall Injury Claim
In the U.S., slip and fall accidents are the leading cause of missed days from work. They are also the primary factor – at 85% – in all workers’ compensation claims. But whereas with workers’ compensation there is a clear legal avenue for covering expenses such as medical bills and loss of wages, if you are a member of the general public who suffers an injury due to a slip and fall accident, what avenues are open to you?
Having an idea of how the process works and what proof needs to be provided in order to win a slip and fall personal injury case can give you a better idea of how likely a chance you have of success.
What Sort of Expenses Can You Claim after a Slip and Fall Accident?
Slip and fall accidents are similar to other personal injury cases as far as the types of damages you can claim are concerned:
- Any medical bills you have incurred to date as a result of any injury as well as any related medical expenses you may face in the future.
- Any salary you have lost due to time off work as a result of the injury as well as the loss of earning capacity in the future if the injury prevents you returning to your role. This may include payments to retrain you for a different job or role.
- In some cases, you can claim for pain and suffering (classed as non-economic damages) where we can prove that the injury has caused ongoing issues as far as loss of quality of life is concerned.
- Additional costs. If, for example, you have to travel a considerable distance for any part of your medical treatment, then we may be able to claim those transport costs as additional expenses.
Who is Liable for Your Injury?
Under Michigan law, liability in a slip and fall case can often be a complicated question. If you are an employee and fall at work, in the overwhelming majority of cases, you will claim on workers’ compensation. But if you are injured in a slip and fall accident when out shopping, or walking along the sidewalk, or any other scenario where workers’ compensation does not apply, who should take the blame and who should pay for your expenses?
In most slip and fall cases, your attorney would look at the question of premises liability. The underlying principle of this type of liability is that the owner of a property, or the person leasing that property, has responsibility for ensuring that those premises are safe for the public to use and that there are no dangerous conditions. In legal terms, we talk about the owner or lessee having a duty of care towards you as a member of the public. What that means in practical terms is that they should be ensuring that all public areas are free of hazards or that any hazards are clearly signposted. We have all been in a mall or a supermarket where the floor has recently been cleaned and there are warning signs such as “slippery surface.” If a floor was wet due to cleaning – or due to other reasons- and there were no signs to want shoppers, then that would be a clear case of the owner neglecting their duty of care. Or if poor lighting – possibly due to broken bulbs not being replaced – contributed to the accident, then your claim would be legitimate.
There are also the questions of carelessness vs. negligence. An example of carelessness could be when workmen leave materials in a public area and it causes a hazard to members of the public. Negligence could occur when a hazard such as broken tiles or worn carpet is not removed or repaired.
There are two areas of Michigan law where you may encounter complications when it comes to a slip and fall claim.
The first is when the defendant (or their lawyer or insurance company) disputes the duty of care. This could happen if they claim that the plaintiff either already knew about the hazard or that the hazard was so obvious that you should have seen it. What they will attempt to prove is that any reasonable person could have seen and avoided the hazard so blame must lie with you.
The second complication is Michigan’s comparative fault laws. These will, if applicable, kick in at the end of any court case (or possibly during negotiations with the insurance company). If you are found to be partially at fault, then it may affect the final amount of damages you receive. To give an example:
You slipped and fell in a shopping mall. The jury agrees that premises liability is applicable in your case and awards you $40,000 in damages. However, CCTV from the mall shows that you were running at the time and the jury believes this affected the chances of you spotting any hazard. They thus apportion 20% of the blame to you. That means you only receive 80% – or $32,000 – of the awarded damages.
The other effect comparative fault may have is that if the jury decides you were more than 50% to blame, then you cannot pursue non-economic damages (such as for pain and suffering).
There can be many hurdles and complications involved in winning any sort of personal injury case but slip and fall incidents come with their own set of problems. Having a lawyer with extensive experience in this area of case law can be a major benefit in unraveling the intricate levels of proof often needed and ensuring you are awarded the damages you are entitled to.
The team at Cochran, Kroll & Associates are among the leading attorneys specializing in all forms of personal injury cases. We have successfully fought for thousands of clients in slip and fall cases and won extensive damages on many occasions. We offer all new clients an initial free consultation to discuss your case and to advise you on the best way to progress. If you would like to book an appointment, why not call us today at (866)-779-7331.