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Changes to Slip and Fall Law in Michigan – What Damages Can You Recover?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

Due to a recent ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court, victims of slip and fall accidents now stand a better chance of obtaining compensation from property owners. This decision has altered the previous Michigan slip and fall law, the “open and obvious” doctrine, which often shielded property owners from being held accountable.

The new ruling now allows more individuals who have fallen due to dangerous conditions on someone else’s property to seek compensation for their injuries. However, Michigan slip and fall claims are still challenging to prove.

To safeguard your rights and secure the compensation you’re entitled to, speak with Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. Our lawyers specialize in slip and fall cases in Michigan, giving us the experience needed to review your claim and help you prove your injuries for full compensation under the new ruling.

What Is the “Open and Obvious” Doctrine?

For over 20 years, the “open and obvious” defense has been a key strategy for property owners to avoid compensating victims of slip and fall accidents. This defense asserted that if the average person could easily see and avoid the danger without taking special precautions, it was open and obvious.

Even if the person suffered injuries due to an unsafe condition, they usually couldn’t claim damages since the hazard was visible and its potential danger obvious to an average observer.

Over time, the interpretation of Michigan slip and fall laws has evolved through various Michigan court cases, starting with the landmark case of Lugo v. Ameritech Corporation, Inc. in 2001.

In this instance, a woman sued after tripping over a pothole in an Ameritech parking lot. The case escalated to the Michigan Supreme Court, where the court sided with Ameritech, stating that potholes are common and should be noticeable to “a reasonably prudent person.”

The court identified two exceptional scenarios where a victim might still pursue compensation, despite the open and obvious rule:

Excessively Hazardous

This category includes situations with a clear and significant risk of causing serious harm or even extreme danger if not properly addressed. The court illustrated this point with the hypothetical scenario of a 30-foot hole in a parking lot. Despite the likelihood that such a large hole would be visible, the potential for someone to fall into it could lead to critical injuries or fatalities.

Inevitably Unavoidable

This exception is for situations where avoiding the hazard is not practically possible. Take, for instance, a building with only one entrance/exit path that is icy. In this case, anyone needing to enter or exit the building would have no choice but to traverse the icy path.

Changing the Rules for Slip and Fall Accidents in Michigan

On July 28, 2023, Michigan’s approach to handling slip and fall cases shifted due to the Michigan Supreme Court ruling. This ruling modified Michigan slip and fall law, lessening the scope of the “open and obvious” doctrine, which had previously offered broad protection to property owners from lawsuits.

The Supreme Court’s decision minimizes this defense, removing a layer of immunity that property owners had against negligence claims. By overturning this aspect of premises liability law, the Court reinstated more favorable conditions for victims injured in slip and fall incidents, allowing them to hold property owners accountable for injuries caused by unsafe conditions on their premises more easily.

The New Criteria for a Successful Slip and Fall Case

With the open and obvious doctrine no longer a liability shield for property owners, the criteria for a successful slip and fall claim in Michigan will rely more heavily on principles of comparative negligence. Plaintiffs must now carefully address:

  • Failure to maintain safe premises. The plaintiff must show that the property owner neglected their responsibility to keep their premises reasonably safe. This involves presenting evidence that the owner was aware of a hazard yet failed to adequately address, mitigate, or warn about the potential danger.
  • Open and obvious hazard. While the hazard’s obviousness remains a consideration, it now plays a role in the jury’s assignment of fault percentages rather than outright barring recovery. The focus is on whether a reasonable person would perceive the risk and how this impacts the liability of both parties.
  • Constructive notice. Establishing that the property owner had constructive notice is essential. This involves demonstrating that they should have known about the dangerous condition through proper diligence and inspections, even without direct knowledge.
  • Reasonable plaintiff conduct. The plaintiff’s actions leading up to the accident factor into liability. For instance, distractions like phone usage or lack of attentiveness may contribute to shared fault for their injuries.
  • Direct causation of damages. Plaintiffs must establish a direct link between the hazardous condition and their injuries and damages. They must provide credible evidence to show this causal relationship, such as medical records, video surveillance, and expert testimony.
  • Shared fault percentage. Michigan’s modified comparative negligence laws state that the plaintiff cannot be more than 50% at fault. Under the new ruling, more evidence may be required to lower the plaintiff’s liability to meet this threshold.

Successful claims require proof the property owner acted negligently while the plaintiff exercised reasonable caution. Our experienced slip and fall attorneys at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. can help you build a strong case so you receive maximum recovery for your injuries.

What Damages Might You Recover in a Slip and Fall Lawsuit?

Filing a slip and fall claim in Michigan can help you recover damages for accident-related losses. This can support your financial well-being and acknowledge injuries caused by another’s negligence.

Types of compensation you can recover with the help of an attorney from Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C. include:

Economic Damages

Economic damages include the tangible and quantifiable financial losses you incur due to an injury resulting from a slip and fall accident. These damages are designed to compensate you for the following:

  • Medical expenses. Covering costs for injury treatment, including hospital bills, surgeries, doctor’s appointments, diagnostic tests, rehabilitation therapies, prescription medications, and any necessary medical equipment to help you recover from your injuries.
  • Lost income. When an accident results in injuries that prevent you from working, you may experience a loss of income. Economic damages can compensate you for the wages or salary you’ve missed during recovery. Your attorney will work to calculate this amount based on factors such as your salary, work hours, and the duration of your absence from work.
  • Loss of future earnings. In more severe cases where injuries lead to a permanent disability or drastically reduce your ability to work, you may suffer a long-term or permanent loss of earning capacity. Economic damages can account for this potential reduction in future income, considering factors such as your career trajectory, earning potential, and the impact of your injuries on your ability to perform your job.
  • Out-of-pocket costs. These are expenses directly related to the accident and injuries but may not fall under the medical expenses category. They can include costs for transportation to and from medical appointments, home modifications or accommodations for disabilities, assistive devices like wheelchairs or crutches, and any other expenses incurred due to the injury.

Documenting all accident-related costs and losses with evidence, such as receipts, statements, and photos, increases the potential for a fair recovery.

Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages in a slip and fall case compensate you for the intangible and personal losses you experience due to your injury. Non-economic damages you can claim include:

  • Pain and suffering. This category accounts for the physical and emotional distress you experience as a direct result of the injury. These include the pain associated with the injury itself, the suffering endured during medical procedures, the discomfort of recovery, and the potential long-term consequences of the injury.
  • Emotional distress. Non-economic damages also consider conditions like depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other diagnosed psychological issues linked to the trauma. These conditions can affect your daily life, relationships, and mental health.
  • Loss of enjoyment of life. If your injuries result in disabilities or mobility limitations, you may be unable to participate in activities you once enjoyed. Non-economic damages compensate you for the loss of the ability to engage in hobbies, sports, or other past activities due to accident-related impairments. This loss of enjoyment can impact your overall happiness and sense of fulfillment.
  • Loss of consortium. In cases where a spouse or family member is injured, non-economic damages can also extend to the impact on spousal relations and marital life. Loss of consortium recognizes the emotional toll that the injury takes on the injured person’s ability to provide companionship, support, and intimacy within the family unit.

Proving non-economic damages requires a more subjective assessment compared to economic damages. While medical bills and financial records can quantify economic losses, non-economic damages rely on your testimony and the testimonies of mental health professionals and expert witnesses who can provide insights into the emotional and psychological effects of your injury.

Calculating the exact monetary award you’ll receive is also complicated. Generally, you can determine how much your non-economic damages are worth: the multiplier method and the per-diem method.

With the multiplier method, insurers may multiply your economic losses (actual financial costs) by a predetermined number, typically based on injury severity and permanence. This multiplier can range from 1.5 to 5, with more severe, lifelong injuries justifying higher multipliers.

The per-diem approach estimates the number of days you’ll experience pain and compensates you with a fixed daily rate for past and future pain. In many cases, injury victims receive a day’s wages for each day of suffering.

In Michigan, there is no cap on the amount you can receive for non-economic damages in personal injury cases. The cap only applies to medical malpractice and product liability cases.

Exemplary Damages

In rare cases of gross negligence, you may also pursue exemplary damages. These damages are not designed to punish the defendant but offer an additional way for the plaintiff to receive compensation for the emotional injury resulting from the accident.

However, you need to prove that the defendant was wilfully and wantonly negligent. If you claim exemplary damages for your injury, you cannot claim any other type of non-economic damages.

Why Having a Skilled Attorney Can Help You Maximize Compensation

At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., we understand that having a skilled attorney can help you maximize compensation following a slip and fall incident. Here’s how our skilled legal team can benefit your case:

  • Legal proficiency. We have a team of highly qualified attorneys, each dedicated to representing individuals in personal injury cases. Our expertise in slip and fall regulations increases the likelihood of a favorable outcome for your claim.
  • Extensive experience. With a track record driven by results, we have successfully handled numerous slip and fall cases, winning millions for personal injury victims.
  • Thorough case evaluation. Our attorneys will carefully examine your case and look at all the details that might impact your compensation. This includes a comprehensive analysis of the circumstances surrounding the slip and fall, assessing damages, and identifying the parties responsible.
  • Medical expertise. Eileen Kroll, partner attorney and registered nurse, brings valuable medical knowledge to your claim. Her understanding of injuries and their long-term implications ensures your compensation claim thoroughly addresses all present and future medical needs.
  • Results-driven approach. At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., we are committed to securing the highest settlement possible for our clients. Our results-driven approach means that every ounce of effort, skill, and strategy helps you get the compensation you rightfully deserve.

Slip and Fall Law in Michigan

Maximize Your Compensation with Up-to-Date Legal Guidance

In the wake of the “open and obvious” doctrine transformation, you need knowledgeable, trained legal representation for your claim. Our attorneys at Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. stay current on changing laws to protect your rights following a devastating injury.

Trust our slip and fall legal team to evaluate your case under the state’s new premises liability doctrine and put a strong case together on your behalf. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your legal options under Michigan’s slip and fall laws.

Our contingency fee basis means we only get paid if we win your case, so there is no financial risk to you to get started. Call our law firm today at   1-866-MICH-LAW and schedule your no-obligation, free case evaluation.

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.

Iain Bowie is an experienced copywriter who crafts easy-to-understand legal articles, so readers can get the assistance they need.

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