6 Factors to Consider About Your Slip and Fall Personal Injury
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
Annually, in the United States, slip and fall personal injury accidents result in over one million emergency room visits. These accidents often occur due to preventable hazards like ice, spilled water, or recently waxed floors. An injury from a slip and fall might lead you to question whether the property manager or the homeowner is at fault and if you can pursue a premises liability claim.
If you believe negligence of a third party contributed to your slip and fall injury, consult an experienced Michigan-based personal injury attorney. As you get ready to build your case, there are several vital factors you need to take into account for a successful outcome.
Understanding Liability in Slip and Fall Cases: Who is Responsible for Your Injury?
In premises liability cases, the primary legal question often revolves around the diligence of property owners or managers in preventing hazards they could foresee. The courts typically examine whether the property owner or manager was aware, or should have been aware, of any dangers on their property and if they took necessary measures to remedy these hazards or adequately warn about them.
To successfully pursue a slip and fall claim, you and your attorney need to demonstrate the following:
- Duty of care: The defendant (usually the property owner or manager) owed you a duty of care. This means they were legally obligated to maintain a safe environment on their property.
- Breach of duty: The defendant breached this duty of care. This breach can occur if they fail to address a known hazard, do not adequately maintain the property, or neglect to warn of potential dangers.
- Causation. The breach of duty directly caused your injury. You must show that your injury resulted from the defendant’s failure to uphold their duty of care.
- Damages. You suffered physical injuries and subsequent losses due to the incident. This can include medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related losses.
Failure in any of these responsibilities that lead to a slip, trip, or fall may constitute negligence, making the property owner liable for your injuries and damages.
Six Important Factors to Consider in Your Slip and Fall Case
Several important factors must be considered when building a slip and fall case to ensure a thorough understanding and a strong legal approach. These factors help establish liability and determine the extent of compensation that may be due.
1. Cause of the Accident
For a slip and fall case, it’s crucial to identify the reason behind the accident. This requires a thorough examination of the specific events that led to the incident, focusing on possible contributing factors like:
- Wet or slippery surfaces. This includes spills, freshly mopped or waxed floors, or accumulated rainwater or ice. An example might be slipping in a grocery store aisle where a liquid spill was left unattended without warning signs.
- Uneven surfaces. This can involve irregularities in flooring, such as broken tiles, uneven carpeting, or cracks in sidewalks. For example, tripping on an uneven section of a walkway in a public park that wasn’t properly maintained.
- Poorly maintained areas. Neglected maintenance issues, such as loose floorboards, potholes, or deteriorating staircases, fall into this category. An example could be falling due to a broken handrail on a staircase in an apartment complex.
- Obstacles and clutter. This encompasses any unexpected objects in walking paths, like cords running across a floor, open drawers, or random debris. An example might be tripping over unsecured electrical cords stretched across an office walkway.
- Inadequate lighting. Poor lighting can obscure vision, making it difficult to notice potential hazards. For instance, falling in a dimly lit parking lot because you couldn’t see a pothole.
2. Property Ownership and Responsibility
Identify the owner or person responsible for the property. This is important because liability often depends on who was in charge of maintaining the area where the accident occurred. Here are some examples:
- Commercial property cases. The liable party could be the business owner or the property management company for accidents occurring in commercial spaces like shopping malls, stores, resorts and hotels, or office buildings.
For instance, if you slip on a wet floor in a supermarket, the owner may be liable. However, if the building is managed by a separate company responsible for maintenance, they might be held accountable.
- Residential property cases: In residential settings like apartment complexes or rental homes, the property owner or the landlord is often responsible for maintaining safe conditions. For example, if you fall due to a broken stairway in an apartment building, the landlord could be liable for not repairing the known hazard.
- Public spaces. Slip and fall accidents in public areas like parks, sidewalks, or government buildings can involve more complex liability issues. The responsible party could be a city, town, or other governmental entity. For instance, the local municipality might be accountable if you trip on a poorly maintained sidewalk in a public park.
- Shared responsibility spaces. In some cases, there might be shared responsibility. For example, in a rented commercial space, the tenant might be responsible for internal conditions, while the landlord is responsible for the building’s exterior and structural integrity.
3. Documentation of the Accident Scene
Photographs, videos, or any other accident scene documentation can be invaluable—these help visually demonstrate the hazardous conditions that led to the accident.
- Photographs of the hazard. If you slip on a wet floor in a store, photographs of the area showing the lack of warning signs, the extent of the wetness, and the absence of staff addressing the hazard can be crucial. These images demonstrate negligence in maintaining safe conditions.
- Video evidence. In some cases, surveillance footage from the property can capture the moment of the fall, providing clear evidence of the conditions and actions leading up to the accident. For instance, a video showing you tripping over an unmarked step in a poorly lit hallway can be powerful evidence.
- Incident reports. If an incident report was filled out at the time of the accident, obtaining a copy can be valuable. This report may contain details of the hazard, witness accounts, and any immediate response from the property owner or manager. This report also supports the credibility and timeline of your claim.
- Witness statements. Gathering statements or contact information from people who witnessed the accident can provide supporting testimony to the conditions at the scene. For example, if other customers in a store saw your fall and can confirm the presence of a slippery floor without warning signs, their accounts can bolster your claim.
- Environmental conditions. Documenting environmental conditions, like weather, can also be important. If the fall was due to ice on the sidewalk, photos showing the state of the sidewalk, the weather conditions at the time, and any lack of ice removal efforts could be crucial.
- Your injuries. Photographs of your injuries immediately after the accident and during the healing process can demonstrate the severity and impact of the fall.
4. Your Actions and Conduct
Evaluating your actions and conduct at the time of the accident is an essential aspect of a slip and fall case, particularly in states like Michigan, where the concept of comparative fault is applied. This principle means that if you are found to be partially at fault for the accident, it may reduce your compensation. Here are some examples to illustrate the importance of considering your actions:
- Wearing appropriate footwear: You slipped on a snowy sidewalk and wore shoes without proper traction, contributing to the fall. The court might find that more suitable footwear could have reduced the risk of slipping.
- Distractions. Using your phone at the time of the accident could be viewed as contributory negligence. For instance, if you tripped over a clearly marked obstacle because you were not paying attention, your level of fault might be assessed as part of the case.
- Ignoring warning signs. If there were warning signs about the hazardous condition you disregarded, this could impact your claim. For example, if you walked through a cordoned-off area with wet floor signs and slipped, this action could be considered negligent.
- Accessing restricted areas. The fall occurred in an area where visitors are not typically allowed or expected to go, such as an employees-only section, which might affect the liability assessment. For example, if you entered a non-public area of a store and fell, this could be viewed as a failure to exercise reasonable caution.
- Intoxication or impairment. If you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the fall, this could be considered a factor in the accident. The court might determine that your impaired state contributed to the fall.
5. Historical Complaints or Accidents
Investigate whether there have been previous complaints or accidents in the same area. A history of similar incidents can strengthen the argument that the property owner was aware of the hazard but neglected to address it.
- Repeat slip and falls in a retail store. If there have been multiple instances of customers slipping in a specific aisle of a grocery store due to unaddressed spills, this pattern can be used to demonstrate that the store management was aware of the recurring issue but did not take sufficient preventive measures.
- Prior reports of uneven flooring. In a scenario where you tripped on a cracked or uneven section of a sidewalk, discovering that others have reported or been injured by the same hazard in the past can show a long-standing issue neglected by the responsible party, such as a municipality or property management.
- Accidents in a rental property. If previous tenants or visitors to a rental property have reported or been injured due to faulty stairs or inadequate lighting in common areas, and these issues have not been fixed, this supports the argument of landlord negligence.
- Incidents in the workplace. If employees in a workplace have repeatedly reported potential hazards like loose carpeting or exposed wires that lead to trips and falls, and the employer did not address these issues, this can indicate a pattern of neglect.
- Public facility complaints. For instance, if there have been several complaints or injuries related to poorly maintained playground equipment in a public park, and these concerns were not acted upon, it can demonstrate the municipality’s failure to maintain safe conditions.
6. Legal and Insurance Procedures
Understanding the legal and insurance procedures that follow a slip and fall accident ensures you receive appropriate compensation. These procedures can vary depending on the specifics of your case but generally involve the following steps:
- Filing a claim. This involves notifying the property owner or their insurance company about the accident and your injuries. For instance, if you slip in a shopping mall, you report the incident to the mall’s management and then file a claim with their insurance provider.
- Documentation for claims. This includes medical records, accident scene photos, witness statements, and other evidence supporting your claim. For example, if you fell on an icy sidewalk outside a business, you need to provide medical documentation of your injuries and proof of the icy conditions.
- Understanding policy coverage: This means understanding the types of damages the policy can compensate for, such as medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering. If the accident occurred at your workplace, you might be dealing with a workers’ compensation insurer, which typically covers medical expenses and a portion of lost wages.
- Negotiating with insurance companies. Insurance companies may offer a settlement, and knowing how to negotiate effectively is important. For example, if an insurance company offers a settlement that doesn’t adequately cover your expenses and losses, you may need to negotiate for a higher amount or consider legal action.
- Legal recourse. You may need to explore legal recourse if the insurance company can’t reach a satisfactory settlement. This might involve filing a lawsuit against the property owner or responsible party.
For instance, if you suffered a severe injury due to a fall in a poorly maintained parking lot and the owner’s insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement, taking legal action might be necessary.
- Statute of limitations: Know the statute of limitations for filing a slip and fall lawsuit. In Michigan, for example, you generally have three years from the accident date to file a personal injury lawsuit.
- Comparative negligence laws: If you’re deemed partially responsible for the accident, the amount of compensation you receive will be adjusted according to the level of your fault.
However, if your level of fault exceeds 50%, you will be ineligible to receive non-economic damages, such as compensation for pain and suffering. You can, though, still claim economic damages, like medical bills and lost wages, but these too will be reduced in proportion to your share of the fault in the incident.
Get Legal Assistance in Slip and Fall Cases from a Michigan-Based Law Firm
A personal injury from a slip and fall can impact your long-term health and well-being. If you have been injured in a slip and fall caused by someone else’s negligence, turn to Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. for professional legal assistance. Let us help you confidently navigate your case and secure the compensation you deserve.
Contact us today for a complimentary consultation regarding your slip and fall personal injury, and let us safeguard your interests while you concentrate on your recovery.
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.