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Sidewalk Slip and Fall: Who is Liable?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

One of the most common legal questions about slip and fall accidents is if you slip and fall on a sidewalk who is liable? The answer depends. For starters, in nearly every personal injury case, there must be liability in order to prove fault. In the absence of negligence, there is no liable party.

To know who is liable for a sidewalk slip and fall, you need to understand negligence and public versus private property. If you sustained injuries in a slip and fall accident, call Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., to learn more about how you can get the compensation you deserve.

Commons Types of Injuries in Sidewalk Slip and Falls Cases

A sidewalk slip and fall often happens when there are dangerous conditions, like ice or slippery, hard-packed snow that is difficult to walk on. While the property owners of sidewalks have responsibility for maintaining the sidewalk and keeping them clear of snow and ice, inclement weather can make it difficult to maintain safe conditions at all times. The buildup of ice, snow, or water in cold temperatures is often to blame for a victim’s fall.

When a victim slips and falls on a slippery surface, it typically happens suddenly and without time for the individual to react and break their fall. Those who try to catch themselves often suffer from hand or wrist fractures, or other fractures, sprains, and strains from blunt trauma to their legs, hips, or other body parts that hit the ground.

Even more common are back and neck injuries, particularly among older adults. More serious injuries that can stem from falling on a sidewalk are spinal cord injuries, which can cause the loss of function or mobility in your extremities. In the most severe cases, victims may become paralyzed from the neck down.

While less common, some victims may experience traumatic brain injuries that can cause permanent brain damage or even death. No matter your injuries, working with an experienced slip and fall accident attorney can help you fight for your rights and get the compensation you need to pay for your medical bills.

Negligence in a Sidewalk Accident

Slip and fall cases fall under an area of law referred to as premises liability, in which property owners have a duty to provide a safe environment. If they fail to maintain a safe environment and an injury occurs, they may be held responsible for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

Like most personal injury cases, you must prove that the property owner did something wrong or was negligent to win a slip and fall case. Slipping and falling on a public sidewalk doesn’t automatically mean the owner is at fault, just as the poor conditions that caused you to slip don’t mean the municipality is immediately liable.

First, you must prove the sidewalk was in an unsafe condition. To prove the property owner was negligent, you must show that the property owner knew or should have known that the sidewalk was unsafe.

Liability for a faulty condition on a sidewalk may lie with the city or, if it’s private property, with the homeowner. Michigan has a three-year statute of limitations for slip and fall injuries, meaning you have up to three years to file a lawsuit and have your case heard in the courts. If you fall on a municipal-owned sidewalk, you may have less than 90 days to file an injury claim.

In Michigan, the state’s “modified comparative negligence” rule determines how much compensation you will receive from the property owner if the court determines your actions caused your injury in part. If you are at fault, your compensation may be reduced based on the percentage you’re considered to be at fault.

If your accident occurs on a commercial property, it’s essential to know that the property owner may try to place the blame on you. Common defenses from property owners include stating that the dangerous condition was obvious or, based on security footage, you were distracted at the time of the fall.

What to Do in the Event of a Slip and Fall

If you are the victim of a slip and fall, the first thing you should do is seek medical attention for your injuries. Even if you don’t feel pain or notice any injuries right away, it’s possible that you won’t feel the pain immediately due to shock or the cold. Seeking medical advice is not only critical to your recovery but important to ensuring you have the proper medical records to help establish liability in your slip and fall case.

Next, report the accident to the municipality that manages the sidewalk and any nearby homeowners who could potentially be at fault as well. Make sure that you keep a copy of the report for your records. This is especially important if there are no witnesses. If there were witnesses, be sure to exchange contact information so your lawyer can contact them later to serve as a witness. It’s also a good idea to get what they saw in writing to help your case.

You should also collect as much evidence as possible from the scene. Take photos of the area of the sidewalk you fell on, including the ice, snow, or other conditions that contributed to your fall. If the fall affected your clothing, keep it in a sealed plastic bag since it could also prove to be valuable evidence. Once you’ve gathered as much evidence as you can, it’s time to seek legal advice.

Victim of a slip and fall

Get a Free Consultation Today

If you or someone you know is a victim of a sidewalk slip and fall, Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., can help get you the compensation you deserve. Our experienced team of lawyers can help ensure you gather the necessary evidence to file a lawsuit and prove the responsible parties’ liability. Call 1-866-MICH-LAW today for a free consultation.

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.

Elena is a writer and communications professional with a genuine concern for the environment. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in journalism with a specialization in environmental studies to complement her passion. In her spare time, Elena enjoys the great outdoors in her home state of Michigan.



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