Who is Liable for a Slip and Fall Accident in a Parking Lot?
Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran
Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere, and parking lots are no exception. Whether you’re visiting a retail store, restaurant, office building, or any other establishment, the parking lot’s condition can impact your safety.
In Michigan, like in many other states, property owners have a duty to maintain their premises in a reasonably safe condition. This duty extends to parking lots. If property owners fail to meet this responsibility, they could be held liable for injuries resulting from slip and fall accidents in parking lots.
If you experience a slip and fall accident in a Michigan parking lot, our slip and fall attorneys can help you determine the liable party and secure a fair settlement to address necessary medical costs and income loss.
Understanding Premises Liability and Negligence
At the core of many slip and fall claims is the question of negligence. Negligence refers to the failure to exercise the level of care that a reasonably prudent person would under similar circumstances. In slip and fall accidents in parking lots, negligence may involve actions or omissions by the property owner or another party responsible for maintenance.
Negligence can manifest in various ways, including:
- Failure to address hazards. Property owners are obligated to ensure their premises are reasonably safe from hazards. This includes addressing potholes, uneven surfaces, inadequate lighting, and slippery substances like ice and oil. If a property owner knew or should have known about the danger and failed to act, this can point to negligence.
- Inadequate inspections. Property owners, especially business managers, should regularly inspect their parking lots to identify and address hazards promptly. Neglecting to perform these inspections can be considered negligent behavior.
- Lack of warning signs. In some cases, a property owner may be aware of a potential hazard but fails to provide adequate warning signs to alert visitors. For example, warning signs should be displayed if there is a slippery surface due to ice.
Comparative Fault in Michigan
Michigan operates under a system of modified comparative negligence. This legal concept acknowledges that in some slip and fall cases, the injured party may have contributed to the accident through their actions or lack of attention. Under comparative negligence rules, the injured party’s compensation can be reduced based on their percentage of fault.
If the injured party’s degree of responsibility exceeds 50%, they may be ineligible to pursue damages through a lawsuit. Michigan follows the 51% rule, which means that if the injured party is 51% or more at fault, they cannot recover any damages.
For example, if someone slips and falls in a parking lot but is not paying attention to where they are walking or is wearing inappropriate footwear for the conditions, their compensation may be reduced in proportion to their level of fault. If their degree of fault exceeds 50%, they may be unable to seek damages from the property owner or other potentially liable parties.
Number of Parties Involved
Parking lot slip and fall accidents can be complex, as numerous parties may be involved and potentially liable. Depending on the specifics of the accident and parking lot maintenance arrangements, the following parties could be held responsible:
- Property owner. The property owner has a primary duty to maintain the parking lot in a safe condition. This duty applies whether the property owner is an individual, a business entity, or a public entity.
- Tenant or business owner. In some cases, a tenant or business owner who occupies a property with a parking lot may share responsibility for its maintenance. This typically depends on the terms of the lease or occupancy agreement.
- Third-party maintenance or snow removal company. Property owners often hire third-party companies to perform maintenance tasks such as snow removal, salting, and general upkeep of the parking lot. If the negligence of a third-party company causes a slip and fall accident, they may be held liable.
Several critical elements must be established to prove liability in a parking lot slip and fall accident:
- Duty of care. The injured party must demonstrate that the property owner or responsible party had a duty of care towards them. This legal duty encompasses maintaining the premises in a reasonably safe condition and is established by law.
- Breach of duty. It must be established that the property owner or responsible party violated their duty of care by either neglecting to address a dangerous condition or by acting negligently.
- Causation. There must be a direct link between the breach of duty and the slip and fall accident. In other words, the hazardous condition or negligence must have directly caused the accident and resulting injuries.
- Damages. The injured party must have suffered actual damages, such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other losses due to the slip and fall accident.
- Negligence. Evidence of negligence, such as inadequate maintenance records, witness statements, surveillance footage, and expert testimony, may be crucial in establishing liability.
Gathering and preserving evidence promptly after a slip and fall accident is crucial. This evidence will play a critical role in determining liability and pursuing a successful personal injury claim.
What Are Typical Damages or Injuries in a Michigan Slip and Fall Accident?
In Michigan, the scope of damages and injuries resulting from a slip and fall accident can be extensive. Victims of such accidents are often entitled to compensation covering a wide range of expenses and impacts, including:
- Past medical bills
- Future medical bills
- Past lost wages
- Future lost wages or loss of earning capacity
- Out-of-pocket costs like copays, deductibles and prescriptions
- Pain and suffering
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Emotional distress and anxiety
Common Conditions Leading to Slip and Fall Accidents in Parking Lots
Parking lots are frequent locations for slip and fall accidents, and several conditions can contribute to these incidents. Business owners should be mindful of and rectify these risks to safeguard the well-being of their customers and visitors. The following are some of the most common conditions that can result in slip and fall accidents in parking lots:
- Poor lighting. Inadequate lighting conditions make it difficult to see obstacles or changes in walking surfaces, increasing the risk of tripping or slipping. Property owners should ensure their parking lots are well-lit, particularly in areas where pedestrians walk, like pathways or sidewalks.
- Uneven pavement or potholes. Property owners should conduct routine parking lot inspections to identify pavement defects and promptly address them. If immediate repairs are not possible, the property owner should take precautionary measures by placing warning signs to alert customers.
- Ice, snow, or slush accumulation. Property owners are responsible for ensuring timely snow removal and de-icing to uphold safe walking conditions. Neglecting these measures can result in visitors slipping and falling in the parking lot or on the walkways.
- Spilled oil or other liquids. Oil spills or other car fluids in parking lots can create slick surfaces that are not immediately visible. Prompt cleaning and appropriate signage are key responsibilities of property owners to prevent dangerous accidents.
- Debris or trash on the ground. Debris, such as discarded packaging, broken glass, or fallen branches on the ground, can cause tripping or slipping, especially in crowded or dimly lit parking lots. Property owners should regularly conduct thorough cleanups to remove debris and maintain a safe environment.
- Inadequate signage or warnings about potential hazards. Signage in parking lots should be explicit in addressing slip and fall risks, such as wet surfaces, icy conditions, uneven pavement, or recent cleaning activities. Property owners should make sure that these signs are easily visible and strategically positioned to inform pedestrians about these particular hazards.
- Loose gravel or sand. Loose materials such as gravel, sand, or scattered landscaping pebbles can undermine the stability of walking surfaces, creating a hazard. Property owners and managers must consistently sweep away these materials and ensure the upkeep of clean and stable surfaces, especially after adverse weather conditions or landscaping activities.
- Worn or damaged parking stops and speed bumps. Parking stops and speed bumps may deteriorate or become damaged over time, potentially becoming tripping hazards. Property owners should conduct regular inspections of these components to identify cracks, erosion, or displacement and take appropriate measures, such as repairs or replacements, to guarantee the safety of visitors.
- Lack of handrails or support structures. The absence of handrails or sturdy support structures can be particularly hazardous in parking lots with steps, uneven terrain, or slopes. Property owners should install handrails where needed and ensure regular maintenance to provide adequate support and prevent falls.
Gathering Evidence for a Slip and Fall Claim
After a slip and fall in a parking lot, thorough documentation can help you and your attorney build a strong case. Here’s what you need to gather and share with your lawyer to bolster your claim:
- Capture the scene with photographs. Take clear photos of the hazard, such as a patch of ice, a large pothole, or spilled liquid. Also, capture wider shots to show the overall environment, such as lack of warning signs or poor lighting. For example, if there’s a pothole, photograph it up close and from a distance to show its location in the parking lot.
- Gather witness contact details. If anyone sees your fall, ask for their name, phone number, and a brief account of what they saw. Their account can substantiate your claim and help prove property owner negligence.
- Inform management or security. Report the incident to the authorities of the establishment connected to the parking lot, like a store or office building’s management. Request a copy of any incident report they file, as this serves as official recognition of the accident.
- Seek medical attention immediately. Seek immediate medical care following the accident. This not only ensures crucial treatment for your injuries but also establishes a medical record that directly links your injuries to the incident. For example, a doctor’s report detailing a twisted ankle due to uneven pavement can establish the connection between your injury and the fall, aiding in proving liability.
- Jot down all details. Record every detail about the incident as soon as possible. Include the time, weather conditions, what you were wearing (like if your shoes had good traction), and any conversations you had right after the fall. This can help reconstruct the event accurately later.
- Keep your footwear and clothing. Keep the shoes and clothes you wore during the incident in their post-accident state. If your clothes got torn or dirty from the fall, they could be used to demonstrate the severity of the incident.
- Check for surveillance cameras. Determine if any CCTV cameras may have captured your fall. If so, request access to the footage from the property owner or management, as it can be compelling evidence.
- Document your injuries and recovery. Keep a detailed record of your injuries, medical appointments, treatments, and how the injury impacts your daily life. For instance, if you cannot work or perform certain tasks due to the injury, document these limitations.
- Consult with an attorney early. Our premises liability lawyers can offer guidance on gathering evidence, filing your claim, and communicating with the business where your accident occurred. We’ll protect your rights and help you negotiate a fair settlement for your injuries.
Statute of Limitations in Michigan for Slip and Fall Claims
When contemplating legal action after a slip and fall accident in Michigan, be mindful of the state’s statute of limitations. Generally, you are required to file a slip and fall claim in parking lots within three years of the accident date.
If the accident took place on property owned by a government entity, whether city, county, or state, there might be a shorter timeframe for filing a claim. For instance, you must prove the entity knew about the hazard at least 30 days before you were hurt and File a Notice of Claim within 120 days.
Schedule Your Free Case Review With Our Skilled Slip and Fall Lawyers
At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., our slip and fall attorneys have the expertise, dedication, and resources to win your parking lot slip and fall claim. We’ve won millions on behalf of our clients in settlement negotiations and jury verdicts – we’ll use our experience and legal skills to help you receive a settlement that covers all your current and future damages.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation where we can discuss the specifics of your parking lot slip and fall accident and help you determine your options for compensation.
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.