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Can I Sue for a Slip and Fall on Ice or Snow in Michigan?

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Understanding the Court’s View on Snow- or Ice-Related Slip and Fall Cases

A slip and fall accident can lead to serious issues, up to and including catastrophic injuries that can leave you reeling financially. If your fall is on someone else’s property and is caused by the negligence or actions of someone else, you may be able to seek compensation for your losses from that person or business. That can be true even if your fall was related to conditions such as snow and ice.

What Is a Property Owner’s Responsibility When It Comes to Ice and Snow?

Landlords, businesses, and other property owners have a responsibility to ensure safe conditions on their properties and in their buildings. That includes, to some extent, ensuring that snow and ice don’t cause unavoidable dangers to tenants, customers, and others who might need to be on the property.

For example, property owners or managers may have some duty to clear necessary walking paths or ensure that exterior entry locations are free of ice whenever possible.

Isn’t Snow and Ice an Open and Obvious Danger?

Previously in Michigan, it was difficult to win slip-and-fall cases that were related to ice and snow. That’s because defendants in such cases could use what is called an open and obvious defense, and the courts tended to side with them.

The premise of the open and obvious defense is that snow and ice in a walkway or another area present a clear and visible risk. Anyone attempting to walk across an area encumbered by snow or ice should know that they are taking a risk, and so the defense claims that the person who is injured in such an endeavor made decisions and took actions that led to that injury despite the clear warning.

The concept is akin to having a clear warning sign about a spill that is still being cleaned up in a store. If someone sees the sign and recognizes that there is a spill, but they go running across that area of the store anyway, they might be deemed at least partly at fault for any injury they incur.

However, recently, the Michigan courts decided a case involving a slip and fall on ice and snow that alters how strong the open and obvious defense is in these matters. In this case, a woman stopped at a gas station. She had to traverse a certain area to get into the store, and the snow was unavoidable in that area. There was ice under the snow that caused her to fall and hurt herself.

The defendant in this case did try to claim the open and obvious defense. However, the plaintiff—the woman and her lawyer—argued against that defense. The argument stated that it didn’t matter if the snow and ice danger was visible to her and obvious; she had no other options for entering the store. The courts sided with her argument.

Is It Possible to Seek Compensation After a Slip and Fall Involving Snow or Ice?

Based on the information noted above, it is definitely possible to seek compensation after slipping and falling in an accident that involved ice or snow. However, as with all personal injury cases, you do still hold the burden of proof.

Successful slip-and-fall lawsuits must effectively demonstrate a number of facts:

  • That the accident occurred. First, you must prove that you did, in fact, slip and fall. Photo and video evidence and witness testimony can help with this.
  • That the fall caused injuries. You must tie your injuries to the fall. The defense might try to claim that you weren’t actually injured or that your conditions relate to pre-existing conditions. Medical records and expert testimony can help you make your case.
  • The extent of your injuries. You may need to document the extent of your injuries to help make a case for your current and future losses. Again, medical testimony, documents showing your income loss, and medical records can play a role in your case.
  • That someone else was liable. Finally, you must show that someone’s actions or lack of actions were causal factors in the accident. For example, you may need to show that a property owner knew of dangerous snow and ice in a walkway and did nothing to mitigate it.

In cases related to snow and ice, you might also have to prove that there wasn’t an option for you to avoid the area.

What Are Some Steps You Should Take After Such a Slip and Fall?

If you are injured in a slip-and-fall incident, consider reaching out to an attorney as soon as possible to find out what your options are and if you might have a case for seeking compensation. It’s also a good idea to gather as much evidence and documentation as you can early on because it can be hard to remember important details later.

When you are able, for example, consider writing down everything you remember about the incident. You could also use your phone or another device to record yourself talking about the incident. Ask any witnesses, such as friends or family who were with you at the time, to do the same. You should also keep all records related to the accident, such as medical bills and documents, as your attorney might need them to make a case on your behalf.

The Sigal Law Firm can help with your slip and fall case. To learn more about your options, contact us today by calling 248-671-6794.

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