Slip and Fall Accident Lawyer
If you were injured because of a slip, trip, fall, or some other hazard on the premises you were on, you may be entitled to bring suit against the possessor of the property for your injuries. Slip and fall cases are based in tort. Because of this, you’ll be required to prove the general elements of a negligence claim. Proving liability or negligence can become complicated fairly quickly, so it’s important to consult with a slip and fall accident lawyer as soon after your accident as possible.
There are four basic elements that you must prove in establishing a premises liability claim:
- That the Defendant owed you a legal duty;
- That the Defendant breached that duty;
- That Defendant’s breach of his or her legal duty was a proximate cause of your injuries; and
- That you suffered damages as a result of the Defendant’s breach of the legal duty.
Open and Obvious – Fifth Element in Slip and Fall Cases
Whether or not a hazardous condition is open and obvious also plays a major role in any premises liability claim. If a hazard is so open and obvious that a reasonable person would take care to avoid it, the Plaintiff may be barred from making his or her claim. Because most Defendants will use this issue as a defense in a premises liability claim, “open and obvious” has become the fifth element Plaintiffs must establish.
Possession and Control of the Property Gives Rise to the Legal Duty
The first step in a premises liability case is to establish that the Defendant owed you a legal duty, and the extent of the duty owed. Generally, a Defendant’s legal duty arises out of his or her possession and control over the property.
It is important to understand that this does not necessarily mean ownership of the property. In fact, the Michigan Supreme Court has found that, although the same individual or entity often holds ownership, possession, and control, they are distinctly different concepts. Take, for example, the owner of a shopping complex, in which the owner rents individual retail spaces to small businesses, but maintains the parking lot and sidewalk herself. In such a scenario, the business owner would likely be responsible for the injuries of a shopping center patron who fell in the parking lot, but would not be responsible if that same patron fell inside a store, because although the owner holds title to the store space, she is not in possession or control of that rented space at the time the injury occurs.
Determining the Extent of the Legal Duty Owed
Once it can be established which individual or entity holds possession or control of the land on which the Plaintiff is injured, and thus identifies the proper Defendant in the suit, the second step is to identify what legal duty that Defendant owes to the injured Plaintiff.
In Michigan, the extent of the duty owed by the possessor of land is dependent upon the purpose for which the Plaintiff was on the land at the time he or she sustained the injury. Michigan law outlines three distinct levels of Plaintiffs in premises liability cases, and the Defendant owes different duties to each. Those duties are invitee, licensee, and trespasser, and the level of care owed by the Defendant will be dictated by the Plaintiff’s designation into one of these categories.
Establishing Status on Property
It is important to understand that an individual’s status on a particular property may change during the course of the visit. Because the duty owed by the land possessor to the injured Plaintiff is based upon the Plaintiff’s purpose and permission level for being on the property, it similarly figures that as the Plaintiff moves around the property, the corresponding duty level to the Plaintiff changes.
For example, Michigan courts have held that a social guest of a tenant of an apartment building is a licensee while in the tenant’s apartment, but becomes an invitee of the apartment building’s landlord while in the common areas of the building. Similarly, a business invitee who wanders into restricted areas of the business establishment without first seeking permission becomes a trespasser in those restricted areas.
Contacting an Experienced Slip and Fall Accident Lawyer
Sinas Dramis attorneys have helped residents of Michigan obtain compensation for their injuries arising from slips, trips, and falls due to negligence for over 60 years. Contact us today to discuss the specifics of your case at 855.758.0031.