Winter in Michigan and other areas of the Upper Midwest brings snow and ice. This precipitation can become a slip and fall hazard, particularly when allowed to build up outside commercial buildings that have a lot of people coming and going. Every building manager or property owner must ensure that public entrances are free of dangerous ice or snow that could cause injury.
Failing to salt sidewalks or remove snow and ice properly could make businesses liable if someone is injured due to winter hazards. If you have sustained injuries after falling or slipping due to ice or snow, contact the Michigan slip and fall accident attorneys at Fieger Law to understand your rights and potential compensation.
What is the Importance of Salting Entrances?
When temperatures fall below freezing, moisture on the ground begins to freeze. If there is precipitation, it will generally fall as sleet or snow, which can freeze on the ground turning into a layer of ice.
Laying down salt causes a chemical reaction between the sodium and chlorine molecules and the ice. The molecules hydrate when in contact with water, producing heat and melting the snow or ice.
State law § 554.139 requires landlords and property managers to clear snow and ice from publicly accessible sidewalks and entrances. Failure to do so can make them liable for damages, including medical expenses, in a lawsuit. If you fall in an area that should have been cleaned, cleared, and salted, contact the premises liability attorneys at Fieger law to discuss your legal options.
Is it a Requirement for Businesses to Salt their Entrances?
Michigan has complex premises liability laws. State law requires that property owners keep their properties, including sidewalks and outdoor areas, in a reasonable state of repair.
The Michigan Supreme Court Decision of Estate of Livings v. Sage’s Investment Group LLC and the Michigan Court of Appeals decision of the Estate of Brenda Bowman and Derick Bowman v. Larry Walker and Rodney Lauderdale ruled that this law includes the removal of the natural accumulation of snow and ice on walkways.
- Premises Liability in Michigan
Before these two court cases, there was little recourse for anyone injured due to slipping on ice. Courts used to hold that ice and snow were “open and obvious” hazards that people should see and avoid on their own without warning or intervention. However, these cases ruled that if snow and ice prevent safe entry and exit of a property, the owner or management company could be held liable.
- Open and Obvious Defense vs. Other Factors
The courts now interpret slip and fall cases with more nuance, depending on the factors of each incident. For example, a business may fail to salt the sidewalk in front of the building, and you slip and fall, sustaining injuries. The business owner may use the open and obvious defense, saying you could have used another path to enter the building after seeing the sidewalk was icy.
However, your attorney can argue that the situation was unreasonably dangerous. This legal precedent refers to conditions with a high likelihood of causing harm that are left unaddressed by property owners. For example, if a company refuses to fix a drip that routinely freezes, causing the walkway to have thick layers of untreated ice.
Your attorney could also argue that the hazard was effectively unavoidable, meaning the only entry and exit path goes through the dangerous area and could not be avoided.
Discuss the particulars of your case with a qualified slip and fall attorney from Fieger Law. Our legal team can review your case to determine if the business or property manager is responsible for your slip and fall injuries and help you seek compensation.
- When Might a Company be Responsible for Injuries to Customers Due to a Slip and Fall?
Businesses can be held liable for a slip and fall injury to a customer when there are unreasonably dangerous and unavoidable icy areas. For example, if the only entrance to the building is not salted, you cannot safely enter. Likewise, if the only exit is left untreated by salt, you would be exposed to dangerous and unavoidable circumstances.
One exception is government-owned buildings, such as post offices. Although these spaces are cleaned and de-iced by public authorities, you cannot sue public authorities for weather-related slip and fall accidents in Michigan.
What to do After Injuring Yourself
If you suffer an injury due to a slip and fall caused by snow or ice, take the following steps to ensure your safety and keep your legal options open:
- Seek Medical Attention: Seek medical attention immediately. Medical care ensures you receive treatment for your injuries. Treatment also proves your injuries by giving you documentation from the hospital that shows the nature of your injuries and what the doctors believe caused them.
- Take Pictures or Video of the Accident Scene: Winter weather conditions change quickly, and the snow and ice present during your accident likely won’t remain when you speak with a lawyer. If possible, take detailed pictures and videos immediately after your accident. Use a ruler to show ice and snow thickness and take a picture of the entire premises to establish that the path was either unavoidable or exceptionally dangerous.
- Speak with a Premises Liability Lawyer: After you have gathered as much information as possible, speak with a premises liability lawyer from Fieger Law. We will guide you through Michigan liability laws and help you understand your legal rights as a victim. Your attorney can help you file a claim with the business’s insurance company seeking a fair settlement for your damages.
How a Slip and Fall Accident Attorney Can Help
The slip and fall accident attorneys at Fieger Law can help you get the compensation you deserve. Our attorneys can gather evidence, such as surveillance video, medical records, and witness testimony, to prove your case. We will also negotiate with the negligent property owner’s insurance company to get you a fair settlement.
If you have been the victim of a slip and fall accident, contact our attorneys today to get started on your case.