If you were injured in a slip and fall accident while inside another person’s property, you may be eligible for compensation. Your medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering, among others, can be compensated. To be eligible, you must prove that the property owner knew the hazards that caused your slip and fall on their premises. This knowledge in slip and fall cases is known as notice.

An experienced slip and fall accident lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of proving a slip and fall claim. In the meantime, understand the basics of notice in fall accidents in this article.

The Role of Notice in Slip and Fall Cases

Notice plays a crucial role in claiming compensation when you get injured while on another person’s property, such as a grocery or supermarket, apartment complex, parking lot, etc.

To prove your claim, you must show that the owner of the property or business created a dangerous condition or that they were aware or should have been aware that a dangerous condition existed. In other words, the business or property owner had notice of such a dangerous condition.

Actual vs Constructive Notice in Slip and Fall Cases

There are two types of notice in slip and fall claims: actual and constructive notice.

Actual notice means that the owner knew the dangerous condition or defect. For example, they were informed about it verbally or through written communication like a letter or an email.

Constructive notice means that the owner should have known the dangerous condition or defect. The danger or defect will be known to the owner if they conduct their duty to maintain the premises regularly. Otherwise stated, the owner’s constructive knowledge is based on their exercising reasonable care. For example, a broken pipe that’s been causing leak and flooding for a month would be something the owner would know because they are supposed to have the floors cleaned regularly. If they deny knowing about the flooding, they’d deny regularly cleaning the floors. In effect, they’d admit that they didn’t exercise reasonable care and were, therefore, negligent.

How to Prove Liability in a Slip and Fall Case

There are four things that you need to prove to establish liability in a premises liability case: duty, breach of duty, causation, and damages.

  • Duty of the defendant to the plaintiff: The first element is the property owner’s duty to exercise due care over their property to ensure their own and others’ safety. This is done by ensuring the property is free from hazards or risks. Premises liability is the duty to keep a property or premise in a safe condition, free from hazards that could cause accidents and injuries. The hazards must be foreseeable, meaning they can be anticipated because of circumstances that can be seen, heard, smelled, or felt. A property owner cannot be expected to protect you from a danger that they would have no way of knowing.
  • Breach of such duty: To prove breach, the plaintiff must show that the defendant created the dangerous condition themselves or that they tolerated the situation. The defendant is negligent if they had the power to resolve the issue but still failed to do it.
  • Causation: The breach of duty was the reason for the injury to the plaintiff. For example, it was the lack of regular maintenance that caused the pipes to break and cause leaks. The slippery, wet floor caused you to slip and fall.
  • Injury and damages: Your medical report, medical bills, and other documents for your medical expenses are crucial in seeking compensation. Incident reports and even police reports, if any, are also ideal supporting documents.

How Actual or Constructive Notice Works in Premises Liability Cases

In premises liability cases, a property owner may raise as a defense that he was not even aware of a hazard on his property. This knowledge or awareness is called notice. Therefore, the plaintiff (the person injured or claiming damages) must prove that the defendant (the person at fault) knew or should have known that the hazard or risk exists.

To prove actual notice (actual knowledge) is challenging because no property owner would readily admit knowing a dangerous condition exists on his property and that he failed to address it. For constructive knowledge (indirect knowledge), it could be proved that a hazard has existed for a sufficient period that any diligent property owner would have become aware of it.

Expect the defendant to deny fault and liability by saying they did not know about the hazard in their building. You should let only a trusted personal injury attorney handle your case. Actual or constructive notice can be proven by circumstantial evidence. However, your attorney must investigate to establish and prove dangerous conditions, breach, causation, and injury.

Examples of Constructive Notice

The following are some hazards that can cause slip and fall accidents, but which hazards the owner of the property should have known:

Proving Constructive Notice

In proving constructive notice, the court will look at three factors:

  • The time the dangerous condition has existed before the slip and fall happened
  • The area of the property where the dangerous condition existed
  • The type of dangerous condition
  • Whether the dangerous condition has existed before (if it is a recurring issue on the property)

The Open and Obvious Doctrine in Michigan

The open and obvious law doctrine is a total defense in premises liability cases. As the name suggests, the doctrine means that if the danger was open and obvious, then the plaintiff should have avoided it. Therefore, negligence rests with the plaintiff and not the defendant. For example, the blockage was open and obvious. If a person was injured because he was using his phone while walking, causing him to bump into the blockage and slip and fall, then the property owner is not liable.

On July 28, 2023, the Supreme Court of Michigan slightly changed the open and obvious doctrine. In Kandil-Elsayed v. F & E Oil, Inc. and Pinski v. Kroger Co of Michigan, the Supreme Court basically stated that the open and obvious defense may only stand to determine who is more at fault. In other words, liability and, therefore, compensation will be determined through comparative negligence. In effect, the property owners remain liable even though the hazard was open and obvious. Yet, their liability may be tempered.

The Clark Law Office Can Help With Your Slip and Fall Case.

Torts and personal injury laws can be complex, so you should hire an experienced personal injury attorney to handle your case. At Clark Law Office, our attorneys have handled slip and fall cases for decades. We work hard and smart, and we will do our best to protect your best interest.

Our law offices are located in Okemos, Lansing, and Eaton Rapids. Call us today for a no-obligation, free consultation.

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