Trips & Falls

One critical issue in all trip and fall cases is the exact location of the condition or defect that caused the fall.  Great care should be taken to mark the precise point.  Then, any and all corroboration should be found, such as witnesses to the fall, EMT reports of the location to which they were dispatched, or others who may not have observed the fall but observed where you were after the fall. Defense attorneys always suggest the fall occurred elsewhere when there is no corroboration. 

Governmental agencies are liable for defects in sidewalks and roadbeds that cause injury.  But they must be placed on notice of the exact location. This notice must be made in writing, within 120 days after the injury.  (For minors, the deadline is 180 days .    There is an exception to the rule for those physically or mentally incapable of giving notice.)   If not provided timely the case is lost.  So a qualified trip and fall attorney should be retained shortly after the incident to carefully draft the notice.

Private establishments can be liable for injuries caused by defects on any portion of their land within their possession and control.  Typically, an incident report is made to the person in charge.  It is advisable to make an incident report, on the spot, to memorialize that you were injured on their property. 

Under new doctrine issued by Michigan’s Supreme Court, a private owner of land has no duty to protect people from hazardous conditions that are open and obvious.  Without a duty, there can be no breach of duty, and therefore no claim.   There is an exception to the “open and obvious” rule, however.  Even where the condition is open and obvious, if the condition had “special aspects” that make it unreasonably hazardous, the possessor of the property owes a duty, the breach of which would sustain an action for damages.  An experienced trip and fall attorney is necessary to guide you through this area of the law.

Your doctor will ask you what happened.  Be very careful to be accurate.  Defense attorneys scour medical records for any indication the injury occurred someplace else or in a different manner.

Trips and falls can cause very severe, debilitating conditions, including brain injury, fractures, spinal cord injury, and death.  After you get emergency treatment, you should get qualified legal advice.  Our attorneys will listen to the facts, determine the exact location, provide the governmental notice, find any witnesses and aggressively pursue your case.

Sec. 2. (1) Except as otherwise provided in section 2a, each governmental agency having jurisdiction over a highway shall maintain the highway in reasonable repair so that it is reasonably safe and convenient for public travel. A person who sustains bodily injury or damage to his or her property by reason of failure of a governmental agency to keep a highway under its jurisdiction in reasonable repair and in a condition reasonably safe and fit for travel may recover the damages suffered by him or her from the governmental agency. The liability, procedure, and remedy as to county roads under the jurisdiction of a county road commission shall be as provided in section 21 of chapter IV of 1909 PA 283, MCL 224.21. The duty of the state and the county road commissions to repair and maintain highways, and the liability for that duty, extends only to the improved portion of the highway designed for vehicular travel and does not include sidewalks, trailways, crosswalks, or any other installation outside of the improved portion of the highway designed for vehicular travel. A judgment against the state based on a claim arising under this section from acts or omissions of the state transportation department is payable only from restricted funds appropriated to the state transportation department or funds provided by its insurer.

Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 691.1402

Sec. 4. (1) As a condition to any recovery for injuries sustained by reason of any defective highway, the injured person, within 120 days from the time the injury occurred, except as otherwise provided in subsection (3) shall serve a notice on the governmental agency of the occurrence of the injury and the defect. The notice shall specify the exact location and nature of the defect, the injury sustained and the names of the witnesses known at the time by the claimant.

Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 691.1404

In a case where the notice was filed 140 days after the date of injury, the Michigan Supreme Court strictly applied the 120 day rule and ordered the dismissal of the case:

MCL 691.1404 is straightforward, clear, unambiguous, and not constitutionally suspect. Accordingly, we conclude that it must be enforced as written.

As this Court stated in Robertson v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 465 Mich. 732, 748, 641 N.W.2d 567 (2002), “The Legislature is presumed to have intended the meaning it has plainly expressed, and if the expressed language is clear, judicial construction is not permitted and the statute must be enforced as written.” Thus, the statute requires notice to be given as directed, and notice is adequate if it is served within 120 days and otherwise complies with the requirements of the statute, i.e., it specifies the exact location and nature of the defect, the injury sustained, and the names of the witnesses known at the time by the claimant, no matter how much prejudice is actually suffered. Conversely, the notice provision is not satisfied if notice is served more than 120 days after the accident even if there is no prejudice.
Rowland v. Washtenaw County Rd. Comm'n, 477 Mich. 197, 219, 731 N.W.2d 41, 54-55 (2007)

The court held:

In sum, the general rule is that a premises possessor is not required to protect an invitee from open and obvious dangers, but, if special aspects of a condition make even an open and obvious risk unreasonably dangerous, the premises possessor has a duty to undertake reasonable precautions to protect invitees from that risk.

Lugo v. Ameritech Corp., Inc., 464 Mich. 512, 517, 629 N.W.2d 384, 386 (2001)

(3) If the injured person is under the age of 18 years at the time the injury occurred, he shall serve the notice required by subsection (1) not more than 180 days from the time the injury occurred, which notice may be filed by a parent, attorney, next friend or legally appointed guardian. If the injured person is physically or mentally incapable of giving notice, he shall serve the notice required by subsection (1) not more than 180 days after the termination of the disability. In all civil actions in which the physical or mental capability of the person is in dispute, that issue shall be determined by the trier of the facts. The provisions of this subsection shall apply to all charter provisions, statutes and ordinances which require written notices to counties or municipal corporations.

Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 691.1404