Winter can be a treacherous time. Slips, trips and falls are common. But what happens if the owner of the property where you fell turns around and blames you for the accident?
This is the very issue that often confronts injury victims — often unfairly.
How modified contributory negligence works in Michigan
Under the state’s negligence laws, an injury victim’s claim for damages is reduced proportionally according to his or her degree of fault for the accident. Being partially liable for your own injuries won’t necessarily stop you from collecting damages — but it can substantially reduce what you receive. Plus, if you are found more than 50% responsible for your own fall, you are unable to recover any “non-economic” damages, such as pain and suffering.
How this might look in practice
Imagine that you were attending a New Year’s Eve party at a hotel. A tear in the hallway carpet caught the heel of your shoe, sending you tumbling. You suffered several broken bones and injured your back so you eventually file a claim for $200,000 — $100,000 for your medical expenses and lost wages, and $100,000 for your considerable pain and suffering.
The hotel claims, however, that you were drinking before you fell and that your state of drunkenness led you to stumble. Ultimately, the jury decides that you are 51% responsible for the fall — which automatically reduces what the hotel has to pay. The $100,000 you claimed for your economic losses would be lowered by 51% to $49,000 and the $100,000 you claimed for pain and suffering would be reduced to zero.
Because of Michigan’s liability laws, you can bet that the insurance adjuster that’s involved in your slip-and-fall injury claim is looking for any way possible to pin the blame on you. You can protect yourself by finding out more about your legal rights before you talk to the insurance company.