Open & Obvious Doctrine: What it Means for Slip & Fall Cases

Open & Obvious Doctrine: What it Means for Slip & Fall Cases

by / Monday, 18 January 2021 / Published in Michigan Law, Personal Injury
Woman with an injured leg after falling in the snow.

No matter what type of accident you’re injured in, there will be certain laws and legal concepts that apply to your case. For example, in many cases, there will very likely be a statute of limitations which restricts the amount of time you have to sue after an accident. But in certain types of cases, there might also be a concept known as “open and obvious.”

Michigan Open & Obvious Law

Many states, including Michigan, have an open and obvious doctrine which comes into play during some types of personal injury cases, like slip and fall claims. Basically, what it states is that property owners shouldn’t be held liable for (or at least not fully liable for) injuries caused by hazards that an average person should have reasonably seen and understood to be dangerous. For instance, if someone trips on a piece of sidewalk that was very badly cracked or which had buckled badly from nearby tree roots, the person responsible for maintaining that sidewalk might try to use open and obvious as a defense and argue that the sidewalk was clearly damaged and the person should have known to walk on the neighboring grass to get around it.

However, open and obvious doesn’t necessarily mean property owners are completely free of all responsibility for dealing with dangerous hazards on their property. Property owners still have a duty to make sure their property is reasonably safe. There may also be times when this defense wouldn’t apply, such as if the hazard was unavoidable or if the condition/hazard was unreasonably dangerous.

Does Open & Obvious Apply to Slip & Falls Caused by Ice or Snow?

Every winter, many Michigan residents slip and fall on snow or ice. And while many of those people are able to get right back up and move on with their days, suffering nothing more serious than some bruising, minor scrapes, and mild soreness, not everyone is so lucky. But does the open and obvious rule apply to slip and fall accidents involving ice or snow?

If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall on ice or snow, it’s very important to talk to a slip and fall lawyer about the specifics of your situation. Every case is unique and a lawyer will be able to help you understand how the law applies to your situation. In a situation involving a fall on ice and snow, the party responsible for maintaining the property might try to argue that people should know to expect ice/snow. But as many people know all too well, it’s not always easy to see patches of ice on the ground. For example, if someone slips on ice in a parking lot and the parking lot was poorly lit, making it extremely difficult to see ice, it could be harder to use the open and obvious doctrine as a defense.

Get Help from a Michigan Slip & Fall Lawyer

If you’ve been injured in a slip and fall accident, you need a lawyer on your side who has experience in dealing with things like the open and obvious defense. The lawyers at Goodwin & Scieszka have a long history of helping the victims of a wide range of accident types and are ready to help you. Contact us today for help with your case.

Image: iStock / 

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