Visitor Question

Hazardous Staircase Causes Injury…

Submitted By: Mike (Grand Rapids, MI)

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this. I live in an apartment in Grand Rapids, Michigan. On June 22 (daytime, plenty of lighting) I was leaving my apartment on the third floor and while I was walking down the first stair case a stair gave way and caused me to fall hard on my elbow.

When the stair dropped on the right it pinned my right foot and I fell to my left. The resulting injury was a very painful elbow contusion and a trip to the local medical center. I am still in a sling now a week later and I can’t quite extend my arm all the way out yet.

On Friday I have follow up x-rays as recommended by the med center. When I had gathered myself together after my fall I shot a video of the stair I stepped on that ruined my day. The video clearly demonstrates (high definition video camera) in detail how the concrete stair appears to be anchored securely to the floor, but when you put weight on the right side it will drop to the right and come up on the left about 8 inches or more.

I also shot a second video after the med center visit that documents the stair is now fixed with a wood screw instead of a larger tamper-proof screw like all the other stairs have. I expect to have $1,200 in medical bills, more if my arm turns out to be broken on Friday (I have no health insurance).

Here are my questions.

Is this a small claims court issue?

Is this called a “premises liability” issue?

What should I multiply my medical bills by to calculate what I want for pain and suffering?

What would be a good settlement figure for me to accept from the insurance company?

Do you have any other advice that I would benefit from?

Thank you again for taking the time to read my boring letter!

Disclaimer: Our response is not formal legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship. It is generic legal information based on the very limited information provided. Do not rely upon the information in our response, or anywhere else on this site, when deciding the proper course of a legal matter. Always get a personalized case review from a local attorney.


Dear Mike,

Let’s try to answer your questions one at a time.

First: This very well could be a Small Claims Court issue. Each state has a maximum amount, or a “jurisdictional amount” which it is authorized by law to hear cases. In Michigan that maximum amount is $3,000 dollars.

If the total of your claim is any amount equal to or less than $3,000 dollars, Small Claims Court will be the best avenue toward financial compensation for your injuries.

Second: You are correct when talking about Premises Liability. The owner of the property has a legal duty to make sure the residents and their guests enjoy a safe environment.

Third: There is no specific multiplier to determine Pain and Suffering. Each case stands on its own. There is also never a guarantee of compensation for Pain and Suffering. Pain and Suffering is an amount which includes a combination of medical bills, lost wages and out of pocket expenses. In many cases Pain and Suffering is arrived at by multiplying only the medical bills by a multiplier of anywhere from 2 to 10 times or more.

Fourth: Insurance companies are notoriously frugal with their money. They are a business, and like any other large business their duty is to their shareholders.

The less money they have to pay out, the larger the corporate profits. Ergo, as we lawyers say, it will not be an easy task to get them to pay you very much money for your claim.

Although many people believe insurance companies “owe” victims more than just paying their medical bills, that is just not the case. You should not be surprised if the insurance company offers to pay your medical bills and no more. If you are not satisfied with their offer you will have to file suit, either in Small Claims Court, or if the amount you are seeking exceeds $3,000, then in a higher court.

We suggest you add up your medical bills, any lost wages and out of pocket expenses. With that amount in hand we urge you to wait until it is determined whether your arm actually is broken.

Inasmuch as your present medical bills are $1,200, multiplying them by 3 = $3,600, an amount well over the Small Claims Court jurisdictional amount.

If you decide to pursue your claim you will have to keep in mind the Small Claims limit. It is much easier for a victim to find relief in Small Clams Court than it is in a higher court – that would require an experienced attorney.

Learn more here: Dangerous Stairways

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from a licensed attorney. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here , or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,


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