How long do I have to file a slip and fall lawsuit in West Virginia?
It’s important to understand the West Virginia statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits if you’re thinking about bringing a slip and fall case in the state’s civil courts. (Just a reminder that a statute of limitations is a state law that puts a time limit on your right to get a lawsuit filed. Every state has these laws on the books, but the time limits vary based on the kind of case you want to file.)
West Virginia Code section 55-2-12 contains a two-year statute of limitations that will apply to almost all lawsuits arising from an injury caused by someone else. So, that means anyone who was injured in a slip and fall caused by dangerous property conditions on someone else’s property must get their lawsuit filed against any potential defendant within two years.
The two-year deadline set by section 55-2-12 also applies if you only incurred property damage as a result of your slip and fall in West Virginia -- maybe you were uninjured but you broke an expensive watch when you fell -- and you want to ask a court to order the property owner to pay for the repair or replacement of the property.
For these injury and property damage claims, the two-year “clock” starts running on the date of the accident.
In rare situations where someone dies as a result of a slip and fall, and their family or a representative of the estate wants to file a wrongful death lawsuit against the property owner, West Virginia Code section 55-7-6 sets its own two-year filing deadline, and the “clock” starts on the date of the person’s death (which could be different from the date of the slip and fall accident itself.
No matter the specific facts of your slip and fall accident, the success or failure of your case will most likely depend on your ability to prove that the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to keep the property safe, and to prevent your accident. Learn more about Proving Fault for a Slip and Fall Accident.
If you try to file your lawsuit after the deadline set by West Virginia’s statute of limitations has already passed, the property owner (or whoever you’re trying to sue) will almost surely ask the court to dismiss the case. If the court grants the dismissal, that’s the end of your lawsuit. (In some rare situations the statute of limitations clock may pause or "toll," giving you more time to get your lawsuit started. Talk to an attorney for the details on these exceptions in West Virginia).
Not every slip and fall injury will lead to the filing of a lawsuit. Most don’t, in fact. But, even if you think your injury claim will be resolved through a settlement, make sure you leave yourself plenty of time to get a lawsuit filed, and talk to an experienced West Virginia lawyer if you’re running up against the filing deadline.
by: David Goguen, J.D.