If you're injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else's residential or commercial property in Alabama, it may make sense to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses -- especially when the property owner's negligence played a part in the accident.
A number of Alabama laws and legal rules will almost certainly affect any lawsuit you decide to file over your slip and fall. Two of the most important of these are the statute of limitations deadline for filing a slip and fall lawsuit in the state's courts, and the "contributory negligence" rule, which can eliminate your right to recover compensation if you bear some amount of legal responsibility for the accident. Even if you're pretty sure your case will reach a personal injury settlement out of court, you still need to keep these state laws in mind, so read on for the details.
A statute of limitations is a law that puts a time limit on your right to have a lawsuit heard in a state's civil court system. Specific time limits vary depending on the kind of case you want to file.
You can find the Alabama statute of limitations that applies to slip and fall lawsuits at Code of Alabama section 6-2-38, which sets a two-year deadline for "all actions for any injury to the person or rights of another." That would obviously include a personal injury claim arising out of a slip and fall or similar incident that occurs on someone else's property. (Note: A two-year lawsuit filing deadline also applies if the slip and fall accident results in someone's death, and the family or personal representative of the deceased person wants to file a wrongful death lawsuit over the accident.)
For purposes of the statute of limitations, the two-year "clock" starts running on the day the injury occurs -- that means the date of the slip and fall itself. If you don't get your case started before the deadline passes, you can count on the court dismissing it once you do try to file. So it's obviously crucial to understand how Alabama's statute of limitations applies to your case. (Note: In some rare situations the clock may pause or "toll," giving you more time to get your case started. Talk to an attorney for the details on these exceptions in Alabama.)
Remember that your slip and fall case will hinge on whether or not the property owner took reasonable steps to keep the property safe and/or to prevent your accident from occurring. In other words, the key questions are: Was the property owner negligent? And, did that negligence cause your slip and fall accident? Learn more about proving fault for a slip and fall accident.
It's true that not every slip and fall injury will lead to the filing of a lawsuit (many don't, in fact), but it's always a good idea to keep all your options on the table. So 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 started, and talk to a Alabama attorney if you're running up against the filing deadline.
You're making a slip and fall claim, only to hear the property owner argue that you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. What's this all about?
Attempting to pin part of the blame on the injured person is a common tactic in any kind of personal injury claim in every state. But in Alabama, it's particularly critical that you (and your attorney) shoot down any such argument with strong evidence, because if you aren't able to prove that the property owner (or some other defendant) bears one-hundred percent of the legal liability for your slip and fall -- and that you bear none -- you might not be able to receive any compensation at all.
In situations where the person who is bringing a personal injury lawsuit (the plaintiff) also shares some amount of responsibility for causing the underlying accident, most states follow some variation of a rule known as "comparative negligence." Under this rule, any damages award the plaintiff receives will be reduced according to the percentage of their fault.
Alabama is one of a handful of states that does not follow the "comparative negligence" rule. Instead, the much less plaintiff-friendly "contributory negligence" rule is still employed in Alabama personal injury cases. This rule says that if the plaintiff is found negligent in connection with the underlying accident -- even one percent, or a fraction of a percent -- then the plaintiff can't recover any compensation (damages) at all from any other at-fault party. Not surprisingly, that can lead to some pretty harsh results.
In attempting to pin some or all of the blame on you, the property owner (or whoever you're trying to hold liable for your slip and fall) could claim that:
If your case doesn't make it to trial -- even if a slip and fall lawsuit isn't actually filed, for that matter -- Alabama's contributory negligence rule will still be a factor. During settlement negotiations, the property owner's insurance company (and/or their attorney) knows that if your case winds up in court, you stand a significant chance of walking away with nothing if they can saddle you with even a shred of blame. So it becomes that much more important to make a strong case against the property owner.