When you're injured in a slip and fall in Illinois, it makes sense to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses, especially if it's pretty obvious that the property owner's negligence played a part in the accident.
Whether you decide to file a claim with the property owner's insurer, or take the matter to court via a personal injury lawsuit, a number of Illinois laws and legal rules will almost certainly affect your case. Two of the most important of these are the statute of limitations deadline for filing a slip and fall lawsuit, and "shared fault" rules that can affect your right to recover compensation if you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. 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 the state's civil court system. The key thing to know here is that if you try to file your slip and fall lawsuit after the deadline set by the statute of limitations has passed, the person you're trying to sue will bring that fact to the court's attention, and the court will almost certainly grant a motion to dismiss your case. That's why it's so crucial to understand how this Illinois law applies to your situation. (Note: In some rare situations the statute of limitations 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 Illinois.)
So, what does the law say? In Illinois, as in most states, the statute of limitations that will affect most slip and fall injury cases is the same as the larger one that applies to personal injury claims in general. Specifically, 735 Illinois Compiled Statutes section 5/13-202 says, "Actions for damages for an injury to the person...shall be commenced within two years next after the cause of action accrued" (emphasis added.)
In plain English, that means if you think a property owner is responsible for your injuries and other losses stemming from a slip and fall incident, you must get any lawsuit filed against that person (or business) within two years, and the "clock" starts running on the date the slip and fall occurred. (Learn more about proving fault for a slip and fall.)
You want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a slip and fall lawsuit, even if you're confident your injury claim will settle. At the very least, having the option of going to court will give you more leverage during settlement talks.
If you're thinking about making a claim for injury after a slip and fall, be prepared for the defendant (that's the property owner or other person you are trying to hold liable) to claim that you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. That's true in every state. Illinois is no exception. If the property owner is successful in pinning some of the legal fault for the accident on you, any settlement or court award you receive could be significantly lower than it might have been, or you may end up with no compensation at all.
If your Illinois slip and fall case makes it to court, the state's "modified comparative negligence rule" will be used to determine how much compensation (if any) you can still receive from the property owner if you were at all negligent in connection with the accident.
Under "modified comparative negligence," any damages award a personal injury plaintiff receives will be reduced according to the percentage of their fault. So, let's say the jury finds that you are 20 percent responsible for your slip and fall. They also find that your damages (including your medical bills, lost income, and "pain and suffering") total $40,000. That will leave the property owner on the hook for $32,000 (that's the original $40,000 minus the 20 percent that represents your share of fault).
It's important to note that if you're deemed more than 50 percent at fault for the accident, under Illinois law you can't recover anything at all from the property owner or anyone else.
That's how shared fault works in Illinois personal injury cases if your slip and fall case makes it all the way to trial. And even if your case doesn't make it to trial -- even if a lawsuit isn't actually filed, for that matter -- Illinois's comparative negligence rule will still be a factor. During settlement negotiations, the property owner's insurance company (and/or their attorney) are concerned with what might happen if your case does wind up in court. So you can expect any settlement offer to reflect the other side's view of the part you played in causing or contributing to the slip and fall. That's why it's so important to make a strong liability case against the property owner.
So, what kind of arguments can you expect to hear from the property owner? Some common allegations include:
Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.