Any time you're injured in a slip and fall on someone else's property (whether residential or commercial) in Kansas, it's usually a good idea to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses -- and that's especially true when the property owner's (or someone else's) negligence may have played a part in what happened.
A number of Kansas laws 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 case in Kansas's court system, and the state's "comparative negligence" rule, which can limit your right to recover compensation if you bear some amount of 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.
The statute of limitations that applies to a slip and fall lawsuit in Kansas is the same one that applies to most personal injury cases. Specifically, Kansas Statutes section 60-513 gives you two years to file a civil lawsuit for "an action for injury to the rights of another" and for "an action for taking, detaining or injuring personal property."
That two-year deadline covers a broad range of potential lawsuits, including a claim for injury after a slip and fall on someone else's property, as well as a property damage lawsuit stemming from a slip and fall (maybe you were uninjured when you fell, but you broke an expensive watch and you want the defendant to replace it).
In either kind of case -- whether the lawsuit is for injury or property damage, or both -- the "clock" starts running on the date of the slip and fall, and the success or failure of your case will most likely turn on whether you can prove that the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to keep the property safe and to prevent your accident. Learn more about premises liability and proving fault for a slip and fall.
What if you don't get your slip and fall lawsuit filed before the statutory deadline passes? In that situation, the property owner will ask the court to dismiss the case once you do try to file it, and the court will almost certainly grant the dismissal. In some rare instances, the statute of limitations clock may pause or "toll," giving you more time to get your lawsuit started. Talk to a personal injury attorney for the details on these exceptions in Kansas, and whether they might apply to your situation.
It's true in every state, and Kansas is no exception: If you are thinking about making a claim against a property owner for injuries suffered in a slip and fall accident, be prepared to hear the other side argue that you bear some amount of responsibility for what happened. And if the property owner successfully pins some of the blame on you, any court award you receive could be significantly lower than it might have been, or you might lose your case altogether.
It's important to note that even if your slip and fall case doesn't make it to trial -- even if a lawsuit isn't filed, for that matter -- Kansas's shared fault rules will likely still play a part. During settlement negotiations, the other side is concerned with what might happen if your slip and fall case does wind up in court, so any settlement offer will reflect their view of the part you played in causing or contributing to your injuries. (When we say "other side" we mean the property owner, their homeowners' insurance company, and/or their attorney.)
Now, what does the law say in Kansas regarding an injured plaintiff's comparative fault? According to Kansas Statutes section 60-258a: "The contributory negligence of a party in a civil action does not bar that party or its legal representative from recovering damages for negligence resulting in death, personal injury, property damage or economic loss, if that party's negligence was less than the causal negligence of the party or parties against whom a claim is made, but the award of damages to that party must be reduced in proportion to the amount of negligence attributed to that party."
Translation: In any Kansas personal injury case where the person being sued raises the "comparative negligence" defense, if the plaintiff is found to be at fault, they can still get compensation for their injuries, as long as their share of liability does not exceed 50 percent. If it does exceed 50 percent, then the plaintiff can't recover anything at all from the defendant or anyone else.
So, let's say the jury finds that you are 25 percent to blame for your slip and fall. They also find that your losses (damages) total $8,000. That will leave the property owner on the hook for $6,000 (that's the original $8,000 minus the 25 percent that represents your share of fault).
Now that you understand how comparative negligence works in slip and fall cases, what arguments can you expect to hear from the property owner? Here are a few common examples: