Whenever you've suffered an injury as a result of a slip and fall on someone else's property in Maine (whether it's residential or commercial property), it usually makes sense to look into your options for getting compensation for your losses -- especially if you think the negligence of the property owner played a part in your accident.
Several Maine laws will affect any lawsuit you decide to bring over your slip and fall, including the statute of limitations deadline for starting a lawsuit in Maine'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.
First, a little background: A statute of limitations is a state law that sets a strict time limit on the right to have a lawsuit heard in civil court. Specific time limits vary from state to state, and depending on the kind of case being filed.
In Maine, you can find the statute of limitations that will apply to almost all lawsuits arising from a slip and fall lawsuit at Maine Revised Statutes Title 14 Section 752. This law gives you six years to turn to the state's court system for a civil remedy for most kinds of harm caused by someone else.
So, if you think the property owner is responsible for your injuries after a slip and fall, you must get any lawsuit filed against that person (or business) within six years. That same six-year deadline applies if your personal property was damaged -- let’s say you broke an expensive watch when you fell, for example -- and you want to file a lawsuit asking for the repair or replacement of that property.
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.
The next logical question is, "What happens if I don’t get my lawsuit started before the six-year deadline passes?" In that situation, you can count on the defendant (the property owner) asking the court to dismiss the case, and the court is almost sure to grant the dismissal. That's why it’s so crucial to understand the statute of limitations and abide by the time limit as it applies to your specific situation.
Six years is a long time, but in some rare situations the clock may pause or "toll," giving you even more leeway to get your case started. Talk to a personal injury attorney for the details on these exceptions in Maine.
If you're 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 blame for what happened. And be prepared to counter this argument, because if it's successful, you could see a significant chunk of your settlement or court award taken away.
When the plaintiff in a personal injury case (like a slip and fall lawsuit) is found to share some amount of blame for the underlying accident in Maine, the law that provides the basis for this "shared fault" argument is Maine Revised Statutes Title 14 Section 156, which says: "When any person suffers death or damage as a result partly of that person's own fault and partly of the fault of any other person or persons, a claim in respect of that death or damage may not be defeated by reason of the fault of the person suffering the damage, but the damages recoverable in respect thereof must be reduced to such extent as the jury thinks just and equitable having regard to the claimant's share in the responsibility for the damage."
Let's translate that into plain English: Even if a jury deems you partly to blame for your slip and fall, you can still get compensation from the property owner. But any damages award you receive from the court will be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of fault that’s determined to be yours. For example, if you’re deemed 25 percent at fault and your damages are $10,000, you’ll only receive $7,500.
But if your share of liability is deemed to be equal to or greater than that of the property owner, under Title 14 section 156, you can't recover any compensation at all. That's why it's so important to establish that the property owner is solely to blame for your injuries.
So, what kind of arguments can you expect to hear from the property owner? Some common allegations include:
It's easy to see why it’s crucial to make a strong case against the property owner in your Maine slip and fall case. Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.