Whenever you're injured in a slip and fall on someone else's property (whether residential or commercial) in Mississippi, 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 Mississippi 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 lawsuit in Mississippi'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.
Mississippi Code section 15-1-49 contains a "catch-all" three-year statute of limitations that will apply to almost all lawsuits arising from an accident or other incident where one person's carelessness caused another person's injuries or other losses. So, that means anyone who was injured in a slip and fall caused by dangerous property conditions must get their lawsuit filed against any potential defendant within three years.
The three-year deadline set by section 15-1-49 also applies if you only incurred property damage as a result of your slip and fall in Mississippi -- maybe you were uninjured but you broke an expensive watch when you fell -- and you want to ask a court to order the defendant to pay for the repair or replacement of the property.
In either situation, 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? 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 Mississippi, and whether they might apply to your situation.
Even when you're convinced that the property owner is to blame for your slip and fall injuries, be prepared to hear that you bear some amount of responsibility for the underlying incident. That's a common defense tactic in any state, and Mississippi is no exception.
Why does this matter? If any amount of fault for the accident is pinned on you, any court award you receive will be lower than it would have been if you were found fault-free. Even if your case doesn't make it to trial (even if a lawsuit isn't actually filed), Mississippi's shared fault rules will still be a factor. After all, during settlement negotiations, the other side is concerned with what might happen if your case does wind up in court. So you can expect any settlement offer to reflect their view of the part you played in causing the slip and fall.
Mississippi's "comparative negligence" rule applies to situations like this, and will determine how much compensation you can still receive if you were at all negligent in connection with the accident. This rule can be found at Mississippi Code section 11-7-15, which says: "In all actions hereafter brought for personal injuries, or where such injuries have resulted in death, or for injury to property, the fact that the person injured, or the owner of the property, or person having control over the property may have been guilty of contributory negligence shall not bar a recovery, but damages shall be diminished by the jury in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person injured, or the owner of the property, or the person having control over the property."
That's a lot of legalese. In plain English, and in the context of a slip and fall case, it means that even if you are found to be at fault for causing the accident, you can still get compensation for your injuries, but the amount of that compensation will be reduced by a percentage that equals your share of the 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 and lost income) total $20,000. That will leave the property owner on the hook for $16,000 (or $20,000 minus 20 percent).
Now, what kind of arguments can you expect to hear from the other side? Here are a few possibilities:
It's easy to see why it's so important to make a strong case against the property owner in your Mississippi slip and fall case. Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.