Any time you're injured in a slip and fall on someone else's property (whether residential or commercial) in Nebraska, 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 Nebraska 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 Nebraska'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.
Nebraska Revised Statute 25-207 sets out the statute of limitations that will apply to almost any lawsuit arising from a slip and fall accident. This law gives a prospective plaintiff four years to ask the state courts for a civil remedy for most personal injuries, or when damage is done to personal property.
So, in the context of a slip and fall, if you want to file a civil lawsuit against the property owner or some other party who was responsible for the condition of the property on which you were injured, that lawsuit will be subject to the four-year filing deadline set by section 25-207. That same deadline applies whether you are injured, or only had your personal property damaged as a result of the slip and fall (maybe you broke an expensive watch or phone but were unhurt).
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 Nebraska, and whether they might apply to your situation.
If you're thinking about making a claim against a property owner for injuries suffered in a slip and fall, be prepared to hear the other side argue that you bear some amount of responsibility for what happened. That's true in any state, and Nebraska is no exception. And any court award you receive could be significantly lower than it might have been if the property owner successfully pins some of the blame on you. In some situations your court award could be eliminated altogether if you're found to share enough of the liability.
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 -- Nebraska'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. (By "other side" we mean the property owner, their homeowners' insurance company, and/or their attorney.)
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 Nebraska, the law that provides the basis for this "shared fault" argument is Nebraska Revised Statute 25-21, 185.09, which says: "Any contributory negligence chargeable to the claimant shall diminish proportionately the amount awarded as damages for an injury attributable to the claimant's contributory negligence but shall not bar recovery, except that if the contributory negligence of the claimant is equal to or greater than the total negligence of all persons against whom recovery is sought, the claimant shall be totally barred from recovery."
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. And, it's important to point out that if your share of liability is deemed to be equal to or greater than that of the property owner, under Nebraska law, you can't recover any compensation at all at trial. That's why it's so important to establish that the property owner is solely to blame for your injuries.
So, for example, if you are found to be 25 percent at fault for causing your slip and fall, and your damages (medical bills and other losses) total $10,000, you'll only receive $7,500 from the property owner (that's $10,000 minus 25 percent). Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.