Whenever you've suffered an injury as a result of a slip and fall on someone else's property in New Hampshire (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 New Hampshire 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 New Hampshire'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 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.
Now, onto the law in New Hampshire, where New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated section 508:4 contains a "catch-all" three-year statute of limitations that applies to most "personal actions." This deadline will apply to any lawsuit over injuries caused by unreasonably dangerous property conditions. And if you were uninjured, but had your personal property damaged as a result of the slip and fall -- maybe an expensive watch you were wearing was broken in the fall, for example -- the three-year deadline set by section 508:4 also applies.
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 three-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.
In certain rare circumstances, 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 New Hampshire.
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. Also 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.
New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated section 507:7-d lays out the concept of shared fault in a personal injury case in the state. This statute says that in a civil case for injury or property damage, the claimant's own "contributory negligence" (shared fault) will not act as a bar to recovery -- the injured person can still get compensation from other at-fault parties, in other words -- as long as "such fault was not greater than the fault of the defendant, or the defendants in the aggregate if recovery is allowed against more than one defendant, but the damages awarded shall be diminished in proportion to the amount of fault attributed to the plaintiff by general verdict."
So, in plain English, and in the context of a slip and fall case, let's say your lawsuit goes to trial and the jury, after considering the evidence, finds that you were partly to blame for causing or contributing to your accident. You can still get compensation from the property owner, as long as your share of the fault was not larger than the defendant's. But any damages award you receive will be reduced by a percentage that is in line with the jury's fault finding.
But remember, if you're found to bear more fault than the property owner, in New Hampshire you can't recover any compensation at all.
So, let's assume that the jury finds you 20 percent to blame for your slip and fall, and they set your damages at $10,000. That leaves the property owner on the hook for $8,000 (the original $10,000 minus the 20 percent that represents your share of fault).
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 New Hampshire slip and fall case. Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.