When you're hurt in a slip and fall on someone else's property in New York, it usually makes sense to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses, especially if it's pretty clear that the property owner was negligent in connection with the accident.
Whether you decide to file a claim with the property owner's insurer, or take the matter to court via a personal injury lawsuit, a number of New York laws and legal rules will almost certainly affect your case. Two of the most important of these are the statute of limitations deadline for filing a slip and fall lawsuit, and "shared fault" rules that can affect your right to recover compensation if you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. 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 the state's civil court system. Miss the deadline, and your case is sure to be dismissed.
As in most states, the statute of limitations that will affect a slip and fall injury lawsuit in New York is the same as the larger one that applies to most personal injury cases filed in the state. Specifically, under New York Civil Practice Laws & Rules section 214, anyone who was injured in a slip and fall on someone else's property must get their lawsuit filed against the property owner within three years. The clock starts running on the date of the incident that caused the injury.
That same three year deadline applies if you only want to file a lawsuit over property damage caused by the slip and fall accident -- maybe you were unharmed after you fell, but you were wearing an expensive watch that broke, for example.
Whether it’s an injury lawsuit or one based on property damage, a New York slip and case will almost certainly hinge on whether the property owner’s negligence was the cause of the accident. Learn more about proving fault for a slip and fall.
From a strategy standpoint, you want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a slip and fall lawsuit, even if you’re confident your injury claim will settle. At the very least, having the option of going to court will give you more leverage during settlement talks.
In some rare situations the clock may pause or "toll," giving you more time to get your case started. Talk to an attorney for the details on these exceptions in New York, and for more information on how the statute of limitations applies to your case.
Before you file an insurance claim or lawsuit over your slip and fall, know that the property owner will probably argue that you share some amount of blame for your accident. If this argument is successful, you could see a significant chunk of any court award taken away (and a finding of shared fault will also likely reduce the value of your slip and fall claim even if you settle out of court).
For example, the property owner could argue that:
If your slip and fall case goes to trial in New York, the state's "pure comparative negligence rule" will determine how much you can recover from the property owner if the jury finds that you were somehow negligent in connection with the accident. Any damages award you receive will be reduced according to the percentage of your fault.
So, let’s say the jury finds that you are 40 percent responsible for your slip and fall, since witnesses said you stepped over orange cones that had been set out to cordon off the dangerous condition. The jury also finds that your damages (including your medical bills, lost income, and "pain and suffering") total $10,000. That will leave the property owner on the hook for $6,000 (the original $10,000 minus $4,000, which represents your 40-percent share of fault).
That’s how the personal injury concept of shared fault will be applied in New York if your slip and fall case makes it all the way to trial. And even if your case doesn’t make it to trial -- even if a lawsuit isn’t actually filed, for that matter -- New York’s comparative negligence rule will still be a factor. That's because the property owner's insurance company (and/or their attorney) will be concerned with what might happen if your case does wind up in court, even if you’re just in settlement discussions very early on. You can expect any settlement offer to reflect the other side’s view of the part you played in causing or contributing to your slip and fall. That's just one more reason why it's so important to make a strong case that details the property owner’s liability. Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.