Whenever you've suffered an injury as a result of a slip and fall on someone else's property in North Dakota (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 North Dakota 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 North Dakota'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.
By way of 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 North Dakota, you can find the statute of limitations that will apply to almost all lawsuits arising from a slip and fall at North Dakota Century Code section 28-01-16. Under this law, you have six years to turn to the state’s civil court system for a remedy after any kind of personal injury or property damage caused by someone else.
Section 28-01-16 covers almost all injury lawsuits stemming from a slip and fall incident caused by unreasonably dangerous property conditions. Even if you were uninjured, but had your personal property damaged as a result of the slip and fall -- maybe you broke an expensive watch in the fall, for example -- the six-year deadline set by section 28-01-16 still applies.
In either kind of case -- whether the lawsuit is for injury or property damage, or both -- the six-year "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, and 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 North Dakota.
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.
Now, onto the law. North Dakota Century Code section 32-03.2-02 provides the basis for this "shared fault" argument when the plaintiff in a personal injury case is found to bear some amount of blame for the underlying accident. This law says: "Contributory fault does not bar recovery in an action by any person to recover damages for death or injury to person or property unless the fault was as great as the combined fault of all other persons who contribute to the injury, but any damages allowed must be diminished in proportion to the amount of contributing fault attributable to the person recovering."
Let's translate: Even if a jury determines that you were partly to blame for your slip and fall, you can still get compensation as long as your share of fault for the incident was less than the property owner's. But any damages you receive from the court will be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of fault that’s determined to be yours. If your share of liability is deemed to be equal to or greater than that of the property owner, under North Dakota 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 40 percent at fault for causing your slip and fall, and your damages (medical bills and other losses) total $20,000, the court will order that you receive only $12,000 from the property owner (that’s $20,000 minus 40 percent).
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 North Dakota slip and fall case. Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.