Any time you've been injured in a slip and fall accident on someone else's property in Oklahoma (whether residential or commercial), it usually makes sense to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses -- especially when the property owner's negligence played a part in what happened.
A number of Oklahoma laws and legal rules 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 Oklahoma's court system, and the "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.
As with the majority of states, the statute of limitations that applies to a slip and fall case in Oklahoma is almost always the same one that applies to any kind of personal injury case. Specifically, Oklahoma Statutes section 12-95 gives you two years to ask the state courts for a civil remedy for any personal injury or damage to personal property.
So, in the context of a slip and fall accident (and in plain English), if you think the property owner is responsible for dangerous property conditions-- and by extension, for your injuries -- you must get any lawsuit filed against that person (or business) within two years, and the "clock" starts running on the date the slip and fall occurred. The same two-year deadline applies if your personal property was damaged in the slip and fall -- let's say you had your iPhone in your pocket and you landed on it, for example -- and you want to file a lawsuit asking for the repair or replacement of that property.
Whether your slip and fall lawsuit is for injury or property damage, the success or failure of the 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.
If you don't get your slip and fall lawsuit filed before the deadline passes, you can count on the property owner asking the court to dismiss the case once you do try to file it. 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 Oklahoma, and whether they might apply to your situation, especially if you're running up against the filing deadline.
You're making a slip and fall claim, only to hear the property owner argue that you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. What's this all about?
Attempting to pin part of the blame on the injured person is a common tactic in any kind of personal injury claim in every state, not just Oklahoma. But if any measure of fault is assigned to you, any court award you receive could be significantly lower than it might have been, or you may end up with no compensation at all.
Oklahoma Statutes section 23-13 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 negligence will not act as a bar to recovery -- the injured person can still get compensation from other at-fault parties, in other words -- unless the claimant's own negligence "is of greater degree than any negligence of the person, firm or corporation causing such damage," or "is of greater degree than the combined negligence of any persons, firms or corporations causing such damage."
Oklahoma Statutes section 23-14 goes on to state how the injured person's case is affected if he or she is found partially at fault for the underlying incident: "Where such contributory negligence is shown on the part of the person injured, damaged or killed, the amount of the recovery shall be diminished in proportion to such person's contributory negligence."
So, in the context of a slip and fall case, let's say your lawsuit goes to trial and the jury agrees 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 theirs. But any damages award you receive will be reduced by an amount that is equal to the percentage of your fault.
But remember, if you're found to bear more fault than the property owner, in Oklahoma 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).
Even if your slip and fall case doesn't make it to trial, Oklahoma's comparative negligence rule will still be a factor. The other side is always 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 role you might have played in causing or contributing to your accident.
Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.