Whenever you've suffered an injury as a result of a slip and fall on someone else's property in Rhode Island (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 Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island'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.
First, a little 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 Rhode Island, the statute of limitations that applies to your slip and fall case is most likely Rhode Island General Laws section 9-1-14. This law gives you three years to ask Rhode Island’s civil court system for a remedy for any kind of personal injury caused by someone else. So, if you’re filing a lawsuit against a property owner or other defendant who is responsible for the unsafe condition of property where you were injured, you need to get the initial complaint filed in court within three years of the incident.
In rare cases where the slip and fall only resulted in property damage -- maybe you were uninjured in the incident but you broke a very expensive watch, for example -- any lawsuit seeking the repair or replacement of the damaged property is subject to the catch-all statute of limitations found at Rhode Island General Laws section 9-1-13, which gives you a very generous 10 years to get your case filed.
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 filing 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 more leeway to get your case started. Talk to a personal injury attorney for the details on these exceptions in Rhode Island.
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.
If your Rhode Island slip and fall case makes it to court, the state's "comparative negligence" rule will determine how much compensation you can still receive if you were at all negligent in connection with the accident.
Rhode Island General Laws section 9-20-4 codifies this concept in any kind of personal injury case, including slip and fall cases. This law says, "In all actions hereafter brought for personal injuries, or where personal injuries have resulted in death, or for injury to property, the fact that the person injured, or the owner of the property or person having control over the property, may not have been in the exercise of due care shall not bar a recovery, but damages shall be diminished by the finder of fact in proportion to the amount of negligence attributable to the person injured, or the owner of the property or the person having control over the property."
Translation: In any Rhode Island personal injury case where the plaintiff is found to be at fault, that person can still get compensation for their injuries, but the amount of compensation they can receive will be reduced in accord with their share of the fault.
So, let's say the jury finds that you are 30 percent responsible for your slip and fall. They also find that your damages (including your medical bills and lost income) total $10,000. That will leave the property owner on the hook for $7,000.
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 Rhode Island slip and fall case. Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.