In Texas, as in every state, when you're injured in a slip and fall, and someone else's negligence may have played a part in what happened, it usually makes sense to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses.
Whether you decide to file a third-party insurance claim with the property owner's insurer, or take the matter to court right away via a personal injury lawsuit, a number of Texas laws and legal doctrines 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. The statute of limitations that will apply to a slip and fall injury claim in Texas is the same as the larger one that applies to all personal injury cases filed in the state's civil court system. Specifically, Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 16.003 sets a two year deadline for the filing of any civil action seeking a legal remedy for personal injury.
So, in the context of a slip and fall accident, 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 were wearing an expensive watch, and you landed on it, for example -- and you want to file a lawsuit asking that it be repaired or replaced.
Whether it's an injury lawsuit or one based on property damage, a 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 Texas, and for more details on the statute of limitations and how it applies to your case. Remember, if you try to file your lawsuit after the deadline set by the statute of limitations has passed, the property owner will almost surely ask the court to dismiss the case, and the court will almost certainly grant the dismissal.
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 settlement).
For example, the property owner could argue that:
If your slip and fall case goes to trial in Texas, the state's "modified comparative negligence rule" will determine how much you can still receive from the property owner.
Under this rule, any damages award you receive will be reduced according to the percentage of your fault, as long as your share is 50 percent or less. So, let's say the jury finds that you are 20 percent to blame for your slip and fall. They also find that your damages total $50,000. In that situation, the property owner will only be on the hook for $40,000 (that's the original $50,000 minus 20 percent).
If you're found to bear more than 50 percent of the blame for your slip and fall in Texas, you can't recover any compensation at all from the property owner or any other party.
(You can read the full text of the Texas comparative fault rule at Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Chapter 33, Subchapter A.)
And even if your case doesn't make it to trial -- even if a lawsuit isn't actually filed, for that matter -- Texas's comparative negligence rule will still play a role. During settlement negotiations, the property owner's insurance company (and/or their attorney) will have these shared fault rules in mind, since they're concerned with what might happen if your case does wind up in court. You can expect any settlement offer from the other side to reflect the other side's view of your role in causing your own slip and fall accident, viewed through the lens of Texas's shared fault rules. So it becomes that much more important to make a strong case against the property owner. Learn more about comparative negligence in slip and fall cases.