April 19, 2018
People slip and fall all the time for a variety or reasons and in all kinds of places. Most of the time, no one is hurt. Or they might suffer a few bruises, cuts, or scrapes, but nothing truly serious.
Sometimes, though, the results can be disastrous for the person who falls, involving broken bones, serious damage to the head or spine, or other catastrophic injuries. When someone gets severely hurt on another’s property, such as a place of business, they may be able to file a lawsuit alleging negligence and win compensation.
That’s what happened for Brenda Alcala of Dallas. After suffering injury due to a slip and fall on the ice outside of a Bettendorf Hotel in Iowa in 2010, she sued and was eventually awarded $4.9 million. Closer to home, Shannon McCain sued a McDonald’s near College station for $1 million after she and her child slipped and fell due to water that was left on the floor with no “wet floor” sign. They recently reached a settlement before the trial began.
If you endure severe injuries in a fall on someone else’s property and believe that they should compensate you, it is vital that you understand how slip and fall cases work in Texas. Below, we’ll break down slip and fall laws and the stages of a suit.
Limitations Texas Places on Slip and Fall Injury Claims
Before you start the process of filing your lawsuit, there are a couple of things that you need to understand up front. The first has to do with the timeline, and the second with how fault and compensation are determined and awarded.
Your Filing Deadline. You’ve likely heard of statutes of limitations before, but you might not know exactly what the term means. Essentially, it refers to the amount of time someone has to bring legal action against another entity.
The State of Texas has set the statute of limitations for bringing a personal injury lawsuit at two years. That means that you have two years from the date that the fall occurred to file a lawsuit against the party you believe to be responsible for your slip and fall.
There are specific circumstances where this two-year ticking clock can be paused (or “toll”), but you should never expect that you will have additional time. If you believe that you have extenuating circumstances, your best bet is to consult with a knowledgeable Texas injury lawyer.
Degree of Fault and Percentage-Based Compensation. Our state decides injury negligence cases using something called “comparative fault.” Basically, this means that it is possible for both parties to share some of the blame for the incident, and that any compensation will be awarded accordingly.
Here’s how this works in practice. Let’s say that you are found to be 10 percent at fault for the accident and the other party is deemed 90 percent at fault. If you are awarded $100,000, the actual compensation you receive will only be 90 percent of this, or $90,000. Additionally, it is important to know that if a plaintiff is deemed to be over 50 percent responsible, they will not be eligible for any compensation.
Slip and Fall Lawsuit Stages: What to Expect
If you decide to go through with a lawsuit, here’s the basic outline of what you can expect:
Fact pleading. The formal start of your lawsuit is when you file your claim or petition. In Texas, this is called “fact pleading”, and it is very specific. In your claim to the court, you are required to cover the facts of the incident and show that those facts line up with the liability elements that are necessary for your particular kind of case.
For slip and fall cases in Texas, this means:
- The property owner owed you a duty of care.
- The property owner failed in that duty.
- This failure directly caused your injury.
- Your injury led to you suffering “verifiable damages.”
Leave out any of this information and your case will likely be dismissed.
Answering and motions. Once your petition is in, the defendant must formally respond to the allegations with an answer to the court. Typically, they will also make what are called “motions” at this time, which are essentially things that you have to answer.
Discovery. At this point, you are in discovery, where both sides request information from each other to prepare for the upcoming trial and further build their cases. You will likely have to hand over medical records, for example, and your attorney will probably ask for things like maintenance policies and records from the defendant.
During and immediately following discovery, there are likely to be more motions filed on both sides. Throughout this period, your lawyer should be negotiating with the other side and there is the potential that you may reach a settlement before the next stage.
Trial. This is the part where both lawyers debate the merits of the case in front of a judge and jury to decide the outcome. Many injury lawsuits are settled before reaching trial, but not all of them.
If you are interested in learning more or want to set up a free initial consultation to speak with us about your slip and fall incident, do not hesitate to get in touch as soon as possible. We will do everything in our power to help you get fair and just compensation.
About the Author:
The strength of Brian S. Eppes as a lawyer is in his unique and varied background. Like many other private attorneys, at one point he worked as a prosecutor. However, he also served in George W. Bush’s White House, has helped Texas legislators to write laws, and spent time at a tax and estate planning firm. These experiences have enabled him to look at cases in a different way than his peers and find creative solutions that benefit his clients.