Each state handles slip and fall claims a bit differently. This article looks at some key Missouri laws governing slip and fall claims. We'll start with the time limits for filing a Missouri slip and fall lawsuit in court, then move to the rules for determining what happens if you are found to be partly at fault for your slip and fall. Finally, we'll touch on Missouri's special rules for resolving slip and fall claims that involve the government.
Under Missouri law, you have five years to file a court case if you are injured in a slip and fall accident. This five-year time limit typically starts on the date of the accident. If you don't bring your case to court within five years, you'll almost certainly be prohibited from bringing it to court at all.
This five-year time limit (called a statute of limitations) applies to lawsuits filed in court, and you should also keep the deadline in mind when it comes to the insurance process and getting your claim started after an injury. The earlier you file an insurance claim, the sooner you'll get your settlement check. That's one reason to get your insurance claim in early. But more importantly, filing early ensures that you'll have plenty of time under Missouri's five-year time limit to file a lawsuit -- or make a realistic threat to do so -- if insurance settlement negotiations start to go sideways or backwards.
Missouri has its own rules for determining how to resolve a case if the injured person is found to be partly at fault for the accident. Missouri's rule in these cases is known as a "pure comparative fault" rule. Here's an illustration of the pure comparative fault rule in action:
Suppose that you're at the mall one day when you notice your favorite store is having a huge sale. You hurry over, looking at the signs in the window, and you don't see a puddle of soda someone has spilled on the floor in your path. You slip on the puddle and fall, suffering injury, and decide to file an insurance claim or court case. After investigating your claim or studying all the evidence in your lawsuit, the insurance adjuster or jury decides that your total damages -- medical bills, lost wages, and other losses caused by the accident -- total $10,000. However, the jury or adjuster also decides that even though the shopping mall was negligent in failing to clean up the spill when evidence showed that it had been there for hours, you were 20 percent at fault for the accident, since you weren't watching where you were going.
How does this affect your settlement or award? Missouri's "pure comparative fault" rule states that you can receive a reduced amount of money that equals the total damages minus an amount that equals your percentage of the fault. Here, that means you can receive $8,000 -- or the $10,000 total minus $2,000 that represents the 20 percent of the fault assigned to you.
Missouri's "pure" comparative fault rule applies no matter how much of the fault is assigned to you. For instance, if you were found to be 80 percent at fault, you could technically still recover 20 percent of the total damages award from another at-fault party.
Missouri also has a special set of rules for dealing with slip and fall claims that involve the government, such as when a person is injured by slipping on a wet floor in a government building or tripping on a pothole in a government parking lot.
If you're injured in a slip and fall accident on city government property in Missouri, you have file a formal claim against the city (contact the city clerk for more information). You don't need to file an injury claim against the state government, but you can do so by filling out an Accident on State Property (Non-Vehicle) form and submitting it to the Office of Administration's Risk Management division. More information is available on the Missouri Office of Administration Risk Management Division website.