Arkansas Car Accident Laws

Statutory time limits for filing a lawsuit after a car accident in Arkansas, the state's rules when more than one driver is at fault, and more.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

If you've been injured and/or incurred significant vehicle damage in any kind of traffic accident in Arkansas, there are a few state laws that could have a big impact on any claim you might make, including:

  • the three-year deadline for the filing of most car accident lawsuits in Arkansas's civil court system, and
  • Arkansas's "modified comparative fault" rule, which allows for financial recovery only when the claimant was less responsible than the other party (or parties) for causing the car accident.

That's the overview of the law in Arkansas. Now, let's look at the specifics.

The Arkansas Car Accident Statute of Limitations

A "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a time limit on a potential plaintiff's right to bring a lawsuit. These deadlines vary depending on the kind of harm you suffered and/or the kind of case you want to file.

(Note: the statute of limitations does not apply to a car insurance claim. Any insurance company, whether your own or the other driver's, is going to require you to make a claim—or at least give the insurer notice of an incident that could trigger a claim—"promptly" or "within a reasonable time" after the accident. That usually means a few days, at most. Learn more about contacting your car insurance company after an accident.)

Arkansas Code section 16-56-105 sets the statute of limitations that applies to most personal injury cases and car accident lawsuits. This statute gives you three 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 vehicle accident case, that means if anyone was hurt in the crash—whether a driver, passenger, motorcyclist, bicyclist, electric scooter rider, or pedestrian—or had their vehicle or other personal property damaged, they must get their lawsuit filed against any potential defendant within three years, and the "clock" starts running on the date of the accident.

Having read all this, you may be wondering what happens if the statute of limitations deadline has passed, but you try to file your car accident lawsuit anyway. In that situation, the defendant (that's the person you're trying to sue) will point out the passage of the deadline in a motion to dismiss, and the court will almost certainly grant the dismissal. That's why it's crucial to understand the statute of limitations and how it applies to your situation.

Finally, from a strategic standpoint, it's always a good idea to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit, even if you think your case will be resolved through a car insurance settlement. Keeping all your options on the table will give you more leverage during settlement talks. So if the statute of limitations filing deadline is close, it may be time to talk with an experienced Arkansas car accident attorney.

Comparative Negligence in Arkansas Car Accident Cases

"Comparative fault" refers to the situation where more than one party is at least partially at fault for an accident. States follow different approaches in this scenario.

In an Arkansas personal injury lawsuit, you can recover against any party who was more at-fault than you were, but your damages (your financial recovery) will be reduced by a percentage that corresponds to your share of liability. In legalese, this means Arkansas is a "modified comparative negligence" state.

Of course, this rule controls judge or jury awards in civil lawsuits (if you get to that stage). But before you get to that point, a car insurance claims adjuster will negotiate a settlement with an eye on Arkansas's comparative fault rules. Keep in mind that because there is not a precise method to apportion fault empirically, the ultimate decision as to fault will depend on your ability to negotiate with an insurance claim adjuster, or to convince a judge or jury.

To see how this rule plays out in real life, we'll take a look at an example. Let's say you're driving a few miles-per-hour over the speed limit when another driver suddenly makes a left turn in front of you. Without enough time to stop, you collide with the other car. The other driver is found to be 80 percent at fault, but since you were speeding, the jury (or adjuster) figures that you were 20 percent at fault for the accident. If you would otherwise be entitled to a $10,000 award or settlement, it would be reduced to $8,000 based on your 20-percent share of fault.

One last note: You will not be able to recover anything at all under Arkansas's modified comparative negligence rule if your share of fault for the accident meets or exceeds 50 percent.

Arkansas Auto Insurance Requirements

Car insurance is certain to play a part in any claim that's made after a car accident. Arkansas, like most states, requires vehicle owners to maintain certain minimum amounts of liability coverage. So, understanding the Arkansas auto insurance rules is essential to any potential car accident case.

Reporting a Car Accident in Arkansas

In Arkansas, drivers involved in an accident have a legal obligation to report the crash if:

  • a vehicle that was involved in the accident, or some other kind of property, incurred damage in an amount in excess of $1,000, or
  • a driver, passenger, or pedestrian suffered bodily injury or death.

The driver must report the accident to the Arkansas Office of Driver Services within 30 days of the incident. (Arkansas Code section 27-19-501 (2021.)

If you're looking for legal advice that's tailored to your situation, talk to a car accident attorney in your area.

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