After any kind of traffic accident in Arkansas, if you've been injured and/or incurred significant vehicle damage, you may want to explore your options for holding the at-fault driver financially responsible for your losses. In this article, we'll discuss a few Arkansas laws that could have a big impact on your case.
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 matter of days, or a few weeks at most.)
Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-56-105 sets the statute of limitations that applies to most personal injury cases and car accident lawsuits. This statute gives a prospective plaintiff 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, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, 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 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 a 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.
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.
In Arkansas, drivers involved in an accident have a legal obligation to report the crash if:
The driver must report the accident to the Arkansas Office of Driver Services within 30 days of the incident.