Arkansas Personal Injury Laws and Statutes of Limitations

Find out about the Arkansas personal injury laws you'll need to follow in your case, including lawsuit filing deadlines, where and how your lawsuit will be filed, what happens if you're partly to blame, and more.

By , Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

If you've been injured through someone else's fault—maybe in a slip and fall, or a car accident, or because of medical malpractice—you might think about filing a personal injury (PI) insurance claim or even a lawsuit. Before you do, take a few minutes to learn about the Arkansas laws that probably apply to your case.

We start with Arkansas' lawsuit filing deadlines. From there, we'll walk you through where and how your lawyer will file your case in court, what happens to your claim if you were partly to blame for your injuries, whether Arkansas law limits the compensation you can receive, and more.

Arkansas' Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits

Arkansas has deadlines, called "statutes of limitations," that limit your time to file a personal injury lawsuit in court. There's not a "one-size-fits-all" limitation period for all Arkansas PI cases. Most fall under the state's three-year general rule. But as we'll see, there are different rules for some kinds of lawsuits.

Arkansas' General Rule: Three Years From the Date of Injury

In most Arkansas PI cases, you've got three years to file a lawsuit in court. (Ark. Code § 16-56-105 (2024).) The three-year clock usually starts to run on the date you're injured. In some situations, though, it might begin later.

Special Rules for Particular Cases

In addition to the three-year general rule, Arkansas has special deadlines for some cases.

Intentional misconduct. Suppose you were hurt by someone's intentional misconduct—what the law calls an "intentional tort". The filing deadline is one year from the date you were injured. (Ark. Code § 16-56-104 (2024).) This one-year limitation period applies to injuries resulting from:

Medical malpractice. Most medical malpractice cases must be filed in court within two years from the date of the malpractice. (Ark. Code § 16-114-203 (2024).) The deadline might be longer when:

  • the injured patient was a young child, or
  • the malpractice involved a foreign object left in the patient's body that couldn't reasonably be discovered during the two-year limitation period.

(Learn more about Arkansas medical malpractice laws.)

Injuries causing death. When injuries result in death, the victim's estate might file a wrongful death lawsuit. The usual filing deadline is three years from the date of death. (Ark. Code § 16-62-102 (2024).) A wrongful death suit can be filed at any time if the killer is convicted of capital, first-degree, or second-degree murder.

(Learn more about Arkansas wrongful death lawsuits.)

Dangerous or defective products. A lawsuit over a dangerous product (a "product liability" case) must be filed within three years from the date the product caused an injury or death. (Ark. Code § 16-116-203 (2024).)

Extending the Statute of Limitations Deadlines

There are a few circumstances where Arkansas law extends the lawsuit filing deadline. Here are some (but not all) of them.

Injured person is a minor or is "insane." When a person who's younger than 21 years old is injured, they have three years after reaching age 21 to file a PI lawsuit. Someone who's injured while disabled by insanity must sue within three years after they're found to no longer be "insane." (Ark. Code § 16-56-116(a) (2024).)

Defendant prevents you from suing. When you're unable to start a lawsuit because the defendant (the party you're suing) leaves Arkansas or goes into hiding, the statute of limitations stops running for the period of time that you can't start the suit. (Ark. Code § 16-56-120 (2024).)

Discovery rule. For most PI claims, the statute of limitations clock begins running on the date you were injured. But what happens if you didn't know right away that you were hurt? In that situation, the "discovery rule" might give you more time to file your lawsuit.

Under the discovery rule, if you didn't know you were injured and there's no way you reasonably could have discovered it, the statute of limitations clock doesn't start to run until you knew (or reasonably should have known) that you were hurt.

Where and How to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Arkansas

When filing a civil (noncriminal) lawsuit in Arkansas, you must follow the state's Rules of Civil Procedure. Chances are you don't know much about these rules, and the time to learn isn't while you're trying to handle your own case. You should hire an Arkansas personal injury lawyer to prepare, file, and handle the lawsuit for you. The defendant will be represented by experienced counsel. Without legal help in your corner, you'll be at a significant disadvantage.

Where to File

The entry-level trial court in Arkansas—where most PI cases are filed—is called the circuit court. Your lawyer will file in the proper venue (location). That's usually the circuit court where the defendant lives, or the one that's closest to where your injuries happened. Sometimes the rules allow (or require) you to file in another circuit court.

How to File

Your lawyer will start your PI lawsuit by filing a document called a "complaint" with the circuit court clerk. The complaint describes, in separate, numbered paragraphs:

  • the parties involved
  • when, where, and how you were injured
  • your injuries
  • why the defendant is legally responsible for your injuries, and
  • the relief (usually damages) that you want the court to award you.

When you file your complaint, the clerk of the court will issue a summons. Your lawyer must arrange to have the summons and a copy of the complaint "served" on (formally delivered to) each defendant. You've got 120 days after filing your complaint to complete service. The court can dismiss a defendant who isn't properly served.

What Happens if You're Also Partly to Blame?

Most personal injuries result from someone's negligence—meaning the failure to act with reasonable care under the circumstances. In many cases, the defendant will point the finger back at you, claiming that you're also to blame. This legal defense, called "comparative negligence," is available in Arkansas. Here's how it works.

Arkansas Is a "Modified Comparative Negligence" State

Arkansas has adopted a "modified comparative negligence" rule. Under this rule, if you're less than 50% at fault, your percentage of the fault reduces the damages you're allowed to collect. But if you're 50% or more to blame, you can't collect any damages. (Ark. Code § 16-64-122 (2024).)

Modified Comparative Negligence Example

Here's a quick example. You were in a car accident with Doe. You sue Doe for damages, claiming Doe's negligent driving caused the accident. Doe, in response, argues that you were comparatively negligent and asks the court to reduce or eliminate your damages.

After a trial, the jury finds your total damages are $100,000 and decides that you were 30% to blame for the wreck. How much will you collect? Because you were 30% to blame for the accident, you can collect 70% of your total damages: $100,000 x 70% = $70,000. Doe's auto insurance company will write you a check for that amount.

How much would you get had the jury found you were 51% (or more) at fault? Under Arkansas' modified comparative negligence rule, you'd recover nothing.

Does Arkansas Limit Personal Injury Damages?

Many states have limited, or "capped," the personal injury damages a successful plaintiff (the party who files a lawsuit) can recover in PI cases. In states where caps exist, damages for injuries like pain and suffering and emotional distress are frequent targets. Other states have capped damages in particular kinds of cases, like those involving medical malpractice.

The Arkansas Constitution bars caps on most kinds of damages. (Ark. Const. art. 5, § 32 (2024).) The lone exception to this rule is punitive damages. Punitive damages don't compensate an injured person for their injuries. Instead, they're designed to punish wrongdoers and deter others from behaving the same way in the future.

Arkansas caps punitive damages at the greater of:

  • $250,000, or
  • three times compensatory damages, but not to exceed $1,000,000.

(Ark. Code § 16-55-208 (2024).)

Next Steps

If you've got an Arkansas personal injury case, chances are you're up against an experienced insurance adjuster or insurance company lawyers. If your case is simple—undisputed facts, minor injuries, and relatively small damages—you might be able to handle it on your own. But if it involves complex facts, difficult legal questions, severe injuries, or significant damages, you should have expert legal help on your side.

An Arkansas personal injury lawyer knows the court rules, understands where and how to file your case in court, and can put you in the best position to maximize your recovery. If you're ready to move forward with your case, here's how to find a PI lawyer who's right for you.

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