Whenever you're injured in a slip and fall on someone else's property (whether residential or commercial) in Arkansas, it's usually a good idea to explore your options for getting compensation for your losses -- and that's especially true when the property owner's (or someone else's) negligence may have played a part in what happened.
A number of Arkansas laws will almost certainly affect any lawsuit you decide to file over your slip and fall. Two of the most important of these are the statute of limitations deadline for filing a slip and fall lawsuit in Arkansas's court system, and the state's "comparative negligence" rule, which can limit your right to recover compensation if you bear some amount of responsibility for the accident. Even if you're pretty sure your case will reach a personal injury settlement out of court, you still need to keep these state laws in mind, so read on for the details.
A statute of limitations is a law that puts a time limit on your right to have a lawsuit heard in a state's civil court system. Specific time limits vary depending on the kind of case you want to file.
Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-56-105 sets the statute of limitations that applies to almost all lawsuits arising from a slip and fall incident. This statute gives a prospective plaintiff three years to ask the state courts for a civil remedy for any personal injury caused by someone else's intentional or careless action.
The three-year deadline set by section 16-56-105 also applies if you only incurred property damage as a result of your slip and fall in Arkansas -- maybe you were uninjured but you broke an expensive watch when you fell -- and you want to ask a court to order the defendant to pay for the repair or replacement of the property.
In either kind of case -- whether the lawsuit is for injury or property damage, or both -- the "clock" starts running on the date of the slip and fall, and the success or failure of your case will most likely turn on whether you can prove that the defendant failed to take reasonable steps to keep the property safe and to prevent your accident. Learn more about premises liability and proving fault for a slip and fall.
What if you don't get your slip and fall lawsuit filed before the statutory deadline passes? The property owner will ask the court to dismiss the case once you do try to file it, and the court will almost certainly grant the dismissal. In some rare instances, the statute of limitations clock may pause or "toll," giving you more time to get your lawsuit started. Talk to a personal injury attorney for the details on these exceptions in Arkansas, and whether they might apply to your situation.
Even when you're convinced that the property owner is to blame for your slip and fall injuries, be prepared to hear that you bear some amount of responsibility for the underlying incident. That's a common defense tactic in any state, and Arkansas is no exception.
When the plaintiff in a personal injury case (like a slip and fall lawsuit) is found to share some amount of blame for the underlying accident in Arkansas, the law that provides the background for this "shared fault" argument is Arkansas Code Annotated section 16-64-122, which says: "If the fault chargeable to a party claiming damages is of a lesser degree than the fault chargeable to the party or parties from whom the claiming party seeks to recover damages, then the claiming party is entitled to recover the amount of his or her damages after they have been diminished in proportion to the degree of his or her own fault."
Let's translate that into plain English: Even if a jury deems you partly to blame for your slip and fall -- maybe they decide you weren’t watching where you were going, for example -- you can still get compensation from the property owner. But any damages award you receive from the court will be reduced by an amount equal to the percentage of fault that’s determined to be yours. For example, if you’re deemed 25 percent at fault and your damages are $10,000, you’ll only receive $7,500.
But section 16-64-122 goes on to say: "If the fault chargeable to a party claiming damages is equal to or greater in degree than any fault chargeable to the party or parties from whom the claiming party seeks to recover damages, then the claiming party is not entitled to recover such damages."
That means, if you’re found to be 50 percent or more responsible for causing the incident that led to your slip and fall, you can't recover any compensation at all from the property owner or anyone else.
Now that you understand how comparative negligence works in Arkansas slip and fall cases, what arguments can you expect to hear from the property owner? Here are a few common examples:
And even if your case doesn't make it to trial -- even if a lawsuit isn’t filed, for that matter -- the Arkansas shared fault rules will likely still play a part. During settlement negotiations, the other side is concerned with what might happen if your slip and fall case does wind up in court. So you can expect any settlement offer to reflect the other side’s view of the part you played in causing or contributing to your injuries.