Personal Injury -- Plaintiff Law
Arkansas Personal Injury Laws
Physical injuries can get expensive. From paying your medical bills to lost wages for time taken off of work, your physical, mental, and emotional injuries can range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars or in some cases, much more.
If someone else caused your injuries, you may not have to pay these costs yourself. Personal injury lawsuits can help determine who is at fault for your injuries and can require the person responsible, or in many cases their insurance company, to pay the bills for the injuries they caused. The money paid to you for injuries caused by someone else are called monetary damages.
The rules for determining responsibility and damages vary from state to state. Whether you were injured in Bentonville, Little Rock, or Jonesboro, it’s important to understand the basics of personal injury law here in Arkansas if you’re involved in a personal injury lawsuit.
Determining Liability in Arkansas
One of the biggest questions a personal injury suit will try to answer is which party is liable, or responsible, for the injuries. Generally, there are three main categories that apply to personal injury cases: intentional harm, negligence, and strict liability. Each of these areas have specific elements that you’ll need to prove were met to collect damages in Arkansas.
What is an Intentional Harm?
Cases of intentional personal injury harm most often occur with battery. To show that harm was intentionally caused for a battery case you’ll need to prove that the other person willingly committed an act that led to physical contact with your body, and that they did so intentionally.
Intent, in cases like these, means that the other party either did something for the purpose of making contact with you, or they at least knew their actions would likely cause physical contact with you. If we use throwing a rock as an example, throwing it at someone because you want to hit them with it is intent, but so is throwing it in someone’s direction not necessarily wanting to hit them, but knowing it’s likely you will.
So if someone purposefully punches, kicks, or hits you, or they throw something at you, or they violently take something out of your hand, and you get injured as a result, you may have a case for personal injury as a result of battery.
The courts will need to prove that this conduct was the other person’s fault, however. In Arkansas, people are allowed to use physical force to defend themselves on their own property. If the person who injured you can prove they did so because you were a threat or trespassing on their land, the court may decide they aren’t responsible for your injuries.
The other party may also try to defend against battery charges by arguing they didn’t meet the qualifications for intent.
Claims Based on Negligent Harm
So what happens if someone injuries you, but they didn’t intend to? These cases could then fall under the category of negligence. In negligence cases, you’ll need to prove the person who injured you did so while acting in an unreasonably careless way.
One of the most common negligence cases in personal injury lawsuits involves car accidents. If a person runs a red light at an intersection in Jonesboro and hits you while you’re legally turning on green, that could be the basis of a negligence claim; they didn’t intend to hit you, but going through a red light is more careless than a reasonable person would be in those circumstances.
In Arkansas, negligence cases use a modified comparative fault standard when awarding damages. That means if you’re found to be partly responsible for the actions that caused your injuries, you can still recover some damages from them. The amount of the damages will depend on how “at fault” you are, however. Using our car accident example, if someone in Bentonville runs a red light and hits you, but you were speeding well-above the speed limit as you went through the green light, you may both be deemed liable for the accident. If the court decides your speed was 45 percent responsible for the crash, you can only recover for 55 percent of the damages you sought.
But, this doesn’t apply if you’re found to be more at fault. If the courts rule that your speed was a bigger factor in the accident than the red light, you can’t collect anything from the other driver, and they may instead be able to recover from you.
What About Strict Liability?
In cases of strict liability, intent or negligence don’t have to be present for someone to be the cause of your injuries. Participating in dangerous activities like shooting off fireworks in a crowded Little Rock neighborhood could make a person liable for damages if those fireworks injure someone, even if they were using the fireworks carefully. Product liability cases, where a design defect or manufacturing error cause a product to hurt someone, can also fall under strict liability in Arkansas, though they’ll sometimes fall under negligence instead.
The burden of proof in a strict liability case can be pretty low; usually you’ll only have to prove that you were hurt, and that someone else’s actions or property caused you to get hurt.
Rules for Personal Injury Lawsuits in Arkansas
Each state has different rules for when you can file a personal injury lawsuit and how much money you’re allowed to collect.
You have a limited amount of time to file your lawsuit, commonly referred to as a statute of limitations. If you wait too long, you won’t be able to sue the person who injured you. In Arkansas, you have three years to bring a personal injury case, starting from the time your injuries occur or from when you first noticed your injuries.
In addition, some states will only allow you to collect up to a certain amount of money in a personal injury state, and anything above that amount is capped. In Arkansas, however, there is no cap, so a court can award any amount of money they think is applicable.