Personal injury is an understandably sensitive area of law. A person who suffers a serious injury not only faces medical bills, but often a long road to recovery, time away from work, emotional trauma, pain and suffering, and difficulty handling everyday tasks. Getting compensation from the party at fault for the injury is a high priority. Personal injury laws, however, can be complex, and the laws vary by state. Here’s what you can expect from the process in Arkansas.
Where Should You File Your Claim?
While there may be some exceptions, generally speaking, a personal injury lawsuit should be filed in the jurisdiction in which the injury-causing incident occurred. So it is subject to the local laws of that district.
Is There a Statute of Limitations?
Yes, in Arkansas, you have two years to file a personal injury lawsuit—three years in a case of medical malpractice. This may seem like a long time, but if you are recovering from a serious injury or illness, and facing other hardships, such as lost wages, waiting too long can prove a costly mistake.
What Happens Once You File?
The wheels of the legal process are set in motion almost right away, though it can be a long road to resolution. After a complaint is filed with the court, the defendant is served, usually within 30 days, and then is given a chance to file a formal response.
What Types of Damages Can You Include?
States vary on what types of losses plaintiffs can recover for in personal injury cases. In Arkansas, a judgment or settlement may include compensation for:
- Medical expenses, including in-home nursing or other care
- Lost wages and potential future earnings ability
- Pain and suffering
The state of Arkansas also has laws allowing a court or jury to award punitive damages, depending on the circumstances of the case. The plaintiff must prove that there was willfulness, wantonness, or conscious indifference by the defendant.
What Does "Comparative Fault" Mean?
Arkansas is a comparative fault state. This means that a claimant can still file a personal injury lawsuit even if he or she was partially to blame for the incident that caused the injuries, as long as the claimant's share of the blame is less than half.
What Is the Discovery Process?
Before formal proceedings begin, lawyers for each side conduct a discovery process. They may exchange written questions called interrogatories and may request to see key evidence, such as medical records. The plaintiff may even be asked to submit to a medical exam by a doctor of the defense’s choosing.
How Does Mediation Work?
Personal injury cases are sometimes resolved through mediation. A mediator is an unbiased third party who will work through the points of a case with both parties to determine a fair resolution.
What Can You Expect if a Case Goes to Trial?
If a personal injury lawsuit does go to trial, each side will have a chance to present its case before a judge or jury. This is the traditional court trial with witnesses taking the stand, cross examinations, and official presentation of evidence before the court, which then decides on the matter.
What About Post-Trial Motions and Appeals?
Sometimes there may still be grounds for legal action even after a judgment has been handed down by the court in a personal injury case. Post-trial motions may include:
- Motion for Judgment
- Motion to Amend Judgment
- Motion for New Trial
Or, there may be reasons to appeal the court’s ruling or the jury's verdict.
How Can an Arkansas Personal Injury Lawyer Help?
Personal injury cases are subject to complex state and federal laws. The process can be intimidating to someone who is unfamiliar with the procedures in a given jurisdiction. Lawyers who handle these matters are uniquely familiar with the nuances of the laws in your state and can leverage that knowledge on their clients’ behalf.