While it might seem unfair, victims of a personal injury do not have a timeless right to file a lawsuit. Arkansas, like every other state, has a deadline to file an injury lawsuit known as the statute of limitations.
It is vital that you know what the statute of limitations is in your case. There could be serious consequences if your case is not filed before this deadline. However, the statute of limitations will depend on the type of injuries you suffered.
For a free case evaluation with our Fayetteville personal injury lawyers, contact us at (479) 316-0438 today.
Understanding What the Statute of Limitations is and How it Works in Arkansas
Many people might have never heard the term “statute of limitations” before or be completely unfamiliar with its meaning, but still understand that there is not an unlimited amount of time to file a personal injury lawsuit in Arkansas. While the statute of limitations might sound intimidating, it is a relatively straightforward concept. Statute of limitations is fancy legal terminology for the rule that simply sets the time limit to file a lawsuit in Arkansas. However, the rule can be confusing because the time limit will be different depending on the type of injuries you suffered.
In most cases, the statute of limitations in Arkansas is three years. Still, you might have much less time, depending on your claim. To make things more confusing, some injury cases have several years to get filed with the court. Fortunately, our Fayetteville car accident injury attorneys can review your case and determine the last day you have to file your lawsuit. The statute of limitations rule really only becomes important as that date approaches or passes, as there will be significant consequences if your case is not filed before the deadline. Every state has its own laws regarding the statute of limitations, so it is important to become familiar with Arkansas’s specific rules.
Essentially, Arkansas’s statute of limitations is a clock. That clock begins to run the moment your injuries occur or when you reasonably discover them. This is known as “tolling.” Arkansas requires this time limit for several reasons. One of the most important reasons is to ensure the quality of the evidence in a case. Evidence can degrade, be forgotten, or get lost if too much time passes, making it unreliable in a personal injury lawsuit. Witnesses also become harder to locate and coordinate with long after the accident occurred and often forget important details by the time they do testify. Having a time limit works to ensure that the best cases are presented by each side.
A Guide to the Different Statutes of Limitations for Injury Lawsuits in Arkansas
As mentioned, the statute of limitations to file your injury lawsuit will depend on the type of harm you suffered. The statute of limitations for personal injury lawsuits is the one that most victims are concerned with since this arguably constitutes the reason for filing the majority of civil lawsuits in Arkansas. However, other types of injuries are common but have a different time limit for filing, such as the wrongful death of a loved one or injuries for medical malpractice.
Fortunately, there is no time limit for when your case must be completed after it is filed. The statute of limitations only applies to the time before your lawsuit is filed. The following is a guide to the various statutes of limitations for injury lawsuits in Arkansas:
The Statute of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits
Most of the civil lawsuits filed in Arkansas are to recover damages for personal injuries. According to Ark. Code. § 16-56-105, personal injury victims have three years from the date of their injuries to file a lawsuit in Arkansas. This rule applies to cases involving not only physical injuries but also injuries to another person’s property.
Arguably the most common type of personal injury lawsuit is for car accidents. If you were injured in a car accident, you will have three years from the date of your accident to file your lawsuit. Other common cases where this statute of limitations applies include premises liability, slip and fall accidents, construction accidents, and nursing home abuse.
The Statute of Limitations for a Wrongful Death Claim
Wrongful death is a type of personal injury that surviving family members can recover damages in a lawsuit. Like the cases listed above, individuals that have lost a loved one to another person’s negligence or crime have three years to file a wrongful death lawsuit in Arkansas.
The Statute of Limitations for Product Liability Lawsuits
The statute of limitations for product liability lawsuits in Arkansas is also three years. Product liability lawsuits seek to compensate victims for injuries caused by household products, tools, vehicles, or any other product that was negligently designed or manufactured. These injury cases are often the most complex and time-consuming, so three years is not as much time as it might seem when litigating a product liability lawsuit.
The Statute of Limitations for Medical and Legal Malpractice Lawsuits
Victims of medical malpractice will have slightly less time to file an injury lawsuit than in other personal injury cases. In Arkansas, medical malpractice victims have just two years to file their lawsuits under Ark. Code. § 16-114-203. This is an extremely short amount of time for what tend to be highly complex cases. However, the time might not start tolling right away if you were not reasonably aware of your injuries yet. Thus, you might have slightly more time to file your lawsuit depending on the circumstances of your injuries.
If you were the victim of legal malpractice, however, you will have the standard three years to file a lawsuit for damages according to Ark. Code. § 16-56-105.
The Statutes of Limitations for Other Types of Injury Lawsuits
There is a statute of limitation for virtually every type of injury a person can suffer, whether physical or financial. While Arkansas sets most of these limits at three years, you might actually have more time to file in some cases. For instance, Ark. Code. § 16-56-111 provides those with damages from a written contract dispute five years to file their lawsuit. If you are trying to collect a debt, you will also have five years to file under the law if the debt was written down in some form. If you were the victim of fraud, however, the three-year limit will apply under Ark. Code. § 16-56-105.
What Happens If My Lawsuit Is Not Filed Before the Statute of Limitations Passes?
To ensure the preservation of evidence and for the sake of judicial economy, the statute of limitations rule is extremely strict in Arkansas. If you do not file your lawsuit before the statute of limitation for your type of injury runs, you will most likely not be able to recover compensation through the court. If your case is filed after the deadline passes, the defendant’s attorney will file a motion to dismiss your lawsuit, which the judge will grant unless an exception applies to your situation. If no exceptions apply, the motion will be granted, and you will no longer be able to pursue your claims.
Thus, it is critical to begin your injury lawsuit as soon as possible. Evidence will need to be gathered from various sources and organized so that it can be filed in support of your lawsuit. With that evidence, a complaint can be drafted, and the proper court to file your lawsuit in can be identified. After paying the required filing fees and submitting all the contents supporting your lawsuit, your case will be considered commenced when it is served upon the defendant.
Are There Exceptions to Arkansas’s Statute of Limitations?
To avoid having your case dismissed and vital compensation missed out on, you should always strive to file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations passes. However, you could have more time to file your case safely if a valid exception applies. These exceptions are rare, so personal injury victims should not assume that it will apply to their cases. The following are the accepted exceptions to the statute of limitations rule in Arkansas:
Exceptions for Minor Victims
The most common exception to the statute of limitations is for victims that were children at the time of their injuries. In Arkansas, personal injury victims will have three years after turning 21 to file a lawsuit if they were under 21 when their accident occurred.
Exceptions in Medical Malpractice Cases
Another common exception to the general rule is for victims of medical malpractice. Medical malpractice cases are complex and require a great deal of evidence. Fortunately, you will have additional time to file if you serve a notice of intent to sue upon the healthcare provider within 30 days of the statute of limitations expiring.
If the medical malpractice victim is under the age of 9, the statute of limitations will not begin to run until the child turns 11 or two years from the date of the malpractice, whichever is later.
Exceptions in Product Liability Cases
Most victims in a product liability case will have three years to file their lawsuits. However, if the defective product lawsuit is for a breach of warranty claim, you will have four years to file your lawsuit.
The Discovery Rule in Arkansas
Arkansas is one of several states that follows what is known as the “discovery rule.” Some injury victims do not know they have been injured by another person’s negligence. For example, if a person had a serious medical condition that their doctor should have diagnosed but failed to, the victim will be unaware that there was even a mistake until it is found later. For this reason, the statute of limitations will be extended in cases where the injuries are undiscovered.
Under this rule, you will have the amount of time allotted under the law starting from the date your injuries were discovered. However, if you could have reasonably discovered your injuries earlier, the date you should have known could apply.
Suing an Arkansas Municipal Government Agency
Suing a local or state government agency in Arkansas can be tricky. Government agencies have “sovereign immunity” from most lawsuits, meaning that they cannot be sued in most cases. However, municipal agencies can be sued for injuries that they carry liability insurance for, like car accidents and premises liability. Thus, the statute of limitations when suing a government agency will be the same as in most personal injury cases. However, you must file a notice of claim explaining your case to the agency you intend to sue before filing your lawsuit.
What Damages Can I Recover If My Lawsuit Is Filed Before the Arkansas Statute of Limitations Runs?
If you file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations runs in your case, you could recover a wide range of compensation for your losses. However, if your lawsuit is not filed in time, you could be denied from obtaining the following types of damages you are entitled to.
Past, Current, and Future Medical Expenses
You are entitled to recover compensation for medical expenses incurred as a result of your injuries. This includes the cost of emergency room services, hospitalization, surgery, physical therapy, and other necessary treatments. The good thing is that you can claim not only your current medical losses in your lawsuit but also past expenses and costs for future medical treatment.
If you are unable to work because of your injuries, you can claim lost wages in your injury lawsuit. Lost wages are calculated based on what the employee would have earned had they not been injured and must be documented by pay stubs or tax returns over a period of time sufficient to establish that the employee did not return to work.
Lost Future Earning Capacity
An injury victim who is permanently disabled due to an accident may also be entitled to lost future earnings capacity. These damages compensate you for the income you would have made had you been able to pursue the work you wanted but for your injuries.
Non-economic damages include compensation for pain and suffering, emotional distress, depression, disfigurement, and other nonpecuniary losses incurred by an individual. The purpose of non-economic damages is to compensate the injured person for losses that cannot be measured in money. However, they can be difficult to prove since they are based on your subjective experience.
Our Arkansas Personal Injury Lawyers Can Help
Call us today at (479) 316-0438 to receive your free case consultation with our Fayetteville wronful death lawyers.