Arkansas Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

Arkansas has the third-highest traffic accident death rate in the nation, at over 19 deaths per year per 1,000,000 people. Accident injury rates, quite naturally, are even higher. An injured victim or the personal representative of a deceased victim’s estate may file a lawsuit to recover compensation from the at-fault party. Following is a rough legal framework of Arkansas motor vehicle accident and safety laws.

Statute of Limitations: In Arkansas, you have three years from the date of a vehicle accident to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for personal injury or property damage.

Shared Liability: If the victim shares fault for the accident with the defendant, an amount will be deducted from the victim’s recovery to reflect the victim’s percentage of fault. If the victim as 30 percent at fault, for example, 30 percent will be deducted from the victim’ damages. If the victim is at least 50 percent at fault, the victim will be denied any recovery at all.

Fault/No Fault Insurance Rule: Arkansas is a “fault” state, meaning that you can blame the other driver and either sue him or file a claim with his insurance company – your claim doesn’t have to be handled by your insurance company on a “no fault” basis.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: Arkansas requires its drivers to purchase liability insurance with 25/50/25 coverage — $25,000 per victim, $50,000 per accident and $25,000 in property damage.

Types of Damages Available: In addition to the standard compensatory damages (including pain and suffering damages where applicable), Arkansas allows a victim to sue for punitive damages if he can present “clear and convincing” evidence of malice, fraud, or “willful or wanton” conduct. Where applicable, punitive damages might far exceed the amount of compensatory damages.

Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers: Arkansas does not require its drivers to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

DUI/DWI Laws: A BAC of 0.08 percent can win a prosecutor a DUI conviction in Arkansas. If the defendant was under 21, even 0.02% will support a conviction. A BAC of 0.15% or more will lead to increased penalties. The normal penalties for first-offense DUI in Arkansas are one day to one year in jail, $150 to $1,000 in fines, and a six-month driver’s license suspension.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: To win an Arkansas product liability lawsuit over a defective vehicle (or vehicle component), the victim must prove that the product was defective and unreasonably dangerous by the time it left the defendant’s hands, regardless of whether or not the defendant was at fault. Other bases of product liability might also apply.

Suing the Government over Defective Roadways (Sovereign Immunity): To file a civil claim against the state of Arkansas or a local subdivision (such as the city of Little Rock), you must deal with the Arkansas State Claims Commission. Any award over $10,000 must be approved by the Arkansas General Assembly (the state legislature).

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: In Arkansas, all motorcycle riders under 21 are required to wear a helmet. There are no restrictions on riders 22 years old and older.

Seat Belt Laws: All occupants 15 years or older must wear seat belts while sitting in the front seat. The maximum fine for a first offense is $25 plus court costs and local administrative fees.

Dram Shop Laws: In Arkansas, an alcohol retailer can be held liable for any damages resulting from the act of providing alcohol to a minor or to an obviously intoxicated person (if an intoxicated person causes an injury accident later that night, for example). In the latter case, it is an affirmative defense that the defendant reasonably believed that the intoxicated person would not be operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): In Arkansas, school bus drivers and drivers under 18 years old may not use cell phones while driving. For drivers under 18, this is a secondary offense – a driver cannot be cited unless the officer first cites the driver for another offense. All Arkansas drivers are banned from texting while driving.