Understanding Comparative Fault Laws in Arkansas: When More Than One Party is At Fault
Have you ever been in an accident where more than one party was at fault? Maybe you were involved in a car crash where the other driver ran a red light, but you were also speeding. Or perhaps you slipped and fell on a wet floor in a store, but you were also looking at your phone instead of paying attention to your surroundings.
When this happens, it can be challenging to determine who should be held responsible for the resulting injuries and damages. This is where the concept of comparative fault comes into play. In personal injury law, comparative fault refers to the idea that more than one party can share fault for an accident or injury.
What Are Arkansas’ Comparative Fault Laws?
Comparative fault, modified comparative fault, and pure comparative fault are three legal doctrines used in the U.S. to assign fault in personal injury cases. In Arkansas, the law recognizes the concept of modified comparative fault.
Other types of comparative fault include the “50% bar rule,” which limits the plaintiff’s recovery if they are found to be 50% or more at fault. “Contributory negligence” bars the plaintiff from recovering any damages if they are found to have contributed to the accident or injury in any way.
Some common scenarios might be:
- Car accident: Both drivers share fault if one ran a red light and the other was speeding
- Medical malpractice: Both patient and surgeon share fault if the patient did not disclose pre-existing condition and the surgeon did not do enough due diligence
- Product liability: The manufacturer may argue consumer’s misuse of the product contributed to injuries and should not be fully responsible for damages
What Happens When More Than One Party is At Fault?
Arkansas abides by the modified comparative fault rule where the plaintiff can only recover damages if their fault is determined to be below 50%. If the plaintiff’s fault is found to be greater than the threshold, they cannot recover any damages.
Say that you were involved in a slip and fall accident on a store’s premises, and you sustained $10,000 in damages. During the trial, it was determined that you, as the plaintiff, were 40% at fault for the accident because you were texting and not paying attention to where you were walking. It’s also determined that the store was 60% at fault because they had not properly maintained the floor and there was a hazard.
Under the modified rule, you would only be able to recover damages if the percentage of fault was less than 50%. In this case, your 40% fault would not be above the threshold, so you would still be able to recover damages. But your damages award would be reduced by your percentage of fault, which is 40% — so you would be able to recover $6,000 ($10,000 - 40% = $6,000) from the store.
Strategies for Dealing with Comparative Fault
There are certain strategies you can employ to protect your interests and increase your chances of a favorable outcome. Here are some tips for both plaintiffs and defendants dealing with comparative fault:
- Gather evidence: The more evidence you have to support your claim and demonstrate the other party’s fault, the stronger your case will be. Take photos of the incident, get witness statements, and gather any relevant medical records or police reports.
- Be prepared to deal with insurance: You’ll likely have to negotiate with insurance companies and provide evidence to support your claim. This may include medical bills, lost wages, and other documentation related to their injuries and damages.
- Argue for reduced liability: You may be able to argue that the other party’s negligence contributed significantly to their injuries, and therefore you should not be held fully liable.
- Seek contribution from other parties: If there are multiple parties involved in the accident or injury, you might be able to seek contribution from them to help reduce your liability. This could include other defendants, third-party contractors, or even the plaintiff themselves.
But above all, an experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate the complexities of comparative fault and ensure that you receive fair compensation for your injuries and damages. They can also help you build a strong case and negotiate with insurance companies and other parties involved.
Hickey & Hull Law Partners Can Help You
With decades of combined experience and thousands of personal injury and civil cases under our belt, the team at Hickey & Hull Law Firm has helped countless clients recover fair compensation in these types of cases — and we can help you, too.
Best of all? We offer 100% free consultations. Fill out our online form or contact us today to learn more. Our River Valley office number is 479.434.2414, and our Northwest Arkansas number is 479.802.6560.