The law defines negligence as behaving in a way that violates a duty to someone else. In practical terms, negligence refers to taking an action — or failing to take an action — contrary to what a reasonable person would do in the same circumstances.
When negligence causes harm to another person, the responsible party bears liability. Courts award damages to compensate victims and penalize the negligent person.
Negligence Laws in Arkansas
In Arkansas, courts use a rule known as modified comparative fault — also referred to as modified comparative negligence — when an injured person bears some responsibility for causing the injuries.
The rule can come into play in car crashes if one driver is primarily at fault but the other driver is found to bear partial responsibility. For instance, if another motorist runs a stop light and hits you, that driver would be deemed negligent by the court and held responsible for the accident. However, if you were found to be speeding at the time of the accident, you might be considered at fault as well.
Typically, blame is divided between the responsible parties based on the percentage responsibility each has. The driver who ran the light, for instance, might be found 80 percent at fault, and you might be found 20 percent at fault for speeding.
If total damages in the case are $100,000, the driver with 80 percent of the blame would be responsible for $80,000, and the $20,000 for which you bear responsibility would be deducted.
When damages awarded in a personal injury case are reduced by the degree to which the injured person bears responsibility for the accident, the court is using a legal concept known as comparative negligence.
Rules Change When Plaintiff Bears More Responsibility
The modified comparative fault rule that Arkansas uses only applies in cases in which the injured person is found to be less than 50 percent at fault for an accident. In cases in which the injured person is found to be more than 50 percent at fault, the state uses a rule similar to the traditional legal concept of contributory negligence.
In the example above, if you were found to be more than 50 percent at fault, the court would not allow you to collect damages from any other involved party or parties, even if they also were found to be at fault.
Arkansas law states that liability in cases of personal injury, wrongful death, or injury to property is determined by comparing the blame attributable to each involved party. If the blame assigned to the person claiming damages is less than that assigned to the other parties, the plaintiff is entitled to damages — reduced by the percentage for which the plaintiff is responsible.
If the blame assigned to the plaintiff is greater than that assigned to the other party or parties, the plaintiff is not entitled to damages.
The state’s system is considered “modified” because it differs from both pure contributory negligence and comparative negligence. The long-used contributory negligence rule often was employed to bar plaintiffs from recovering damages or to greatly reduce the amount of the damages.
To increase fairness to plaintiffs, many states have replaced contributory with comparative negligence rules. Under pure comparative negligence, damages are reduced by the percentage for which the plaintiff was at fault in the accident, regardless of which party bears the highest degree of fault.
The Arkansas system combines elements of both contributory and comparative negligence.
What Constitutes Negligence?
Arkansas’ modified comparative fault rule is used for determining damages in negligence cases, but what factors constitute negligence?
To collect damages in your case, your personal injury attorney will need to prove that the responsible party had a duty to behave in a certain way or refrain from behaving in a certain way. In addition, the responsible individual did not uphold that duty but should have known that his or her actions could cause injury to you. As a result, you were injured and incurred harm such as medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Have You Been Injured in an Accident?
If you’ve been injured as the result of an accident, an experienced personal injury attorney can assist you in collecting the compensation you’re due. For a consultation, please contact the Law Offices of Alan LeVar.