An assessment of accidents between 2019 and 2021 revealed that the number of deaths caused by motorcycle crashes in Arkansas increased by more than 50%. In 2021 alone, the Arkansas Department of Public Safety recorded 85 motorcycle fatalities, while in 2020, the state had the third-highest fatality rate in the country, with 11 deaths per 10,000 motorcycles.
In the state’s recorded fatalities, common factors included speeding, reckless driving, and alcohol intoxication, as well as the failure to wear a helmet. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s data for 2020, 22% of the motorcyclists in Arkansas who perished in accidents were above the legal alcohol limit, while 48% were not wearing helmets. Additionally, the Arkansas State Police found in 2021 that there were increasing instances where motorcycle riders reached speeds between 90 and 100 miles per hour.
Due to the risks posed by moving violations that contribute to motorcycle crashes and collisions, Arkansas enforces different laws and regulations to preserve the safety of motorcyclists, pedestrians, and other drivers. These include rules on using helmets and safety gear, guidelines concerning speed limits, and sanctions for driving while intoxicated. The state also has various statutes for those needing compensation for injuries, deaths, and damaged property in the aftermath of a motorcycle crash.
Arkansas Motorcycle Helmet, Equipment, and Safety Gear Laws
Arkansas law states that all people under 21 must wear a helmet when riding a motorcycle, whether as a driver or a passenger, while those older than 21 may or may not wear a helmet. However, regardless of age, the state requires all motorcycle riders to wear protective eyewear such as goggles, glasses, and transparent face shields.
Drivers must ensure that their motorcycles have passenger seats, handholds, and footrests if carrying passengers on the road. Additionally, their motorcycles must have one to two headlights that illuminate a minimum distance of up to 250 feet, functioning hand or foot brakes, a working horn, and a standard muffler.
Other types of required equipment include a red reflector and a lamp that emits a red light up to a minimum distance of 250 feet on a motorcycle’s rear. Daytime headlights are also a requirement, while modulating headlights are optional.
Any motorcyclist who fails to meet the above mentioned requirements can be fined between $10 and $50. The rider can also spend up to 30 days in jail.
Arkansas’s No-Pursuit Policy
All law enforcement personnel in Arkansas are encouraged to pursue suspects throughout the state’s roadways at a safe speed to preserve the safety of other motorists or if there are hostages involved. Additionally, after adjusting its policies in 2016, the city of Little Rock only allows police officers to chase suspects if they have committed or are likely to commit a violent felony.
The Arkansas Association of Chiefs of Police issued a policy detailing specific restrictions on the procedures followed by police personnel during a pursuit. Included in these restrictions are the following:
Pursuits must only be handled by a primary and secondary emergency vehicle unless a managing supervisor authorizes the inclusion of other emergency vehicles.
A police officer shall not carry out pursuits on a two- or three-wheeled motorcycle unless the officer has sufficient cause to believe that a suspect has committed or will commit a violent felony. The motorcycle will discontinue its involvement in the pursuit once other emergency vehicles arrive.
Pursuits can only be initiated by emergency vehicles or marked police vehicles with emergency warning devices.
Officers cannot participate in pursuits while transporting suspects, prisoners, complainants, witnesses, or individuals who are not part of their department.
Officers must discontinue a pursuit if the primary vehicle or supervisor does so unless mechanical issues are involved for the former.
Officers must ensure that any mobile video recorders in emergency vehicles are activated and remain active throughout a pursuit.
While in pursuit, law enforcement personnel must also take present circumstances and potential factors into account, including:
Road and weather conditions
Time of day and day of the week
Visibility (due to lighting)
Pedestrian and vehicle traffic
The speed of both the emergency vehicle and the suspect’s vehicle
Arkansas Speed Limits
To maintain the safe flow of traffic throughout the state and prevent accidents from happening, Arkansas requires motorists to observe speed limits based on where they are currently driving. These limits apply to automobiles and motorcycles, while commercial trucks adhere to reduced maximum speed limits on certain roadways.
Unless posted otherwise, the state’s given speed limits are:
25 mph within school zones when children are present.
30 mph within urban areas and on residential roads.
55 mph on two-lane roadways outside of urban areas.
60 mph on undivided roads, including local routes and backroads.
65 mph on urban freeways and divided roads.
70 mph on rural freeways.
In addition to these specified limits, Arkansas motorists must obey basic speed restrictions by driving at a safe pace at all times based on present and possible conditions on the road. For instance, drivers navigating a dark or foggy roadway must reduce their speed accordingly to avoid causing an accident. The same applies in cases where inclement weather and traffic conditions are involved.
Those who disobey any speed limits in the state face fines ranging from $100 to $500, depending on how many violations they have already committed. They can also serve between 10 days and six months in jail and have their license suspended for one year. If their speeding violation causes an accident that results in injuries or deaths, they will face even harsher penalties.
Arkansas DWI and DUI Laws
Arkansas imposes both DWI and DUI laws throughout the state. DWI offenses apply to motorists guilty of driving with a blood alcohol content level of .08 percent or more. DUI offenses, on the other hand, are for drivers under 21 with a BAC level of more than .02 percent and less than .08 percent. Drivers are considered legally intoxicated if their blood alcohol content visibly impairs their ability to drive, and they consequently pose risks to other motorists and pedestrians.
Arkansas also follows the principle of implied consent when dealing with potentially intoxicated drivers. This means that once a driver chooses to operate a vehicle, he or she automatically consents to undergo a breath or blood test to measure his or her blood alcohol content. Any person who refuses to be tested will be penalized.
DWI and DUI offenders can receive a fine of $150 to $1,000 plus court costs equal to $300 on their first offense. They can also spend between one day and one year in jail and have their license suspended for six months. Subsequent offenses may result in fines of up to $5,000, a prison term lasting for 10 years, and a four-year license revocation.
The Right-of-Way in Arkansas
Motorists throughout Arkansas must yield the right-of-way to other drivers depending on their location and timing as they enter specific roadways. This is to regulate the movement of vehicles and ensure that no cars, trucks, or motorcycles collide. Right-of-way regulations apply regardless of whether or not there are any traffic signs or signals present.
The following are the state’s ordinances on the right-of-way:
Vehicles approaching an intersection with no stop sign must yield to vehicles on the right.
Vehicles that enter a three- or four-way stop must yield to the vehicle that arrived first, followed by vehicles on the right.
Vehicles that are entering a traffic circle must yield to those that are already within the circle.
Vehicles that are turning left must yield to those that are going straight
Vehicles that need to cross a sidewalk (such as when entering a parking lot) must yield to pedestrians
The right-of-way must also be given to pedestrians who are using a white cane or walking with a guide dog. If emergency vehicles are present, motorists must pull over to the side as soon as possible and proceed only when an emergency vehicle has passed by or when a police officer gives the signal to do so.
Any Arkansas motorist who does not yield the right-of-way as instructed above will be fined a minimum of $75. For those who fail to obey yield signs and end up colliding with a pedestrian or vehicle at an intersection, the collision will be deemed evidence proving the offender’s failure to yield the right-of-way.
Arkansas Motorcycle Insurance Requirements
Arkansas law dictates that all vehicle owners, including those who own motorcycles, must obtain liability insurance coverage. This will cover the costs of medical treatments and property damage for victims if a driver causes an accident. Under the state’s guidelines, the minimum amounts of required liability coverage are:
$25,000 for the bodily injuries of a single person
$50,000 for all bodily injuries in an accident
$25,000 for damaged property
When a motorcycle driver obtains liability coverage, an insurer must also offer them the opportunity to get uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage and personal injury protection. UM and UIM coverage is used to pay for medical care and damaged property if an offending driver has insufficient or no insurance. In contrast, PIP covers similar expenses for the insurance owner, regardless of who is at fault in an accident.
Though not required by law, motorcycle drivers in Arkansas can also get collision and comprehensive coverage to supplement their existing liability, UM, UIM, and PIP policies. Collision coverage is used to pay any repair costs for the damage sustained by a motorcycle in a crash. On the other hand, comprehensive coverage is for damages caused by non-accident factors like theft, vandalism, and hazards.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Motorcycle Accident in Arkansas?
The Arkansas Constitution declares that any caps on economic and non-economic damages in personal injury cases are unconstitutional. This means there is no limit to the total monetary and non-monetary losses that motorcycle accident victims can recover in a lawsuit or settlement. Damage awards can include payments for medical care, lost income, and property damage, as well as pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and loss of companionship.
Arkansas, however, does impose a cap on the total punitive damages that can be awarded to a motorcycle accident victim. The court grants such damages if it finds that a defendant acted with malicious intent or willfully and purposefully caused an injury to the victim. The state’s laws dictate that any punitive damage awards must not be more than five times the amount of a plaintiff’s total compensatory damages, or $1 million.
Arkansas Statute of Limitations for Motorcycle Accidents
Personal injury claims and lawsuits must be filed within three years in Arkansas, starting from the date of an accident. This gives all parties involved enough time to prepare their respective arguments, appeals, and evidence. Under this statute, any motorcycle accident victims who fail to file a claim or lawsuit within the given time will likely have their cases dismissed by the court.
There are certain scenarios where Arkansas' statute of limitations begins later. For example, if an accident involves a minor, the time only starts when the minor reaches his or her 18th birthday and has until the age of 21 to file a claim or lawsuit.
The discovery rule also applies in personal injury cases within Arkansas. According to this rule, the statute will only begin to run on the day that a person discovers or should have reasonably discovered an accident-related injury. This applies to individuals who do not experience the complications of accident injuries until later when signs and symptoms begin to manifest.
Arkansas is a Fault State for Insurance Claims
Arkansas follows at-fault laws for motor vehicle accident insurance claims, meaning drivers who cause an accident must use their insurance coverage to pay for the expenses of those injured. Even if victims have personal injury protection to cover their medical costs, they can still file a claim to recover damages not covered by their PIP, such as lost income.
An at-fault driver’s insurance coverage will also be used to pay for a victim’s losses if he has given a family member or acquaintance permission to use his vehicle and the person causes an accident. A driver’s liability coverage may also apply if he causes an accident while driving a rental car.
In addition to filing a claim against an offending motorist, plaintiffs in motorcycle accident cases may also file a claim against their own insurer if their specific policy covers any losses from an accident. Once the insurer pays for a plaintiff’s losses, they will file a subrogation claim against a defendant’s insurance company to recoup any costs.
Arkansas is a Modified Comparative Negligence State for Motorcycle Accident Lawsuits
Arkansas courts follow the principle of modified comparative negligence when determining how a plaintiff’s own fault affects his chances of recovering damages in an accident case. Under this principle, any victims who are partially to blame for a crash will have their total damage award reduced based on the percentage of their fault.
For example, a motorcycle accident victim who bears 25% of the blame in an accident will only receive $75,000 from a damage award worth $100,000.
Additionally, the state’s modified comparative negligence law adheres to a 50% threshold, meaning that if a plaintiff’s assigned blame in a crash reaches or exceeds 50%, they will not be entitled to recover any damages. If there are multiple defendants, plaintiffs can still recover damages from any party with more blame for the accident than them.
In order for victims to prove a defendant’s fault and subsequently collect damages, they must prove in court that:
The defendant owed them a duty of reasonable care (by following traffic ordinances to prevent accidents).
The defendant breached that duty (by committing a moving violation).
The defendant’s breach of duty caused an injury to the victim.
The defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of the victim’s injury, without intervening causes.
The victim suffered actual losses due to the injury (including expenses for hospital bills, lost income, damaged property, pain and suffering, etc.).
Legal Resources for Arkansas Motorcycle Accident Victims
The Arkansas Bar Association’s website is open to state citizens. It has a Find A Lawyer section where plaintiffs seeking legal representation can find specific lawyers based on their location and areas of practice. Its Legal Assistance section guides veterans and disaster victims seeking informative assistance and has several pamphlets and brochures that educate people on legal matters. Its Legal Links section also leads to sources that tackle various topics, including criminal, constitutional, and federal laws.
People can visit the Consumer Assistance section of the Arkansas Insurance Department if they wish to learn about insurance-related processes and guidelines in the state or file a complaint concerning insurance fraud. The section also redirects visitors looking for specific insurance companies to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ online search service.
The Arkansas Judiciary’s website provides access to various online services that the public can use. It guides state residents who seek to register for eFlex, which allows them to initiate a case or file an existing one online at courts that use the Contexte Case Management System. In addition, it has a directory showing district courts that accept online traffic citation payments using the same system. Lastly, it has an Attorney Search service that people can use to look for specific lawyers based on their name, location, and zip code.
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