There are currently no damage caps on non-economic damages in Arkansas. Punitive damages are limited to the greater of $250,000 or three times the amount of compensatory damages (not to exceed $1,000,000).
A 2003 tort reform measure, called the Civil Justice Reform Act, among other things, limited who could testify as an expert witness in a malpractice trial. However in 2012, the state Supreme Court effectively struck down that portion of the law ruling it unconstitutional.
In addition to the cap on non-economic damages (i.e. pain and suffering, etc.), Title 6-1604 of the Arkansas Statutes sets a cap on punitive damages of the greater of $250,000 or three times compensatory damages. Although punitive damages are relatively uncommon in malpractice cases it is good to know that in Arkansas they do not present a tempting venue to trial lawyers for limitless awards.
In Arkansas, there is a two year statute of limitation from the date of the incident or death, and a one year statute of limitation from the date of discovery. Thus, once the injury is recognized the claimant has one year to file suit. If the case involves a minor of nine years or younger at the time of the negligent act, they have until age eleven to file a claim. If the injury could not have reasonably been discovered by that time, they will have until their nineteenth birthday or two years after discovery of the injury.
Arkansas has a typical liability limit for medical malpractice insurance of $1,000,000 per occurrence and $3,000,000 aggregate per policy period (1 year). The $1M/$3M limit is fairly standard across the U.S. In some states and mostly in rural areas physicians are allowed to carry lower limits, but most physicians are not comfortable with lower limits. The argument for lower limits is that in the case of a lawsuit attorneys will only go after the amount of the policy limit, so the higher the limit the more money they will sue for. But in today’s litigious environment the $1M/$3M limit is recommended.
Both sides present their cases to the panel and then the panel has 90 days to return a verdict as to whether it is probable that the defendant violated the standard of care and thus the case should go to trial. The statute of limitations is tolled from the time the time the petition for pre-trial screening is submitted until 30 days after the panel issues its findings. The goal is to give both sides the opportunity to settle the dispute informally and apart from litigation.
Since 2003, the number of companies filing to actively write medical malpractice insurance in Arkansas has slowed. The lack of tort reform and caps on non-economic damages or punitive damages may partially explain this. That said, insurance companies still see very reasonable loss ratios in the state and with nearly 20 providers competing for part of the market doctors, with the help of a good broker should have no problem securing a great deal on malpractice insurance.
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