Kentucky Car Accident Laws

A detailed look at the statutory time limits for filing a car accident lawsuit in Kentucky's courts, the state's comparative negligence rule, and more.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

After a Kentucky traffic accident, if you've suffered injury or incurred vehicle damage, there are a few state laws that could have a big impact on any car accident claim you decide to make, including:

  • the two-year deadline for the filing of most car accident lawsuits in Kentucky's civil court system, and
  • Kentucky's claimant-friendly "pure comparative fault" rule, which allows financial recovery when the claimant was partly (or even mostly) responsible for causing the car accident.

That's the overview of the law in Kentucky. Now let's look at the details.

(Note on no-fault: Kentucky is one of a dozen or so no-fault car insurance states. That means you usually need to file a claim under your own personal injury protection coverage to get compensation for medical bills and other financial losses after a car accident, regardless of who caused the crash. Only if your injury claim meets certain prerequisites can you step outside of no-fault and bring a claim directly against the at-fault driver. The discussion in the following two sections presumes that you're able to do that. For details on Kentucky's no-fault rules, skip to the last section of this article.)

The Kentucky Car Accident Statute of Limitations

A "statute of limitations" is a state law that sets a strict time limit on your right to bring a lawsuit to court.

(Note: the statute of limitations does not apply to a car insurance claim. Any insurance company, whether your own or the other driver's, is going to require you to make a claim—or at least give the insurer notice of an incident that could trigger a claim—"promptly" or "within a reasonable time" after the accident. That usually means a matter of days, or a few weeks at most.)

Unlike most states, where the statute of limitations for a general personal injury lawsuit will apply to car accident injury claims, Kentucky has a distinct statute of limitations for car accident injury lawsuits—which you can find at Kentucky Revised Statutes section 304.39-230—and it works somewhat in tandem with the state's no-fault car insurance rules.

This special filing deadline applies if you were injured in a car accident in Kentucky, and the nature and extent of your injuries let you step outside the no-fault system and file a lawsuit against the driver or other individual responsible for the accident. In these cases, you have two years to get your car accident injury lawsuit filed, and the two-year "clock" starts to run on the date of the accident, or the date on which you received your last no-fault (or "personal injury protection") car insurance claim payment, whichever occurs later.

The time limit is the same for a potential plaintiff whose vehicle or other personal property was damaged as a result of the car accident, but the applicable statute of limitations is different. Any lawsuit for these kinds of losses must also be filed within two years of the date of the accident, but that time limit can be found at Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.125.

If you try to file your lawsuit after the applicable time limit has passed, you can count on the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) pointing out that discrepancy to the court as part of a motion to dismiss. The court will almost certainly grant the motion (unless some rare exception applies to extend the filing deadline), and that will be the end of your case. That's why it's crucial to understand how the statute of applies to your situation.

Even if you're confident that your case will be resolved through the car insurance claim process, you'll want to leave yourself plenty of time to file a lawsuit in case you need to—if for no other reason than that you'll have more leverage during settlement talks. If you think you might be running up against the filing deadline, you may want to contact an experienced Kentucky car accident attorney.

Comparative Negligence in Kentucky Car Accident Cases

Suppose you're seriously injured in a Kentucky car accident, and you take your case to court. The jury, after hearing all the evidence, decides that the other driver was responsible for the accident—but that you too share part of the blame. What happens next? How does this verdict affect your right to compensation?

According to Kentucky Revised Statutes section 411.182, Kentucky is a "pure comparative fault" state. This means that the amount of damages you can recover in a car-accident-related lawsuit is reduced by the same percentage as your level of fault in causing the crash.

For instance, suppose that the jury determines that your injuries, pain and suffering, and other losses total $100,000. However, the jury also thinks that you were 10 percent responsible for the crash. In that situation, the total amount of your damages, $100,000, is reduced by 10 percent, or $10,000, leaving you with a total award of $90,000. Even if you're found mostly at-fault for the accident, you can still recover for your losses against other at-fault parties, just be prepared to see any damages award significantly reduced.

The comparative negligence rule binds Kentucky judges and juries (if your car accident case makes it to court), and it will also guide a car insurance claims adjuster when he or she is evaluating your case. Also keep in mind that since there is no empirical means of allocating fault, any assignment of liability will ultimately come down to your ability to negotiate with a claims adjuster or to persuade a judge or jury.

Kentucky's No-Fault Car Insurance Laws

As touched on above, Kentucky follows a no-fault car insurance scheme. That means injured drivers and passengers must typically turn first to their own personal-injury-protection car insurance coverage to get compensation for medical bills, lost income, and other out-of-pocket losses after a crash, regardless of who might have been at fault. A claim against the at-fault driver is only possible in certain scenarios. Get the details on the Kentucky no-fault car insurance rules.

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