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.

After a Kentucky traffic accident, if you've been injured or your vehicle has been damaged, you may want to look into your options for getting compensation for your losses. In this article, we'll discuss a few Kentucky laws that could have a big impact on any car accident claim you decide to make.

(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.)

As is true in most states, the statute of limitations that affects car accident injury lawsuits in Kentucky is the same as the larger one that applies to most personal injury cases. Specifically, Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.140(1)(a) gives you one year to turn to the state’s civil court system for a remedy after any kind of injury for which someone else is at fault. So, in the context of a motor vehicle accident, any lawsuit by any driver, passenger, motorcycle rider, bicyclist, or pedestrian injured in the crash will be subject to this one-year filing deadline, and the "clock" starts running on the date of the accident. (If the lawsuit includes a wrongful death claim, the one-year "clock" starts running on the date of the accident victim’s death, which could be later than the accident date).

The deadline is different for a potential plaintiff whose vehicle or other personal property was damaged as a result of the car accident. Any lawsuit for these kinds of losses must be filed within two years of the date of the accident, and 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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