Kentucky Personal Injury Laws and Statutes of Limitations

Find out how long you have to file a personal injury lawsuit in Kentucky, what happens if you're partly to blame for your injuries, whether Kentucky caps personal injury damages, and much more.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

You were injured in the Bluegrass State—maybe by a careless driver, or by a defective product, or on a poorly maintained sidewalk—and you're considering a personal injury (PI) lawsuit. But like most people, you don't know much about the Kentucky laws and court rules that will govern your case. We'll fill you in on the basics.

One of the most important things to know is how long you have to file your lawsuit in court. We'll explain Kentucky's personal injury statutes of limitations. Kentucky is a "no-fault" auto insurance state, so we provide a quick overview of how that system works. If your PI claim is against the government, state or local, you'll need to know about some special rules that apply. We'll also review Kentucky's PI damage limits, where you (or better yet, your lawyer) will file your lawsuit, and much more.

Kentucky's Statutes of Limitations for Personal Injury Lawsuits

A "statute of limitations" is a law that puts a deadline on your time to file a lawsuit in court. Kentucky has several that apply to different kinds of personal injury cases. Starting with the state's one-year general rule, we'll explain how they work.

The Personal Injury General Rule: One Year From the Date of Your Injury

Kentucky's general rule is found in Ky. Rev. Stat. § 413.140(1) (2024). Most often, you have just one year to file your case in court. The clock usually starts on the date you were injured. This deadline applies to a variety of PI cases, such as those involving:

(Learn more about Kentucky's medical malpractice laws, including when the statute of limitations starts running.)

Car Accident Lawsuits Against Negligent Drivers: Two Years From the Date of Injury

Kentucky has adopted a "choice" no-fault auto insurance system. When you're injured in a Kentucky car accident, your personal injury protection (PIP) insurance pays at least some of your out-of-pocket expenses and losses like medical bills, lost wages, and amounts you pay for household replacement services. But PIP doesn't cover other losses, called "general" or "noneconomic" damages, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of enjoyment of life.

To collect those damages, you must bring an insurance claim or a lawsuit against the driver who's legally responsible for your injuries. And the only way you can do that in Kentucky is if:

What does this mean in plain English? It means you're not allowed to bring an insurance claim or a lawsuit against a negligent Kentucky driver unless your injuries are serious or you (or the negligent driver) have opted out of Kentucky's no-fault insurance system.

If you're able to bring a lawsuit, Ky. Rev. Stat. § 304.39-230(6) (2024) says you must file in court within two years from the later of:

(Learn more about Kentucky's no-fault auto insurance system.)

Suing the Government for Personal Injuries

Suing the government, state or local, isn't like suing a private person or a business. You must follow special rules and procedures. Even if you win your case, sometimes the compensation you can collect (what the law calls "damages") will be limited. You'll want to be represented by an experienced government claims attorney.

Suits Against Kentucky

The Kentucky Board of Claims has exclusive authority to hear claims—including personal injury claims—against the Commonwealth of Kentucky. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 49.040(1) (2024).) The deadline to file your claim is one year from the earlier of the date you:

  • first discover your injury, or
  • should have discovered your injury, had you been reasonably careful.

(Ky. Rev. Stat. § 49.120(1), (3) (2024).)

Suits Against Local Governments

Before you can sue a Kentucky city for the condition of "any bridge, street, sidewalk, alley or other public thoroughfare," you must first give written notice of your claim to the mayor, city clerk, or clerk of the board of aldermen. Act quickly, because the notice deadline is 90 days after the date you were injured. Your notice must state that you plan to claim damages from the city and must describe the time, place, and circumstances of your injury. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 411.110 (2024).)

For other local government claims, be sure to check local laws for specific requirements.

(Learn more about claims against the government in Kentucky.)

Where Do I File a Personal Injury Lawsuit In Kentucky?

Unless you're planning to sue in Kentucky small claims court, you should have a lawyer prepare, file, and handle your personal injury lawsuit. Kentucky lawsuits must follow the Rules of Civil Procedure and the Rules of Evidence. While most judges will be a bit lenient with a pro se plaintiff (a self-represented party who files a lawsuit), you still must know and comply with these rules. You'll be up against experienced defense lawyers and will find yourself at a significant (and perhaps costly) disadvantage without legal help on your side.

When you're asking the court to award you damages of more than $5,000, your lawsuit belongs in the Circuit Court. There are 57 judicial circuits in Kentucky. Your lawyer will select the proper location ("venue") in which to file. The circuit where the defendant (the person you're suing) lives or where your injury happened is usually the right place to file your case.

If you're asking for less than $5,000 in damages, you'll file in the District Court. There are 59 Judicial Districts in Kentucky. Here too, your lawyer probably will choose the district where the defendant lives or where your injury occurred.

(Learn more about how to file a personal injury lawsuit.)

What If I'm Partly at Fault for My Injury in Kentucky?

In most PI lawsuits, to collect personal injury damages you must show that the defendant acted negligently (carelessly) and caused your injuries. Many times, the defendant will answer that you, too, were negligent, and will argue that your negligence should reduce the damages you're entitled to collect. This is a legal defense called "comparative negligence." It's available in Kentucky. Here's how it works.

Kentucky Is a "Pure" Comparative Negligence State

Under Kentucky law, you're allowed to collect some damages for your injuries even if your own negligence contributed to cause your injuries. Your percentage share of the total negligence reduces the damages you'll receive by that amount. If you're found to be the only person at fault—that is, your negligence was sole cause of your injuries—then you can't collect any damages.

(Ky. Rev. Stat. § 411.182 (2024).)

Example: Kentucky's Pure Comparative Negligence Rule

While grocery shopping one afternoon, you trip and fall on a broken floor tile in one of the store aisles. The fall tears cartilage in your knee and breaks your ankle. You sue the store for negligent failure to repair the broken tile or warn customers about the danger. The store, in its defense, claims that your negligence contributed to cause the accident because you weren't watching where you were going.

After a jury trial, the jurors decide that the store was 80% negligent. But they agree that you were also to blame, assessing the remaining 20% of the negligence to you. They find your total damages are $120,000. How much will you collect? Because you were 20% at fault, you can recover 80% of your damages: $120,000 x 80% = $96,000. The store's insurance company will write you a check for that amount.

What would be the result if the jurors found you were 99% to blame for your fall? You'd still get 1% of your damages, or $1,200. Had the jury found you 100% negligent, you'd collect nothing.

Does Kentucky's Pure Comparative Negligence Rule Apply to My Insurance Claim?

Technically, no. Kentucky's comparative negligence rule applies when a judge or jury decides a lawsuit in court and finds that you share some of the blame for the underlying accident. There's no law or rule that says the state's comparative fault rule must be applied to an insurance claim.

That said, insurance adjusters approach claims from the perspective of what might happen in court. You should expect the comparative negligence rule to factor in to the insurance company's valuation of your claim. Any fault you might share will be a negotiating point during settlement talks.

Dog Owners Face "Strict Liability" for Dog Bite Injuries in Kentucky

In many states, dog owners are only responsible for injuries their dog causes if it has bitten someone in the past, or the owner knew it had dangerous or vicious tendencies. That's not the law in Kentucky.

Instead, Kentucky adheres to a rule of "strict liability" for dog-bite injuries. A dog owner is on the hook for all injuries and damages their dog causes, regardless of whether the dog has attacked before or has known dangerous tendencies. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 258.235(4) (2024).)

(Learn more about Kentucky dog-bite laws.)

Are There Caps on Personal Injury Damages in Kentucky?

Several states have laws that set a limit (or "cap") on the damages an injured person can receive even if they win their lawsuit in court. Sometimes, the caps apply across the board—in all PI cases—but only to certain kinds of damages. For example, a number of states limit how much an injured person can collect in any personal injury case for damages like pain and suffering, emotional distress, or disability and disfigurement.

Other states only limit damages in certain kinds of PI cases. Medical malpractice cases are a favorite target, as are lawsuits over injuries caused by dangerous or defective products. Finally, it's common for states to limit total damages in lawsuits against the government.

No Generally Applicable Personal Injury Damage Caps

There's no generally applicable cap on Kentucky PI damages. Nor does the state cap damages in medical malpractice or other specific kinds of cases. But Kentucky law limits your damages in a successful claim against the state.

Damage Caps on Injury Claims Against Kentucky

When you're injured by the Commonwealth of Kentucky (or one of its employees), your total damages—for medical costs, lost wages, other out-of-pocket losses, and for intangible injuries like pain and suffering and emotional distress—are capped at:

  • $250,000 for a single claim, and
  • $400,000 for all claims stemming from a single act of negligence.

(Ky. Rev. Stat. § 49.040(1) (2024).)

These damage caps are yet another reason why you'll want an experienced government claims lawyer to handle your injury claim.

Get Help With Your Kentucky Personal Injury Claim

We've covered the basics of Kentucky personal injury law. But if you've been hurt by someone else's misconduct and you're thinking about a PI lawsuit, there's much more you need to know. The stakes are simply too high to go it alone. For instance, a mistake calculating the statute of limitations deadline—even by a day—can mean that your personal injury claim is over before it ever gets started.

An experienced Kentucky PI lawyer knows Kentucky laws, the rules of procedure and evidence, and the claim handling and settlement practices in your area. Your best chance of success will come from having legal counsel in your corner.

When you're ready to move forward with your case, here's how you can find a personal injury lawyer who's right for you.

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