After a car accident, a slip-and-fall, or any other incident in which someone else's conduct causes you harm in Kentucky, you could be considering filing a personal injury lawsuit. If so, it's crucial to understand and comply with the statute of limitations that applies to these kinds of cases.
As background, a statute of limitations is a law that sets a strictly-enforced time limit on your right to file a lawsuit in civil court. Every state has these kinds of laws on the books, with deadlines that differ depending on the kind of case being filed.
In this article, we'll explain how Kentucky's statute of limitations for personal injury cases works, and why the filing deadline is so important.
The statute of limitations that will apply to most Kentucky personal injury lawsuits can be found at Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.140(1)(a). This law gives you one year to turn to the state’s civil court when you're seeking a civil remedy (damages) after an injury caused by someone else. This one-year deadline applies equally to personal injury cases driven by the liability principle of "negligence" (which applies to claims filed after a car accident, slip and fall incident, and other mishaps) and those governed by intentional tort (such as civil lawsuits over an assault). And for purposes of this one-year deadline, the "clock" starts running on the date of the underlying accident or incident.
If the one-year filing deadline has passed, but you try to bring your personal injury lawsuit to court anyway, the defendant (the person you're trying to sue) will almost certainly point this out and ask the court to dismiss your case. And unless a rare exception entitles you to extra time (we'll discuss a few of these exceptions later), the court will grant the dismissal.
Kentucky's personal injury statute of limitations is obviously crucial if you want to take your injury case to court by way of a formal lawsuit, but the statutory filing deadline is also pivotal to your position in personal injury settlement negotiations with the defendant and his or her insurance company. One year can go by in a hurry, and if you've allowed the deadline to pass without getting your lawsuit filed, and the other side knows it, you'll have lost all your negotiating leverage. After all, "I'll see you in court" becomes an empty threat when that same court is no longer an option for your dispute.
A few situations could pause the running of Kentucky's one-year statute of limitations "clock," effectively extending the filing deadline.
First, under Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.170, if at the time of the underlying incident the injured person was "an infant or of unsound mind," meaning he or she was under 18 years of age or had been declared legally incapacitated, then the lawsuit may be filed within one year after the removal of the disability (meaning after the person turns 18 or is no longer incapacitated).
Next, under Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.190, if the defendant is absent from the state of Kentucky at any point after the underlying accident, but before the lawsuit can be filed, or if the defendant takes steps to conceal him or herself within the state, the period of absence/concealment probably won't be counted as part of the one-year period (the statute of limitations "clock" will be paused during this time, in other words).
If you have questions about how the Kentucky statute of limitations applies to your personal injury case -- especially if the deadline is fast-approaching or has already passed -- it may be time to discuss your situation with an experienced Kentucky personal injury attorney.