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Nearly four million Kentuckians were licensed to drive in 2018, and more than 134,000 accidents were recorded. Over 700 people die on Kentucky roads every year. Nevertheless, this figure is still well below the number of annual fatalities for the 2004 to 2006 period. If you are going to drive in Kentucky, it would pay to become familiar with Kentucky auto insurance and accident law, just in case.
Filing an Accident Report
You might assume that there is no need to file an accident report as long as nobody was injured in the accident. That is not true, however. Under Kentucky state law, you are required to file an accident report if the damage was over $500.
Of course, you might not be able to estimate the damage at the scene of the accident. It is always a good idea to be on the safe side and call the police to the scene. This is especially true if the accident was not your fault, because a police report from the scene of an accident is important evidence. In any case, Kentucky state law requires you to file an accident report with the Kentucky State Police within 10 days of an accident.
Kentucky’s “No-Fault” Regime
In most states, you may file a third-party injury or property damage with the auto insurance carried by the at-fault driver. Under this system, you can collect damages up to the limit of the at-fault driver’s insurance policy. If any unpaid damages remain, you might have to go after the at-fault driver’s personal finances.
Kentucky, however, is one of 12 no-fault auto insurance states. These states impose no-fault injury standards that you must meet in order to file a claim against an at-fault driver’s insurance company. To meet these standards and file a claim directly against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy, you must either:
- Incur significant medical expenses;
- Break a bone;
- Suffer permanent disfigurement;
- Suffer permanent injury; or
If you fail to meet these standards, your own Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance will kick in. PIP will cover up to $10,000 of your medical expenses, lost income, and incidental expenses (up to $20,000 if you choose to purchase that much PIP insurance). PIP even offers survivor’s benefits if you are killed in the accident. It does not cover pain and suffering, however. Beyond PIP limits, you can probably file a claim against the at-fault driver’s auto insurance policy.
The “Opt-Out” Loophole
If your injuries are not serious enough to allow you to file a claim under the other driver’s auto insurance policy, there is a possible loophole that you might take advantage of. Kentucky allows drivers with vehicles registered in the state to opt-out of the no-fault system in writing. If they do, they can file an insurance claim against an at-fault driver without qualifying under no-fault injury standards. That means you, if you have opted out in writing.
Opting out, however, also allows an injured party to sue the opt-out driver if that driver is at fault. For this reason, even if you haven’t opted out in writing, check to see if the at-fault driver has opted out of no-fault restrictions. If they have, you can file a third-party claim against their auto insurance policy even if the seriousness of your injuries wouldn’t normally qualify you to do so.
Kentucky’s Minimum Auto Insurance Standards
Kentucky drivers are required by law to carry the following minimum amount of auto insurance:
- $10,000 in Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance;
- $25,000 per injured person in personal injury liability insurance;
- $50,000 total per accident in personal injury liability insurance; and
- $10,000 per accident in property damage liability insurance.
Unfortunately, close to 15 percent of Kentucky drivers are uninsured. You might also find yourself in an accident with a driver from another state with different auto insurance requirements. On the other hand, it is always possible that the at-fault driver carries more than the minimum coverage. For your own part, you can choose to purchase up to $20,000 in PIP insurance.
When the Accident is Partly Your Fault: Kentucky’s “Pure Comparative Negligence” System
If you are injured in a Kentucky car accident, it is likely that either your insurance company or the at-fault driver’s insurance company (whoever you file your claim against) is going to assert that the accident was at least partly your fault. The reason why such a claim is so attractive is that each increment of fault that the opposing party can attribute to you (one percent, 30 percent, or 60 percent, for example) chips away at the other driver’s total liability to you.
In a nutshell, under Kentucky’s no-fault system, you will lose that percentage of your damages that are attributable to your own fault. If your damages were $100,000, for example, and the accident was 11 percent your fault, you will lose $11,000 and your maximum recovery will be $89,000. A skilled Kentucky auto accident attorney can help you resist claims like these with credible evidence.
What if the at-fault driver was uninsured, or if your claim is so large that their insurance cannot cover it? This is when a skilled Kentucky personal injury lawyer really comes in handy. A lawyer can help you identify other defendants with deeper pockets than the at-fault driver, such as:
- The at-fault driver’s employer, if the driver was acting within the scope of employment at the time the accident happened. Remember, though, that most big-rig truck drivers are not considered employees of the trucking companies they work for.
- A product manufacturer, if your accident was caused by a defective auto part or a malfunctioning traffic light. You might also sue a product manufacturer if a defective airbag worsened your injuries by failing to deploy.
- The city or state government, if they failed to properly maintain roads or traffic signals.
- A bar or nightclub (under Kentucky’s dram shop act). The dram shop law kicks in, if the defendant negligently served an intoxicated patron whose inotication later caused your accident.
- A truck maintenance company, if they indirectly caused your accident by nelgient truck maintenance caused the accident.
Even if the at-fault driver’s insurance coverage is insufficient, you can always try to seek compensation from their personal assets.
The Kentucky Wrongful Death Statute
Suppose someone dies in the accident? Under the Kentucky wrongful death statute, the personal representative of the deceased victim’s estate can file a wrongful death lawsuit. The personal representative can file a wrongful death lawsuit against the offending driver or against alternative defendants. If the victim was a child, the child’s parents can join the lawsuit. Damages go to the probate estate and surviving family members.
You might win damages for the following losses:
- Medical expenses;
- Lost earnings;
- Incidental expenses (child care, for example); and
- Pain and suffering (up to five times the amount of medical expenses in some cases).
You could win other damages as well–funeral and burial expenses in a wrongful death case, for example.
Statutes of Limitations
The statute of limitations sets the deadline by which you must file a lawsuit against the defendant. If you miss the deadline, your claim will die–both in court and at the negotiating table. The following statutes of limitations apply:
- For personal injury, the deadline for filing a lawsuit is two years from the date of the accident, or two years from the date that your insurance company last paid a no-fault medical payment or PIP insurancement on your claim, whichever is later.
- For wrongful death, the deadline is one year from the date the court appointed the deceased victim’s personal representative, or two years from the deceased victim’s date of death (if no personal representative has been appointed within one year of the date of death), whicheveris later.
Although other (limited) exceptions sometimes apply to these deadlines, don’t count on them.
When to Get a Lawyer
The foregoing summary of Kentucky auto accident law should alert you if your accident involves a legal complexity. If it does, you might need a Kentucky auto accident lawyer. If your claim is simple, you might not need a lawyer. If it is complex, however, a lawyer could save you a lot more than they cost you. Don’t worry about money–most personal injury lawyers will work for free unless they win your case. Contact us today to set up a free consultation.