A “statute of limitations” is a law which sets a specific deadline for filing legal proceedings. Statutes of limitations can apply to civil cases or criminal cases and are adopted primarily to prevent the filing of claims or criminal charges after evidence has been lost and witnesses have disappeared. Statutes of limitations vary by state and can be very complicated to interpret and apply to a particular set of facts. As with all statutes of limitations, the statute of limitations for lawsuits involving injury cases in Kentucky is strictly enforced by Kentucky courts. As with all legal issues, you should contact an experienced personal injury attorney to determine how the statute of limitations applies to your particular case.
The statute of limitations for many types of injury cases in Kentucky is 1 year from the time of the injury. KRS 413.140. This 1-year time limit for settling the claim or bringing a lawsuit generally applies to dog bites or other animal attacks, slip and fall, assault, medical malpractice, and nursing home neglect and abuse cases, among others, although in some cases, such as medical malpractice, the 1-year statute of limitations may not begin to run until the injury is discovered or until you quit treating with the professional who has committed negligence or malpractice. Since cases must be properly investigated before suit can be filed and evidence must be gathered and preserved as quickly as possible, it is imperative to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the injury has occurred or been discovered.
Some of the personal injury claims resulting from car wrecks, truck wrecks or other motor vehicle accidents must generally be settled or filed in court no later than 2 years after the date of the injury, death, or the last payment of basic or added reparation benefits was made to the injured party. KRS 304.39-230. Basic or added reparation benefits are also known as personal injury protection (“PIP”) benefits or no-fault benefits. However, many factors will have an effect on the statute of limitations that will be applied to a particular case, such as whether PIP benefits have been paid or not paid after the injury, and whether the injury resulted in death. Furthermore, there are numerous exceptions to the 2-year statute of limitations for motor vehicle accidents which will reduce the statute of limitations to 1 year, so care must be taken in relying on the 2-year time limit. An experienced personal injury lawyer must review all the facts and details of the case to determine the deadline for filing suit.
Workers’ compensation claims must generally be settled or filed within 2 years of the date of the injury or the last voluntary payment of disability income benefits, whichever is later. KRS 342.185 and KRS 342.270. The time for filing a claim will not, however, be extended by the payment of medical expenses.
Although the statute of limitations for bringing workers’ compensation cases and personal injury cases related to motor vehicle accidents may be longer than 1 year, you should discuss your case with a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible after the injury since some of the claims will be subject to the 1-year statute of limitations. If you are lulled into thinking you don’t have to take any action in the first year after the injury, you may give up valuable claims by waiting too long to file them. There may be additional claims to be made which fall under different and shorter statutes of limitations, and an experienced personal injury attorney can determine which claims to make and when.
For unmarried minors under the age of 18 years and for persons who are mentally incompetent, the statute of limitations may be extended beyond the times listed above for some claims. Thus, if a child under the age of 18 years or a person who is mentally incompetent was injured and the statutes of limitations described above have expired, don’t hesitate to contact an accident lawyer to find out if there is still time to file a claim for the injuries. It is important to talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as the injury occurs, however, so that evidence can be preserved and to determine if the necessary facts exist for the statute of limitations to be extended for these individuals.
Numerous cases decided by Kentucky courts emphasize the strict application of the statute of limitation applicable to injury cases. In Wilder v. Noonchester, 113 S.W.3d 189 (Ky. App. 2003), decided by the Kentucky Court of Appeals, the issue presented to the court was whether the 2 years for filing a personal injury claim after a motor vehicle accident started to run from October 5, 2007, the date the insurance company issued the check for the last PIP payment, or from October 12, 2007 the date the medical service provider received the check. The court ruled that the issuance of the check begins the running of the 2-year statute of limitations and completely dismissed the case because the court held that it had been filed too late.
As the Wilder case shows, a few days can make all the difference, and the right to pursue claims resulting from a motor vehicle accident can be denied if the suit is filed too late, no matter how serious the injuries or how costly the medical expenses and lost wages.