In Kentucky, car drivers are required to carry basic Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance coverage. PIP benefits are also commonly referred to as “no-fault” benefits because they are to be paid to the person injured through use of a motor vehicle, regardless of whose fault the injury is. An injured driver or passenger can claim against the basic PIP of the vehicle in which he or she was riding. An injured pedestrian can claim against the PIP coverage for the car that struck him or her. Basic PIP gives coverage to each person in each accident a minimum of $10,000 to cover out of pocket costs, such as medical expenses or lost wages.
Unlike other states, in Kentucky, drivers are presumed to have limited rights to sue unless they file a special form rejecting no-fault limitations. If they are subject to no-fault limitations, they cannot recover medical expenses or wage loss from the at-fault party unless they have more than $1,000 worth of medical expenses, a broken bone, a permanent injury or disfigurement. A person’s estate may collect if they die.
If you are in a car accident and have any kind of significant injuries or pain, it is important to not only alert insurance carriers but consult an attorney as soon as possible, too. Last year, a Kentucky appellate court considered a car accident case in which a woman had been injured when her car was rear-ended. She received basic PIP benefits from her own carrier. About two months after the accident, the woman started to experience serious medical problems like projectile vomiting, vertigo and Raynaud’s phenomenon. Her physicians couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her for two years.
After two years, her physician sent her a letter with the opinion that the medical problems were the result of the car accident. She and her husband filed suit against the driver of the other vehicle. The driver of the other vehicle then made a motion to dismiss the suit, arguing that it had been filed after the two year statute of limitations had run under Kentucky’s Motor Vehicle Reparations Act, which governs tort claims arising from car accidents.
In Kentucky there is a “discovery rule” that applies to some kinds of personal injury actions. In cases where the discovery rule applies, the rule means that the statute of limitations period only starts running when the injury is or should have been discovered. The plaintiffs in this case argued that the discovery rule should apply to permit them to bring their claim against the driver of the other car.
The trial court declined to extend application of the discovery rule to their case. Instead the court ruled that they had either two years from the date of the loss (the car accident) or two years from the last PIP payment from the PIP insurer to bring a claim. In this case, they had waited for than two years from the last PIP payment to sue the driver of the other car even though they knew his identity. (PIP payment is referred to in this case as “BRB” payment which stands for Basic Reparations Benefits and is used interchangeably with “PIP” payment—Coleman v. Bee Line Courier Service, Inc., 284 S.W.3d 123, 124 n.1 (Ky. 2009)).
Sometimes, after an accident, the extent of the injury is unknown. The couple in this case tried to argue that they only discovered how badly the woman had been injured after the two-year period with the doctor’s letter. They argued that to extend the discovery rule would reward claimants who waited to file suit until they had established a causal connection between accident and injury. The court failed to apply the discovery rule, and thus the case was time-barred and dismissed, and the injured woman was not compensated for her injuries.
The appellate court in this case, however, affirmed the trial court’s ruling while disagreeing with the section of the code the trial court followed. It explained that since the woman was aware of the accident and some injuries, she should have brought the tort action sooner.
An experienced Kentucky personal injury attorney can look at the particular facts of your case and help you decide whether to bring a lawsuit and how quickly to bring it. It is important to talk to your own attorney before you talk to the other driver’s insurer or attorney. Contact us at 877-634-1519 (toll-free) or via our online form.
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