Insurance companies can be tough to handle, but you (and your lawyer) can be ready with knowledge about Kentucky car accident laws
Every car in the nation is required by law to be insured. Generally, the insurance "follows" the vehicle, which means your policy does not insure you, the driver — it insures the car (and you, as the owner).
As the owner of a vehicle, you may not operate the vehicle until you have insurance. This is important for several reasons. First, if you're caught operating a vehicle that is not insured, you can face hefty penalties. Second, if you're in an accident in an uninsured vehicle, your costs related to the accident would need to be paid out of pocket.
Kentucky auto insurance requirements
Minimum liability coverage
The minimum liability coverage in Kentucky is:
- $25,000 bodily injury coverage for 1 person and $50,000 per accident
- $25,000 all property damage per accident
- $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in uninsured motorist coverage
- $10,000 per accident Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance
Single limit of $60,000 with basic reparation benefits for any vehicle other than a motorcycle.
Optional insurance coverage
You can choose collision and comprehensive insurance, but they are not required.
These are important and recommended, though. Property damage liability insurance (required) pays for damage to another car in an accident (not your own vehicle), and bodily injury insurance pays for injuries to those drivers or passengers.
Your collision insurance would cover damage to your own car. Comprehensive insurance would cover non-collision damage, like an act of nature, theft, vandalism, etc.
Personal injury protection (PIP)
If you're injured in a car accident in Kentucky, your first claim is to your own insurance company for your injuries, regardless of who was at fault.
PIP is required in Kentucky, except for motorcycles. If you're driving a car that strikes a pedestrian who does not have insurance, your PIP coverage will cover their injuries.
If you were not at fault AND if your PIP policy does not cover the full extent of your injuries, you would then turn to the at-fault party's liability insurance coverage.
The Kentucky Motor Vehicle Reparations Act of 1975 establishes a requirement for basic PIP coverage. It also limits an individual's right to sue and be sued.
The limitation on lawsuits is that by purchasing PIP insurance (as you're required to do), you agree that you cannot recover costs against an at-fault party unless your injury exceeds $1,000 in medical expenses, a broken bone, permanent disfigurement, permanent injury, or death. (Source: Kentucky Department of Insurance)
The exception is that you may reject this limitation if you purchase guest PIP coverage (for guest passengers or pedestrians) and provided that you pay higher liability premiums. In order to reject coverage, you must file a request through the Department of Insurance.
What's covered under PIP?
Usually, PIP covers the following expenses:
- Medical treatment, including doctor and hospital visits, surgery, prescription medication, etc.
- Lost wages during your recovery from the accident
- Rehabilitation and ongoing therapies
- Costs for expenses of daily life, including child care, housecleaning, driving, etc.
- Funeral expenses for survivors if the accident results in a fatality
Penalties for failure to carry required insurance
If you fail to obtain or maintain at least the mandatory basic auto insurance in Kentucky, you could be subject to the following penalties:
- Revocation of vehicle registration
- $500-$1,000 fine
- Up to 90 days in jail
What's not covered by insurance?
Insurance covers expenses with a clear monetary value—in other words, things that you pay for specifically, like medical bills, missed work time and other costs.
If the costs for your injuries exceed the amount in your policy, you may then turn to the at-fault driver's policy for the remainder. If your injuries are more than $10,000 or are severe and permanent, you might then file a lawsuit for the additional costs.
You have 2 years from the date of the accident (or from the final no-fault medical payment or PIP payment) to file a lawsuit.
How do I prove fault for a car accident?
Even in a no-fault state like Kentucky, it can be very important to know who was at fault for the accident.
One of the most important things you can do immediately following a collision is to get a police report. The police report will not necessarily establish fault on its own, but it does set forth evidence that would be important to fact-finders in assessing fault.
Even if you think that your own insurance will cover your injuries, be wary of how you describe the accident to your insurance adjuster. Just in case your expenses add up to more than you expect, you want to preserve the option to make a claim against the other driver's insurance if necessary.
Do you need a Kentucky car accident lawyer to settle an insurance claim?
If your injuries are minor and treated immediately, then you can likely take the settlement offered by your insurance company if it fully covers your expenses.
But if you're looking at long-term medical treatment for severe injuries or if it's hard to estimate the total costs of your injuries, then you should consult a lawyer.
The insurance company's objective is to settle your claim by paying out the least amount of money you would accept for your loss... not to make sure your expenses are covered.
Your car accident lawyer will be your representative and advocate. It's their role to make sure that both your present and future expenses will be covered. They will consult with financial experts, medical experts, actuaries, damage investigators, and other relevant individuals in order to reach an amount that fully covers your financial costs.
If there are questions about who was at fault, your attorney is going to work for you on that, too. If you're not at fault but you have some degree of fault, your damage award would be reduced by that amount. Your lawyer will review all the evidence and can help you to reduce your liability for the accident.
Don't try to guess about whether your expenses are being fully covered by your insurance unless you're finished paying (and won't have any more expenses related to the accident). You can shortchange yourself, and once you accept an insurance settlement there's no changing your mind.