Who pays for your injuries, wage losses, and property damage after a car accident? The answer to that question depends on several factors, including the state where the accident occurred.
Most states are broadly categorized as “no fault states” or “at-fault states,” depending on which driver’s insurance company takes first priority for paying out medical expenses and lost wages for car accident claims. Where does Kentucky fall?
The short answer is yes: Kentucky is a no-fault state. But the longer answer is more complicated.
Kentucky is one of three “choice no fault states” where no-fault coverage is the default but can be rejected in writing. And even if you don’t opt out, it’s still extremely likely that you’ll need to file a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance company anyway if you do get hurt in an accident.
Confused? Let’s break it down.
Every state has its own unique set of laws governing which driver’s car insurance company is responsible to compensate victims of car accident injuries, and how much coverage must be provided.
In most states with no-fault laws, the following statements will apply to all drivers with no-fault insurance coverage:
The primary advantage of no-fault laws, in theory, is that they ensure that crash victims can immediately receive medical and wage loss benefits without having to establish who was at fault. It is supposed to be a much simpler system with fewer lawsuits, particularly for minor accidents. However, you do give up your right to file a lawsuit in certain circumstances, and non-economic damages may be more difficult to obtain.
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In an at-fault state (sometimes called a “tort state”), the at-fault driver bears the primary responsibility to pay for all the damages they cause in a motor vehicle accident. This includes not only medical expenses and lost wages but also pain and suffering and other non-economic damages.
Drivers in an at-fault state can still buy supplemental “no fault” personal injury protection coverage from their own insurance provider, but it’s optional and secondary.
At-fault-based systems offer a few advantages. They put very few restrictions on your right to sue an at-fault driver, and insurance premiums are lower on average than those in no-fault states. However, there is a significant disadvantage too. Because liability is often disputed after car accidents, it may take longer for you to get the money you deserve—or you may walk away with nothing if you can’t prove that the other driver was responsible.
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Kentucky is a “choice” no fault insurance state—one of just three in the country, along with New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Under Kentucky law, every driver by default must be offered a no-fault insurance policy with personal injury protection coverage as primary. However, Kentucky drivers have the option to fully reject PIP coverage in writing.
If you reject PIP insurance, at-fault car insurance rules apply, and you’ll have an unrestricted right to sue an at-fault driver for any damages they cause to you. However, if you cause an accident, the other driver can sue you without restriction. You no longer enjoy certain legal protections that would be provided to you if you had a no-fault policy.
By law, each driver in Kentucky must carry the following minimum insurance coverage:
If you can afford to do so, you may purchase more than the state minimum coverage for PIP, injury liability, and property damage. You might also consider optional, supplemental policies such as:
Whether you have no-fault insurance or not, chances are you’re still going to need to file a claim against an at-fault driver to get the full compensation you deserve. (More on this in the next section). But what if both drivers are at fault?
To quickly summarize, to be considered at fault, you need to meet the legal definition of negligence:
If, for example, the other driver ran a red light, but you were traveling 10 miles per hour over the speed limit as you approached the intersection, a court would probably find both drivers negligent.
Different states handle this scenario differently, but Kentucky follows a “pure comparative negligence” standard. This means that a driver (or other responsible party) can be judged anywhere from 1% to 100% at fault, and that an injured person can only recover a percentage of their damages equal to the percentage that they were not at fault.
As noted above, no-fault rules are, in theory, meant to ensure claims get settled quickly and reduce the number of lawsuits. But it should be clear that $10,000 in coverage doesn’t go far these days, especially if you have hospital bills to pay or miss a lot of work. If your medical expenses and lost wages exceed $10,000 (or whatever amount of PIP coverage you purchased), you’ll need to make a liability claim against the other driver to recover more.
And if your injuries are serious enough to require medical treatment and lost wages, they’re almost certainly serious enough to cause pain and suffering and generally disrupt your life, at least for a little while. You deserve compensation for that too, even if those damages don’t show up on a bank statement or medical bill. But PIP insurance won’t cover non-economic damages at all, regardless of how much PIP coverage you buy.
As a result, getting fair compensation after a Kentucky car accident that wasn’t your fault almost always requires filing a claim against the at-fault driver’s insurance anyway, except in the most minor accidents.
If you didn’t reject your Kentucky no-fault coverage, you theoretically have some restrictions on whether or not you can file a liability claim. However, these thresholds are very easy to meet. Under Kentucky law, you can file a claim against the other driver if any of the following are true:
Really, though, the first threshold alone means that almost any accident that results in almost any painful symptoms will qualify, considering that the average cost of a single ER visit in Kentucky is more than $1,000.
While the choice is up to you, in our opinion, the answer is no.
Personal injury protection offers some critical benefits to crash victims. Having PIP coverage means you get immediate access to benefits for medical bills and lost wages, without having to prove anything about who caused the crash.
Furthermore, since Kentucky’s threshold for liability claims is so easy to meet, in practical terms there’s almost no downside to opting into the no-fault system. You will still retain your right to sue in all but the most minor of car accidents, and you will be protected against liability if you cause a minor accident.
In our opinion, drivers should accept their no-fault coverage, and consider purchasing as much additional coverage as they can reasonably afford. You never know when you might be the victim of a serious accident, and extra coverage can mean more cash up front and a fairer final outcome.
Navigating Kentucky’s complex and confusing choice no-fault insurance statutes can be tricky. Most people who are injured will need to file claims with multiple insurers, under multiple different policies—your own PIP insurance, the other driver’s bodily injury liability coverage, and often your own UM/UIM or MedPay policy if you have those as well.
An experienced attorney can:
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At Karl Truman Law Office, our experienced attorneys have been fighting for Kentucky crash victims for more than 30 years. We understand how difficult and frustrating the process can be for innocent injury victims. And we promise to treat you with care and respect, work hard to protect your rights, and fight for the best possible financial outcome.
To request your free consultation with car accident attorney today, contact our team online or call us at (502) 222-2222. We can handle cases anywhere in Kentucky or Indiana from our offices in Louisville and Jeffersonville.
The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.