Kansas Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

Auto accidents have been increasing at an alarming rate in Kansas over the last few years, bucking a nationwide trend towards greater road safety. If you have an auto accident claim in Kansas, your lawsuit or settlement negotiations will be governed by the following legal principles:

Statute of Limitations: You have two years from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit over property damage, personal injury, or both. A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within two years of the victim’s date of death.

When the Victim is Partly at Fault: When the victim is partly at fault, a Kansas court will deduct the percentage from the victim’s damages recovery that corresponds to his percentage of fault for the accident, except that he will receive no recovery at all if he was at least 50 percent at fault.

Fault/No Fault Rule: Unlike most states, Kansas is a “no-fault” auto insurance state, meaning that in most cases it is your own insurance company that must pay your claim no matter whose fault the accident was. The only exceptions are if (i) the amount of your claim exceeds the amount of your coverage or (ii) you suffer a “serious injury” as that term is defined   Kansas law.

Minimum Insurance Coverage: The minimum required auto insurance coverage is $25,000 per victim, $50,000 per accident and $10,000 for property damage.

Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers Coverage: Kansas requires drivers to purchase both uninsured and underinsured motorist coverage, each with coverage limits of at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident.

Types of Damages Available: Although compensatory damages are available, pain and suffering damages are limited to $250,000. Punitive damages, when they apply, are capped at the lesser of $5 million or the defendant’s annual gross income

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: Strict product liability, negligence and breach of warranty claims are possible; no claim will be entertained after the “useful safe life” of the vehicle has expired. Kansas courts generally apply the consumer expectation test to determine the existence of a defect; however, the risk/benefit test can be used in complex cases.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: All riders under 18 must wear helmets. There are no restrictions on adults.

Seat Belt Laws: Occupants aged 14-17 must wear seatbelts in all seats, and the maximum first-offense fine is $60. Occupants 18 and older must wear seat belts while sitting in the front seat; however, this is a secondary offense – an officer cannot cite you for breaking this law without stopping you for some other infraction such as speeding. The maximum first-offense fine for adults is $60.

Dram Shop Law: Vendors face liability to third parties if they serve alcohol to minors (under 21) or to obviously intoxicated adults, if the person they served proceeds to injure a third party due to their intoxication (by driving drunk, for example). Social hosts who serve alcohol face no such third-party liability.

DUI/DWI Laws (first offense): A first offense DUI results in at least two days in jail, a fine of between $750 and $1,000, and a 30-day driver’s license suspension.

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): Texting while driving is banned in Kansas for all drivers. Drivers on Learner’s or Intermediate licenses may not use cell phones even if they are not hand-held.