Kentucky Motor Vehicle Accident Laws and Safety Requirements

Over 20,000 people are injured in traffic accidents each year in Kentucky, rendering Kentucky roads some of the deadliest in the nation. A Kentucky car accident lawsuit or settlement demand will be governed by the following legal principles:

Statute of Limitations: In Kentucky, you have one year from the date of an accident to file a lawsuit for personal injury. You have three years to file a property damage lawsuit (five years for damage to real estate). A wrongful death lawsuit must be filed within one year of the victim’s death.

When the Victim is Partly at Fault: Kentucky is a “pure comparative fault” state, meaning that a court will determine the victim’s percentage of fault and then deduct the same percentage from the victim’s damages award. Unlike many other states, however, a victim can recover at least some amount even if he is mostly at fault for the accident.

Fault/No Fault Rule: Generally speaking Kentucky is a “no-fault” auto insurance state; however, a driver can opt out of the no-fault system when he first purchases auto insurance. If no-fault applies, the plaintiff can escape the no-fault system if his injury causes more than $1,000 in medical expenses or if the injury counts as a “serious” injury (as that term has been defined by statute).

Minimum Insurance Coverage: The minimum insurance coverage allowed for Kentucky drivers is 25/50/10 — $25,000 per injured victim, $50,000 bodily injury per accident, and $10,000 property damage.

Uninsured/Underinsured Drivers Coverage: Kentucky does not require its drivers to carry uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage.

Types of Damages Available: Kentucky offers full compensatory damages, including both economic and non-economic damages. Punitive damages require the plaintiff to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant acted with indifference, reckless disregard, intentional malice or similar bad faith. There are no statutory caps on either compensatory or punitive damages.

Product Liability for Defective Vehicles: Strict product liability is available. There is a rebuttable presumption of no product defect if the injury occurred more than five years after sale to the victim or eight years after the product was manufactured. Negligence and breach of warranty claims are also available under Kentucky law.

Suing the Government over Defective Roadways (Sovereign Immunity): A cap of $200,000 per claim and $350,000 per accident applies to lawsuits against the state of Kentucky or one of its subdivisions, with no recovery for non-economic damages such as mental anguish.

Motorcycle Helmet Laws: All riders under 21 must wear helmets.

Seat Belt Laws: All occupants must wear seat belts. The maximum fine for a first offense is $25.

Dram Shop Law: Third parties injured by an intoxicated patron may sue the vendor who provided alcohol to the perpetrator, if the perpetrator was already visibly intoxicated at the time the alcohol was provided or if the perpetrator was underage. Social hosts who serve alcohol do not face any such liability.

DUI/DWI Penalties (first offense): Kentucky is one of the few states that imposes no mandatory jail time for a first-offense DUI. The offender can be fined from $600 to $2,100 and a 90-day driver’s license suspension applies.

Distracted Driving (texting while driving, etc.): Texting and driving is prohibited for all drivers in Kentucky. All cell phone use is prohibited for school bus drivers and drivers under 18.