When Does a Car Accident Become a Personal Injury Claim?

After a serious car accident, injuries and property damage can be substantial, leaving victims dealing with mounting medical and hospital bills at a time they may be unable to work. When the accident is caused by the negligence or fault of another party, you should be entitled to receive compensation through an insurance settlement or a personal injury lawsuit. But how do you know when a car accident becomes a personal injury claim?

The answer is complicated. When it comes to insurance payments, Kentucky is a “no-fault state,” which means each driver has to file a claim with their own insurance company first to get compensation for medical bills and other financial losses caused by the accident. No-fault protects people from being sued for causing an accident that doesn’t meet certain thresholds. However, if the damages caused by the car accident meet that threshold or go beyond the terms of the insurance policy, or the insurance company does not offer a fair settlement, it may be necessary to file a personal injury lawsuit.

In addition, insurance companies and their attorneys will often try to put the blame on you so they can deny claims or pay out less than you deserve. To prevent problems, it can help to get the assistance of an experienced car accident attorney to represent you, evaluate your individual situation to see if a personal injury case is warranted, and handle all legal hurdles involved with getting the settlement you deserve.

What Is Kentucky Insurance Law?

Kentucky state law says all motor vehicles, except motorcycles, must carry personal injury protection (PIP) coverage for personal injury. This provides up to $10,000 per person for lost wages, medical expenses, and other costs incurred due to injury. Residents can decide to pay for higher premiums to receive increased compensation.

Regardless of who was at fault, PIP is paid for by the insurer of the vehicle in which the injured occupant is riding at the time the accident occurs, and there are limitations regarding the ability to sue. Injured parties are allowed to bring a lawsuit against the other driver if:

  • Medical expenses are over $1,000
  • The accident causes permanent disfigurement, fracture of a weight-bearing bone (broken bone); compound, compressed, or displaced fracture of any bone; any permanent injury; or any permanent loss of a body function.

Be aware that the no-fault system only applies to injury claims – you can still file a vehicle damage claim against the at-fault driver after a car accident.

Kentucky allows drivers the option of rejecting PIP coverage. If you decline PIP coverage you must still have insurance coverage with the following minimums:

  • Bodily injury liability coverage of $25,000 per person/$50,000 per accident, and
  • Property damage liability coverage of $10,000 per accident, or
  • $60,000 combined liability coverage, and
  • Uninsured motorist coverage equal to the minimum bodily injury limits.

If your damages go beyond the limit of insurance, you may be able to sue the at-fault driver for the additional amount.

When Should You File a Personal Injury Claim?

After a serious car accident, every accident victim’s standard for determining whether or not to file a claim is relative and depends on the severity of their losses and what they are willing to deal with in order to recover compensation. The more money an injured victim needs after a wreck, the greater the odds that the negligent defendant’s insurer will resist paying the victim’s total legitimate claim.

In a successful personal injury claim, you may be able to recover many types of damages. These may include:

  • Lost wages for income not earned due to the injury
  • Lost future earning potential
  • Medical and rehabilitation expenses
  • Property damaged in the accident
  • Reimbursement for losses that cannot be easily measured, such as pain and suffering, emotional distress, or mental impairment.

Most personal injury law firms work on a contingency fee basis and never charge for a consultation. This initial (free) “case evaluation” is not only your chance to decide whether you should hire that attorney, but it allows the attorney the opportunity to decide how best to handle your car accident case and whether or not you should file a claim.

When you retain an attorney, they will investigate your case, gather evidence such as police reports, statements from witnesses, photos and videos of the accident scene, and hire expert witnesses to testify as to fault and the extent of your injuries and the costs into the future. Your lawyer will try to negotiate an acceptable settlement.  Only one in 10 claims ends up going to trial, but you and your attorney should be fully prepared to take your case to court if necessary.

Other indicators you need an attorney to manage your claim may include situations where:

  • The negligent driver’s insurance company is bugging you with calls and letters.
  • That same insurer offers a settlement that appears adequate within a day or two of the accident, but, in reality, it’s far from what you will end up needing.
  • The defendant’s insurer wants you to make a statement they will record (though they may not tell you it’s being recorded). If that happens, start looking for a lawyer IMMEDIATELY!
  • The injuries sustained by you and/or your passengers are serious and expensive.
  • Someone in your vehicle suffered a wrongful death from the accident.
  • You detect any other behavior that tells you the defendant’s insurer is worried. Urgent attention from the insurer and how fast they offer a settlement are your two biggest clues that you need to get a lawyer.

Get Help After a Car Accident

If you or a family member has been in a car wreck, there is help available from the experienced Kentucky car accident attorneys at the Johnson Law Firm.  Attorney Billy Johnson can help guide you, determine responsibility and the extent of damages, draft your claim, and handle all legal requirements, court filings, investigations, and negotiations involved with recovering the financial compensation you deserve.

Do not delay; Kentucky has a statute of limitations, a deadline to file auto accident claims (KRS § 304.39-230) that generally allows no more than two years from the date of the collision to file a lawsuit, or the courts are likely to dismiss your case.

The Johnson Law Firm offers prospective clients an initial case evaluation for free, so call us today to get started.

GET HELP NOW 606-437-4488

Attorney Billy Johnson

William “Billy” Johnson grew up in the Dorton area of Pike County, Kentucky, and early on decided to stay in the beautiful Appalachian mountains. Like many others in Eastern Kentucky, Billy’s dad worked as a coal miner, a hard job but one that taught his son how to meet challenges head on and persevere. Attorney Billy Johnson has years of experience helping injured clients with claims such as car, truck, and motorcycle accidents, wrongful deaths, work injuries, and more. [ Attorney Bio ]

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