What Is the Personal Injury Statute of Limitations in Kentucky?

Learn about Kentucky's statutes of limitations for personal injury lawsuits, and find out why it's so important to comply with the lawsuit filing deadlines set by these laws.

By , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law
Updated by Dan Ray, Attorney · University of Missouri–Kansas City School of Law

A "statute of limitations" is a law that puts a deadline on your time to file a lawsuit in court. It has one job—to kill legal claims—and it does that job very well. Statutes of limitations are also among the most complex and difficult to apply of all laws. Many lawyers who don't regularly file cases in court won't give advice about statutes of limitations because the risk of error is simply too high. Kentucky has several statutes of limitations that apply to personal injury (PI) lawsuits.

We start with a discussion of Kentucky's two main PI filing deadlines. First is the state's one-year general rule, the deadline that applies in most personal injury cases. Then we'll look at a different rule that covers car accident lawsuits against careless drivers. We also review some situations when Kentucky law allows the filing deadline to be extended. Finally, we close with a discussion what happens to your case if the statute of limitations expires before you sue in court.

Kentucky's Personal Injury General Rule: One Year to File in Court

As a general rule, Kentucky law allows you one year, usually from the date you're injured, to file a personal injury lawsuit in court. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 413.140(1) (2024).) Unless the victim's injuries cause death, this is the filing deadline for lawsuits that involve:

When injuries result in death, the victim's estate might decide to file a wrongful death case. Learn more about Kentucky wrongful death lawsuits, including the deadline to file in court.

Two-Year Deadline to Sue a Careless Driver in Kentucky

Kentucky has adopted a "choice" no-fault auto insurance system. When you're injured in a Kentucky car accident, you first look to your own "personal injury protection" (PIP) insurance to pay your out-of-pocket losses. PIP covers at least some of your medical bills, lost wages, and amounts you spend for replacement household services.

PIP doesn't take care of all your car accident damages, though. Specifically, it doesn't pay you for injuries like pain and suffering, emotional distress, or loss of enjoyment of life. If you want compensation for those injuries, you have to bring an insurance claim or a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent (careless) driver who caused your injuries. But you're not allowed to do that unless:

Stated more directly, you can file an insurance claim or a lawsuit against a negligent Kentucky driver only when your injuries are serious or you've chosen not to be covered by the state's no-fault auto insurance system.

If you're allowed to sue, Ky. Rev. Stat. § 304.39-230(6) (2024) says the filing deadline is two years from the later of:

  • the date of the accident-related injury or death, or
  • the last date your PIP insurer paid you benefits.

Can Kentucky's Personal Injury Statute of Limitations Be Extended?

In some circumstances, yes. As we review these examples, keep in mind that they're exceptions to Kentucky's statutes of limitations. It's up to you to convince the court that a filing deadline should be extended. In most cases, expect the defendant (the party you're suing) to put up a real fight. You'll want an attorney to fight this battle for you and make your arguments to the judge.

The Discovery Rule

Most often, the statute of limitations clock starts running on the date you're injured. This generally isn't a problem because in the vast majority of PI cases, you know right away when you've been hurt. But what happens if you don't discover your injury at the time it happens? It's possible that the deadline clock might tick away while you remain unaware of your injury. That seems unfair.

To deal with that potential unfairness, Kentucky has adopted the "discovery rule." When you don't know you've been hurt at the time your injury occurs, and you couldn't have discovered your injury even if you'd been careful to look for it, the statute of limitations doesn't start running on the date you're injured. Instead, it runs from the date you discovered your injury, or you should have discovered it had you been reasonably careful.

The discovery rule won't apply in all cases. Ask your lawyer if the facts of your case are a good fit.

Injured Person Is Legally Disabled

A legally disabled person can't manage their own legal affairs—like filing a lawsuit—without the assistance of a parent or guardian. Under Kentucky law, a legally disabled person is someone who's:

  • younger than 18 years old, or
  • been declared mentally incompetent.

When a legally disabled person in Wisconsin is injured, the applicable statute of limitations doesn't start running until:

  • their 18th birthday, or
  • they're found to be mentally competent.

(Ky. Rev. Stat. § 413.170(1) (2024).)

Defendant Absent From the State or in Hiding

When the defendant leaves Wisconsin or goes into hiding inside the state, the statute of limitations might be delayed or paused. (Ky. Rev. Stat. § 413.190 (2024).) Ask your lawyer if this exception applies in your case.

What If You Miss the Filing Deadline?

Think you might have missed the filing deadline in your PI case? Or you're worried that the deadline is about to run out? Your first call should be to an experienced Kentucky personal injury lawyer. Ask if the filing deadline has passed and if so, whether there's an extension that might give you more time.

If the limitation period has run and no extension is available, your claim is legally dead. There's no way to bring it back to life, regardless of how serious, permanent, or disabling your injuries might be. File a lawsuit and the defendant will ask the court to dismiss it. The court will grant that request, because it must. Worse still, the defendant might ask the court to sanction (penalize) you for bringing a frivolous case after the filing deadline has passed.

Things won't end any better if you're still trying to negotiate a settlement of your case without having filed in court. As soon as the filing deadline runs, you lose all your negotiating leverage. Without the threat or prospect of a lawsuit, there's no reason for the defendant or its insurance company to take you or your claim seriously. You can't force them to compensate you via a lawsuit, and they certainly won't pay you anything voluntarily.

Get Help With Your Kentucky Statute of Limitations Problem

If you take nothing else from our discussion, it should be this: The statute of limitations is no place for amateurs to venture alone. It's easy to make a costly and devastating mistake that forever ends your legal right to compensation for your injuries. With so much on the line, you need legal counsel to guide you through this minefield.

When you're ready to move forward, here's how to find a good personal injury lawyer near you. Don't delay, because time is the enemy of your case.

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