March 19, 2021 | Car Accident
Injury lawyers have the knowledge and experience to estimate the value of your car accident case. This information can tell you when an insurance adjuster’s settlement offer is fair. It can also tell you how much you should expect to receive if you opt out of Kentucky’s no-fault insurance system and file a lawsuit against an at-fault driver.
Here is an overview of how Kentucky’s no-fault insurance systems work, along with insight into some of the factors that lawyers use to estimate the value of your case.
Kentucky’s “Choice No-Fault” Insurance System
Kentucky uses a different insurance system than most states. In other states, the at-fault driver’s insurer bears the financial responsibility for any injuries and property damage caused by their insured driver. In these states, the insurance company for the driver who caused the accident must pay damages to the people injured in the collision.
Under Kentucky’s insurance law, your insurer bears financial responsibility for your injuries and property damage due to a motor vehicle accident, regardless of who caused the accident. This system speeds up claim processing because insurers do not need to assign fault before they decide whether to pay a claim or not.
To make this system work, Kentucky caps your insurer’s liability. An insurer in Kentucky only pays up to $10,000 in basic reparation benefits. Basic reparation benefits include medical expenses, work losses, and replacement services losses.
If your actual damages exceed $10,000, you must forgo the amount over the basic reparation benefits or opt out of the no-fault system so that you can file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver.
Nine Factors That Determine the Value of Your Car Accident Settlement in Kentucky
The value of your claim and how much you can expect to receive in a settlement will depend on many factors, including whether you opt out of the no-fault system or not.
Factor #1: Your Medical Bills
Your car accident injuries and medical bills will make up a large portion of your settlement. Your damages will include all of your medical treatment costs, mental and physical therapy, and medications. Generally, larger medical bills mean a larger insurance settlement.
But Kentucky law only requires insurers to pay reasonable medical bills. If an insurer can prove that you did not need treatment, the insurer can refuse to include those bills in your settlement.
Similarly, an insurance company can exclude bills for injuries that you did not suffer in the car accident, especially those based on pre-existing conditions.
Factor #2: The Amount of Work That You Missed
Lost income makes up another large part of your economic damages. You will document the amount of income that you lost due to your injuries using your employment records and pay stubs.
You will also need documentation to prove that your injuries caused you to miss work. A letter from your doctor will usually suffice.
Factor #3: Your Prognosis
Your settlement includes both your current and future economic losses. This means that your claim must document your future medical expenses and your future lost income. To prove what is likely to happen in the future, you will need an opinion letter from your doctor explaining your prognosis.
If your injuries leave you with chronic injuries or permanent disabilities, you will most likely have medical expenses and income losses for the rest of your life. These damages could be enormous if your injuries force you to change careers or give up working altogether.
Factor #4: Your Documented Losses in Excess of $10,000
The cap on basic reparations from your insurer is $10,000. If your medical bills and lost income exceed $10,000, you will hit the cap. Your insurer has no obligation to pay any amount over the cap. To obtain more than $10,000, you must opt out of the no-fault system.
Factor #5: Opting Out of the No-Fault System
The only path to receiving more than $10,000 in compensation is to opt out of the no-fault system. If you do that, you can file a claim against the insurer for the at-fault driver.
Factor #6: The Policy Limits of the At-Fault Driver’s Insurance
Bear in mind that the at-fault driver’s insurance policy will determine the scope of the insurer’s liability. Kentucky requires drivers to carry bodily injury liability insurance of at least $25,000 per claim and $50,000 per accident.
This means that the insurer for someone who purchases the minimum amount of insurance will pay up to $25,000 in damages to you. If the at-fault driver injured multiple people, all of the people that were injured will fight for $50,000, with no single person able to receive more than $25,000.
Factor #7: You Suffered a Permanent Injury or Broken Bone
Kentucky limits the circumstances in which you can file a lawsuit for your pain, suffering, mental anguish, and inconvenience. You must incur $1,000 in medical expenses or suffer a permanent injury or broken bone to include non-economic losses in your damages.
The permanent injuries that qualify under Kentucky’s law include:
- Permanent disfigurement
- Broken bones
- Loss of a body part or organ
- Permanent injury
- Permanent loss of a body function
Any one of these injuries will entitle you to claim non-economic damages. These damages can vastly increase the value of your settlement because they cover the diminishment in your quality of life due to your injuries.
Factor #8: Your Contributory Fault for the Accident
Kentucky uses a pure comparative fault system that may reduce your damages in an accident claim based on your share of fault. Under this doctrine, a court or insurance adjuster can reduce your damages in proportion to your fault. Thus, if your share of the fault is 20%, you would only receive 80% of your damages.
Factor #9: The Negotiating Skills of Your Attorney
Insurance adjusters work for insurance companies. Getting them to make fair settlement offers takes some work. Unfortunately, adjusters are not always consistent. If a different adjuster is assigned to your case, you might receive a vastly different settlement than someone who had the same injuries.
Maximizing your settlement requires knowledge of the insurance claim process and negotiating skills. If you do not have those skills, you should consider hiring a lawyer to negotiate on your behalf.
Obtaining a Fair Settlement Offer
Examining each of these factors will help you and your lawyer to set a range of expectations for an insurance settlement. Understanding this range can help you to evaluate whether an adjuster has made a fair offer. It can also help you to know when you should consider ending the negotiations and filing a lawsuit.