Injury victims may be contacted shortly after an accident by insurance companies representing the negligent party. You should avoid speaking to anyone from an insurance company until you have gotten a lawyer. Insurance company representatives may attempt to get recorded statements from you that could later be twisted to argue that you were actually the one at fault.
Insurance companies may also offer quick settlements to try to make a claim go away quickly and cheaply. These are almost always lowball offers that are nowhere near what victims are actually entitled to. An attorney can work to accurately estimate the real value of the case and help you seek all of the compensation the law says you deserve. Your lawyer can then begin negotiating with an insurance company for a fair and full settlement. If the insurer refuses to provide adequate compensation, the attorney can file a lawsuit on your behalf.
Compensation in a Personal Injury Case
Many personal injury cases are resolved through settlements that are intended to cover all of a victim’s past, present, and future expenses relating to any injuries they have suffered in an accident including: traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, back injuries, neck injuries, and broken bones. Most insurance companies prefer to settle cases rather than take them to trial.
If a case does go to trial, however, a court may award compensatory damages. Compensatory damages are typically some combination of economic damages and noneconomic damages.
Economic damages refer to readily calculable losses the victim has suffered or will suffer. Common kinds of economic damages include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost income
- Property damage
- Costs of repairs or replacements
- Support services
Noneconomic damages are much more subjective and cannot be readily quantified. Examples of noneconomic damages include:
- Pain and suffering
- Emotional distress
- Loss of consortium
In a limited number of cases, a jury may also award punitive damages. Under Kentucky Revised Statute § 411.184(2), a victim can recover punitive damages only when they prove “by clear and convincing evidence” that a defendant acted toward the plaintiff with “oppression, fraud, or malice.”
Kentucky Revised Statute § 411.184(1) defines those three terms as follows:
- Oppression — Behavior meant to subject the injured party to “cruel and unjust hardship.”
- Fraud — A “misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment” of evidence with the intent to inflict injury.
- Malice — The actions by which the defendant intends to inflict “tangible or intangible injury” to the plaintiff, or, actions taken by the defendant demonstrating “flagrant indifference” to the plaintiff’s rights along with a “subjective awareness” that such activity will cause “death or bodily harm.”
Punitive damages are typically awarded in cases in which courts wish to specifically punish defendants for particularly egregious conduct. In such cases, the hope is that punitive damages discourage others from engaging in similar conduct.
Moreover, if you are filing a claim against a state governmental agency in Kentucky, compensatory damages may be capped at $200,000. Damages in actions involving multiple claimants cannot exceed $350,000. Because claims against local governmental entities may also involve other unique filing deadline requirements, it is crucial to work with an experienced attorney in such cases.
What Do You Have to Prove in a Kentucky Personal Injury Claim?
The specific claims that will need to be proven in your personal injury case often depend on the type of case you have. Because most personal injury legal actions are essentially negligence claims, the victims will usually be required to prove the four following elements:
- Duty of Care — The defendant had a duty to conduct themselves in a safe and reasonable manner.
- Breach of Duty — The defendant breached that duty by taking a certain action or failing to take a certain action.
- Causation — The defendant’s breach of duty resulted in the victim suffering injuries.
- Damages — The injuries suffered caused the victim to suffer damages.
It is important to keep in mind that Kentucky is one of only a dozen states in the nation that uses a pure comparative fault system for negligence claims. Under this system, a plaintiff can recover damages from a defendant even if the plaintiff were primarily at fault for an accident.
Under Kentucky Revised Statute § 411.182, a court first considers the amount of damages that a claimant could be awarded if fault were disregarded and, second, the percentage of fault allocated to each party involved. A victim’s award in a personal injury lawsuit will be reduced by their percentage of fault. For example, a person who is awarded $100,000 but found to be 25 percent at fault would have their award reduced by $25,000 and ultimately receive $75,000.
How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Personal Injury Lawyer?
Victims who have suffered serious injuries in accidents caused by the negligence of other parties are often dealing with a number of pressing financial concerns. They may believe they do not have the money available to think about hiring a lawyer. Financial concerns should not prevent a person from contacting the Paul Baker Law Office, however, because our firm represents clients on a contingency fee basis. This means that you do not pay us anything until you receive a monetary award.
The Paul Baker Law Office can cover all of the costs related to your legal action, whether they are filing fees or other expenses, and ultimately collect a percentage of your total award. If you do not recover anything, you pay nothing. You never pay us a legal fee directly from your pocket.
Our firm is committed to helping you recover as much compensation as possible for your personal injury claim. Our goals are the same as yours, unlike the insurance companies that want to pay out as little as they can get away with. We understand the many ways injuries affect the daily lives of victims. We strive to do all we can to help our clients recover from their injuries and live productive and fulfilling lives.
How Long Do You Have to File a Personal Injury Lawsuit in Kentucky?
Kentucky Revised Statute § 413.140(1)(a) establishes that a legal action for personal injury to the plaintiff must be started within one year after the accident. Certain exceptions may allow for the limitations period to be “tolled” (extended), but this generally means that a victim has only a single year to file a personal injury claim in Kentucky.
Considering the work that often goes into developing a personal injury case, a victim cannot afford to delay in contacting an attorney. Most accidents will require extensive investigations in order to secure important evidence.
The time limit is especially important for victims to keep in mind when they are attempting to negotiate settlements on their own without lawyers. Insurance companies are well aware of the statute of limitations and may delay investigations of claims and engage in a number of other tactics to deliberately postpone resolutions so that victims lose valuable time. For this reason, you should not hesitate to contact a personal injury lawyer when you have been injured in any kind of accident.
By getting an attorney as quickly as possible, you give a lawyer adequate time to investigate your accident and develop the strongest possible case. If an insurer will not settle the case within a year, you may have to file a lawsuit.
Do not risk losing potential compensation because your case cannot be filed in time. The same one-year statute of limitations also applies to wrongful death claims and product liability actions. Every day counts and evidence quickly disappears. Therefore, time is of the essence when it comes to hiring an attorney.
Filing for Disability Benefits after a Serious Accident
In some cases, victims may be entitled to Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. Such benefits are typically available only to people whose disabilities prevent them from being able to work for at least 12 months.
The most straightforward way to qualify for SSDI benefits is to be diagnosed with a disability listed in the Social Security Administration (SSA) “Blue Book.” In many cases, people struggle to prove that the disabilities caused by their injuries will keep them out of work.
The Paul Baker Law Office has over two decades of experience in assisting clients in Kentucky with SSDI claims. Our firm understands the types of evidence required to successfully prove SSDI claims. We can work with your medical care provider to obtain the necessary records to demonstrate your disability and help you obtain the SSDI benefits you deserve.