In Kentucky, as in every state, if you're thinking about bringing a civil case to court, it's critical that you pay close attention to the "statute of limitations." That's true for any kind of lawsuit you may be considering, and a personal injury lawsuit is no exception. For readers not fluent in "legalese," a “statute of limitations” is a law that puts a time limit (expressed in years) on your right to file a lawsuit against some other person or entity.
Now, let's look at what personal injury claimants in Kentucky need to know about the statute of limitations.
Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.140(1)(a) sets the statute of limitations that will apply to almost all kinds of personal injury claims brought in the state's court system, whether the dispute is over a car accident, slip and fall, dog bite, or any other kind of mishap or intentional act. That statute gives you one year to get the lawsuit filed against the person who caused your injury, and the “clock” starts running on the date of the underlying incident.
If you don't get your personal injury lawsuit filed before the one-year window closes, the person you are trying to sue will almost certainly ask the court to dismiss your case, and unless some exception applies to extend the deadline (more on these below) the court will grant the request. If that happens, you’re left with no way to hold the other party responsible for your losses. Learn more about Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit.
Even if you're close to settling the matter through insurance and you're convinced that you’re not going to file a personal injury lawsuit, the statute of limitations deadline should always be in the back of your mind. One year can pass pretty quickly, and the insurance claim process can drag out. Unless you have the option of taking your case to court, you lose your negotiating leverage during injury settlement talks. (Learn more about The Role of Insurance in Settling an Injury Claim.)
“Tolling” the Statute of Limitations “Clock” in Kentucky
In a few rare situations, the running of Kentucky's one-year statute of limitations “clock” can be paused or “tolled,” meaning the filing deadline is extended for a certain amount of time. First, and in the context of a personal injury lawsuit, Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.170 says that if at the time of the underlying incident, the person who suffered the injury was “an infant or of unsound mind,” meaning the person was under 18 years of age or had been declared legally incapacitated, then the action may be brought within one year after the removal of the disability (meaning the person turns 18 or is no longer incapacitated) or the death of the person, whichever happens first.
Also, under Kentucky Revised Statutes section 413.190, if the defendant is absent from the state of Kentucky at any point during the one-year period set by the statute, or if the defendant takes actions to conceal him or herself within the state, that will suspend the running of the statute of limitations “clock.”
If you have specific questions about the application of the statute of limitations to your potential case, it's time to discuss your case with an experienced Kentucky personal injury attorney to get the right answers and make sure your legal options are preserved.