Kentucky Court Reverses Summary Judgment When Basic Reparations Benefits Were Not Timely Paid

by Mandy Hicks

Kentucky is a “no fault” insurance state. While this does not mean that a person hurt by another person’s negligence can never seek compensation following a motor vehicle accident, it does provide that certain minimum benefits must be available to those who purchase automobile insurance, without regard to fault.

The idea is that injured individuals who suffer only minor injuries will have their medical expenses paid through their own personal injury protection (PIP) or basic reparations benefits (BRB), thus discouraging lawsuits.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unpublished opinion from the Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals, the plaintiff was a woman who was injured in a car accident while riding as a passenger in another person’s vehicle in April 2014. On July 8, 2014, the plaintiff made a request that the defendant insurance company, from which the plaintiff had purchased a policy of motor vehicle insurance, pay the statutory minimum ($10,000) in basic reparation benefits (BRB) directly to her. In support of her claim, the plaintiff submitted a hospital bill of over $38,000. The defendant did not acknowledge the plaintiff’s request until September 29, 2014, and did not make any payment on the claim until February 5, 2015, after the plaintiff had filed suit in the Henry Circuit Court against the defendant for a violation of the Kentucky Motor Vehicle Reparations Act. The trial court granted summary judgment to the defendant.

Resolution of the Issues

The Commonwealth of Kentucky Court of Appeals reversed and remanded with directions, noting that almost 10 months had passed between the time that the defendant was placed on notice of the plaintiff’s basic reparations benefits claim and the time that it finally issued a check to her. The court pointed out that the defendant did not raise an issue as to the fact that the plaintiff had produced an unpaid hospital bill as evidence of her claim until it had been sued for nonpayment of the plaintiff’s claim. While acknowledging the defendant’s argument that basic reparations benefits are available only as reimbursement for actual economic losses suffered by a claimant, the court found that summary judgment on the issue was only proper when there were no material issues of fact and the person seeking benefits was entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

According to the court, “the Act sets forth strict time frames in which a reparation obligor must pay BRB or must deny payment of BRB.” When basic reparations payments are overdue, the Act provides a remedy in the form of interest or attorney fees. On remand, the circuit court was directed to initially determine whether the plaintiff’s claim for basic reparations benefits was valid and, if so, whether the defendant possessed a reasonable foundation to justify its overdue payment.

Schedule a Consultation with a Kentucky Attorney

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a motor vehicle accident, you should talk to a lawyer about your legal rights. You may have claims against the negligent driver who caused the crash and against your own insurance company. After all, you did pay your premiums, and the insurance company should live up to its end of the bargain.

To schedule an appointment with a knowledgeable Kentucky car accident attorney, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley, LLP, today at 270-781-6500. We represent clients in both Kentucky and Tennessee, with offices conveniently located in Bowling Green.

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