Kentucky Court of Appeals Dismisses Underinsured Motorist Claim as Untimely

by Mandy Hicks

The Kentucky appellate courts seem to have heard more uninsured and underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) insurance cases than usual lately. Perhaps the court has done this intentionally for the sake of judicial economy – the reason being that it is easier to decide cases with similar issues while all of the intricacies of a particular branch of law are still fresh in the court’s mind.

Another reason may be that there are simply more UM/UIM disputes these days than in past years. Kentucky does have mandatory automobile liability insurance requirement, but the minimum required is just $25,000 per person (or $50,000 per accident) for bodily injury claims. Given the rapidly increasing costs of medical care, this coverage is often not enough to fully compensate an accident victim for his or her medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.

UM/UIM coverage bridges the gap between a defendant’s liability coverage and a plaintiff’s total amount of damages, at least up to the plaintiff’s own policy limits. It is important to note that, just as in other types of personal injury cases, timeliness is very important when it comes to asserting one’s rights under a UM/UIM policy.

Facts of the Case

In a recently decided (unreported) UM/UIM case, the plaintiff was a man who was allegedly hurt in a car accident in 2007. His insurance company paid some of his medical expenses under basic reparations benefits (BRB) coverage. He filed suit against the at-fault motorist in 2010 within the statute of limitations set forth in Kentucky Revised Statutes § 304.39-230, but he did not initially name his UIM carrier in the lawsuit.

More than two years and six months after the last BRB benefits were paid, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint to include the UIM carrier as a defendant. The Jefferson Circuit Court dismissed the suit as untimely, and the plaintiff appealed.

Decision of the Kentucky Court of Appeals

The plaintiff argued that the two-year limitations period contained in the UIM policy constituted an unreasonable time restriction under which to bring his claim, but the court disagreed based on prior case law.

The court also rejected the plaintiff’s contention that his claim was timely filed pursuant to the savings provisions of Kentucky Supreme Court Rule 15.03, finding that the plaintiff’s amendment to add his UIM insurer did not relate back to the filing of the original complaint because he had not proven that the carrier had notice of his claim within the limitations period or that it knew or should have known that, but for a mistake, an action would have been brought against it.

According to the court, the plaintiff was fully aware of the UIM carrier’s existence and identity at all pertinent times. His failure to name the carrier as a party was not due to a misnomer or misidentification but instead due to a failure to recognize potential liability. Thus, the insurance company was entitled to summary judgment because the plaintiff did not file a timely claim against it.

Get Timely Legal Advice About a Kentucky Car Accident

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a motor vehicle accident, you should not hesitate to contact an attorney to learn more about asserting your legal rights in a timely fashion. The experienced UM/UIM insurance coverage attorneys at English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley are here to help. Call us at (270) 781-6500 to schedule a free consultation regarding your Kentucky or Tennessee car accident case.

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