Kentucky Supreme Court says two-year statute of limitations in underinsured motorist claim is valid

by Mandy Hicks

Regardless of the merits of a party’s complaint, it will never be heard unless the courts find that it was timely filed. Failure to comply with the statute of limitations isn’t just a small “technicality.” It is a deal breaker when it comes to negligence litigation. A recent underinsured motorist claim case in Kentucky highlighted the importance of hitting deadlines.

It can also be a mistake to file suit on the eve of the running of the statute of limitations. As the plaintiff in the case set out below discovered, waiting until shortly before the expiration of the limitations period can be very costly.

Facts of the Case

In the recent case of State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company v. Riggs, the plaintiff was a city police officer who was involved in a car accident while on duty. He received workers’ compensation benefits due to his injuries. Almost two years after the accident, he filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver whose negligence he believed was responsible for the wreck.

A few months later, the officer amended his complaint to add his own insurance company as a defendant to the personal injury suit. As grounds, he stated that the negligent driver was underinsured, and that the defendant was his uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage carrier.

The insurance company sought summary judgment on the basis that the suit against it was untimely under the terms of the policy. The trial court found in the insurance company’s favor and granted it summary judgment. The court of appeals reversed.

The Kentucky Supreme Court’s Opinion

On further appeal to the Kentucky Supreme Court, the court reversed and reinstated the trial court’s decision granting summary judgment to the insurance company. The court observed that the insurance policy at issue provided that suit had to be commenced no later than two years after the injury, death, or last reparation payment. Because a separate insurance company had paid workers’ compensation benefits to the officer, the policy essentially required him to file suit within two years of the accident.

With regard to the reasonableness of this two-year statute of limitations, the court noted that it had previously held that a one-year limitations period for UM/UIM claims was unreasonable but had not opined with regard to a two-year period. Because the two-year UM/UIM statute of limitations period set forth in the insurance contract mirrored the two-year limitations for personal injury actions in general under Kentucky law, the court decided that the limitation was reasonable. According to the court, two years was enough time for an injured person to discover the extent of insurance coverage of an allegedly negligent motorist.

For Assistance With Your Kentucky Car Accident Case

As this case illustrates, it is very important to assert your legal rights – against both a negligent driver and your own uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance carrier – in a timely fashion. To speak to an experienced Kentucky car accident lawyer about your case, call English, Lucas, Priest & Owsley at (270) 781-6500 and schedule an appointment. We accept cases throughout Kentucky and Tennessee, including Bowling Green, Elizabethtown, Hopkinsville, Russellville, Scottsville, Springfield, and Clarksville.

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