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Articles Posted in Case Law Summaries

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Under Kentucky law, a person who is injured on the job is entitled to benefits such as temporary and permanent disability payments and medical expenses. Usually, these benefits are less than what the worker would have received in a negligence case against someone other than his or her employer.

Thus, an employee who is hurt at work may wish to file a personal injury lawsuit against a third party whose negligence contributed to an injury at work. Of course, the third party has an incentive to assign as much fault as possible to the employer, even though the employer is immune from liability in the negligence case.

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By Kyle Roby, Attorney and Partner
English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP

close-up-of-road-300x200Would you consider an ATV – an all-terrain vehicle – a motor vehicle? Kentucky law and some insurance companies do not – and that’s what the case we recently won for a client concluded, to the client’s benefit.

The client, Thomas Robertson, was driving an ATV on a public roadway in Metcalfe County. Stacy Morgan was driving a vehicle on the same road, and as she attempted to pass Robertson, he turned left, and she collided with his ATV.

Both were injured in the accident. Robertson did not have insurance, but Morgan did. Robertson, driving the ATV, sought Basic Reparations Benefits (BRBs) from the insurance company that insured Morgan’s vehicle. Under the terms of Morgan’s insurance, Robertson was considered to be a pedestrian, and pedestrians are entitled to basic reparations benefits.

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Attorneys who routinely handle personal injury cases often tell clients that it can take anywhere from a few months to several years for their case to make its way through the courts or settle.

Typically, however, the litigation process does not take anywhere near as long as it did in a case decided in March by the Kentucky’s highest court. In that case, a decade passed between the plaintiff’s initial injury and the court’s decision.

One factor that extended the case’s time in the courts was a change in the applicable law while the case was pending. Unfortunately for the plaintiffs, the court’s decision required their case to, once again, be remanded to the trial court for further proceedings.

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Because of the disproportionate size and weight between commercial trucks and passenger vehicles, people in the smaller vehicles tend to suffer more serious injuries in a tractor-trailer accident.

However, as a recent case illustrates, truckers also can be injured – especially when both of the involved vehicles are 18-wheelers.

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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.

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Most personal injury lawsuits settle out of court, but some do proceed to trial. Most often, this happens because the parties disagree as to who was at fault, the amount of damages to which the plaintiff is entitled, or both.

When one party is displeased with the jury’s decision, he or she has the right to appeal the trial court’s entry of judgment on the verdict to a higher court. However, much deference is afforded to the jury’s verdict, and the burden is on the appealing party to convince the appellate court that a legally reversible error was made in the lower court.

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If you don’t have uninsured or underinsured motorist coverage, you should talk to your insurance agent about purchasing this very important coverage as soon as you can. Such coverage can mean the difference between a fair recovery and financial ruin in the event of a serious accident with a driver who has no insurance or who has only the minimum policy limits.

However, should you ever need to actually use your uninsured or underinsured coverage, do not expect your insurance company to be on “your side” of the case.

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As one might expect, a large number of motor vehicle and motorcycle accident cases focus on the issues of who was at fault and how much money it will take to fully compensate the injured person (or deceased person’s family) for the damages suffered in the collision.

Sometimes, however, the issue is not who is at fault but instead whether a particular insurance company is obligated to pay a claim arising from the accident. Such was the case in a recent declaratory judgment action that was reviewed by the Tennessee appellate court.

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Places of business owe certain duties to visitors. One of those duties is safe and secure surfaces for walking. Spills can cause hazardous conditions, and businesses owe it to their visitors to clean up spills and similar hazardous conditions as soon as possible.

When a business or property owner breaches the duty of care that it owes to a visitor, the visitor has a right to seek monetary compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the accident. This gas station fall case went to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, which sided with the injured person in the lawsuit.

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Our civil justice system is built on the premise that a jury of disinterested individuals is in the best position to determine matters such as the credibility of witnesses and the amount of money that a person injured by another person’s negligence should receive in compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and so on.

Unfortunately, no system is perfect. Even juries sometimes get it wrong. When that happens, it is the trial judge’s job to grant a new trial so that justice may prevail.

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