What is disputed liability and what impact does it have in the state of Kentucky?
By: ELPO Law Attorney J.A. Sowell (jasowell@ELPOLaw.com; 270-781-6500)
Disputed liability is a term used by insurance companies when negotiating bodily injury claims made against their insured after there is an injury resulting from a car wreck. Insurance companies want to limit the amounts of money that they must pay out to injured parties. One way to accomplish this goal is by disputing that their insured is at fault in what occurred.
When an injured party first makes a claim against an insurance company, the insurance company will perform an investigation into the facts to determine who was at fault and whether their insured was responsible for causing any injuries. They will use police reports, witness statements and video footage to examine the speed of the drivers, whether anyone ran a stoplight or stop sign, or whether anyone was distracted by a cell phone. If the injured party did any of these things, the insurance company will use that to dispute liability and usually deny the claim. Many people who are not represented by legal counsel do not realize that a disputed liability claim does not mean that they cannot recover compensation for their injuries from the insurance company at all. Even if the injured party is partially at fault for the collision that resulted in their injuries, he or she may still be eligible for compensation in the state of Kentucky.
In Kentucky, we are a pure comparative fault state. Pursuant to Kentucky Revised Statute 411.182, when a judge or jury determine fault in negligence cases, they must determine the proportion of fault attributable to each party in causing the incident. Then, a percentage of fault is allocated representing the amount of each party’s liability. For example, a jury could find that the injured party suffered $50,000 in damages, with the defendant being 75% at fault in causing those injures and the injured party being 25% at fault. In this case, the injured party would receive $37,500, which is $50,000 minus the 25% or $12,500 for comparative fault. Not all states follow this same rule. Some states prevent an injured party from recovering anything if he or she is determined to be 50% or more at fault. Using comparative fault creates fairness and takes into account the responsibility of all those involved in a motor vehicle collision or slip and fall incident. It allows injured parties to recover for their injuries even if they were negligent as well.
I recently represented a woman who was severely injured in a motor vehicle collision for which the insurance company disputed full liability. She was late getting back to work before her lunch break ended and attempted to make a left-handed turn when the stop light was yellow. Traffic was backed up waiting to go straight through the light, so my client got into the left-hand turning lane and accelerated towards the yellow light at a high rate of speed. As she approached the light, a large truck pulled out from a gas station on her right and attempted to turn left. My client never saw the truck due to the long line of cars blocking her line of sight. The vehicles violently collided, and my client’s ankle was fractured. The insurance company claimed that my client was partially at fault for the collision because she driving too fast when trying to make the yellow light. We found out during our investigation that there were several witnesses who saw her speeding. Despite these adverse facts, we were able gather enough evidence to prove partial liability of the other driver of the large truck and recovered $230,000 for my client from the insurance company.
Disputed liability does not mean no liability in Kentucky. Kentucky law allows you to recover for your injuries using the percentage of the other’s person fault. If you have been injured in a motor vehicle collision, it is important that you hire legal counsel to represent you in early in the process of your insurance claim. An experienced personal injury attorney can gather the necessary evidence to demonstrate the other party’s liability and build a strong case. Do not let a disputed liability claim discourage you from pursuing damages for your injuries.