This page explains the PIP (Personal Injury Protection) benefit available to those injured by an automobile in Kentucky. For information on what happens when PIP insurers do not or will not pay PIP benefits please visit our PIP Suit Enforcement Page.
In Kentucky automobile insurance law is more complicated than in the majority of states. One thing that contributes to this is that Kentucky is known as a PIP state. This means that Kentucky has adopted a “no fault” insurance law. This means that no matter whose fault an automobile accident is, there will be some money provided by automobile insurance for injuries.
Kentucky’s PIP law is what makes Kentucky stand out from many other states. Different states have some form of PIP, but Kentucky’s PIP statutes must be understood in order to understand how to deal with accident claims in Kentucky. Kentucky’s PIP law is contained in the Motor Vehicle Reparations Act (MVRA) which can be found at KRS 304.39. Unfortunately the Kentucky MVRA is not easy to read or to understand. It takes a global understanding of the scope and purpose of the MVRA as well as a specific understanding of how it is applied. This page is meant to help explain certain points of Kentucky’s PIP law. However, it is a good idea to consult with a Kentucky Injury Attorney for more on this, read, how to select a Kentucky Injury Attorney.
The first thing to know is who has a right to PIP Insurance. KRS 304.39-030 specifies who has a right to PIP insurance (also called basic reparations benefits). This statute states that everyone who is injured from the maintenance or use of a motor vehicle has a right to PIP. There are four notable exceptions which sometimes apply, these are:
- If the auto accident was work related.
- If the person has rejected PIP.
- If the person is the owner of the vehicle and does not maintain insurance.
- If the person is on a motorcycle and has not purchased special PIP coverage.
PIP insurance is also available to Kentucky residents who have PIP coverage and are in an auto accident out of state. If a Kentucky insured driver with PIP coverage travels to Indiana or Tennessee and is involved in an accident (as a driver or a passenger) they can take advantage of PIP coverage (unless they fall into one of the above exceptions). Passengers who boarded a bus in Kentucky may also qualify even if the bus has an accident out of state.
The main distinction of PIP insurance is it is paid without regard to fault (KRS 304.39-040(1)). KRS 304.39-040 also contains the motorcycle exception. Ordinarily, PIP insurance applies unless it has been specifically rejected. However, in the case of motorcycle operators and passengers, PIP is only available if it has been purchased separately as optional coverage.
Often the question arises, whose insurance company pays PIP? In some situations there may be more than one PIP insurance company. For example: if a pedestrian (or bicyclist) is struck by a car, who’s PIP is responsible? KRS 304.39-050 sets forth the priority of applicability. This means simply, who pays. In the case of a pedestrian or bicyclist the PIP coverage comes from the vehicle that hits them. Remember this applies regardless of who was at fault for the collision. See our bicycle accident page for more information on bicycle accidents.
Acceptance or rejection of PIP coverage and its effects are addressed in KRS 304.39-060. Section 1 is a catch all provision stating basically that everyone accepts PIP. Then come the exceptions. This statute is one of the most important to know inside and out for several reasons. First it abolishes tort liability for the first $10,000.00 of damages which are payable by PIP insurance. This means you cannot recover the first $10,000.00 in medical bills and lost wages from an at fault driver unless you fall into one of the above exceptions. The first $10,000.00 in lost wages and medical bills have to be paid by your own PIP insurance company, or other applicable PIP coverage, but it is not paid by the at fault driver. This can create a problem if you are uninsured (more on that later). PIP deductibles are another problematic part of KRS 304.39-060. In section 2(a) this statute specifies that tort liability is still abolished for your PIP deductible. So even though your PIP insurance does not cover your PIP deductible, the other driver does not have to reimburse you for that.
The Kentucky PIP threshold is another odd facet of PIP law that everyone should be aware of. Medical expenses for each person in an automobile collision must exceed one thousand dollars ($1,000.00). If you are injured in an automobile collision and receive only $995.00 in treatment, you cannot make a claim for bodily injury unless the injury or disease consists in whole or in part of permanent disfigurement, a fracture to a bone, a compound, comminuted, displaced or compressed fracture, loss of a body member, permanent injury within reasonable medical probability, permanent loss of bodily function or death. But in most cases if you do not have at least one thousand dollars in medical expenses, then you do not qualify for the other portions of this statute, unless death occurs. It should be noted that a common defense strategy is to argue that not all the medical bills presented by the Plaintiff were reasonable and necessary. In that way they argue that even though the Plaintiff had $10,000.00 in medical bills, not all of them were necessary. If the Defense can get a jury to agree with them and say less than $1,000.00 in bills from the crash, then the defense can get what is called a “threshold verdict.” This dismisses the case.
Some notable exceptions to the abolition of tort liability are found in KRS 304.39-060(c). This section states that a person who is not an owner, operator, maintainer or user of a motor vehicle. This means pedestrians and bicyclists among others are not subject to the limitation of tort liability, even though PIP can benefit them. Motorcycle passengers are also not subject to the limitation on tort liability. This is especially helpful, because remember, PIP is not automatically available for drivers and passengers of motorcycles. If the special coverage is not purchased, the driver of a motorcycle cannot recover the first $10,000.00 of medical bills and lost wages. But the passenger can, even if PIP has not been purchased, because their tort liability has not been abolished.
Rejection of PIP
Any person may refuse to consent to the limitations on tort liability and decide in advance not to take PIP insurance should they be involved in a collision. This must be done in writing on a form filed with the Kentucky Department of Insurance prior to any motor vehicle accident, KRS 304-39-060(4). One confusing issue that arises for out of state drivers is whether or not the abolition of tort liability applies to them or not. The final sentence of KRS 304.39-060(4) is key in knowing what happens with the case of an out of state driver who is in an accident in Kentucky. Most out of state drivers do not have PIP coverage, as none of Kentucky’s boarder states are PIP states. However, if they have valid insurance that meets the minimum Kentucky liability limits, they are deemed to have rejected PIP coverage. This means that even though they have not signed the form to reject PIP, they will be able to recover the first $10,000.00 in medical bills and lost wages from the at fault driver.
If tort limitations are rejected then PIP is rejected. A person cannot do both. This is why it is often referred to as “rejection of PIP” when in actuality it is rejection of limitations on tort liability, but it has the effect of rejecting PIP as well.
For the owner or operator of a motorcycle KRS 304.39-060(9) is one of the most important sections. Tort liability limitations can be rejected for motorcycles only and not apply to operation of other vehicles. This is important because if special PIP coverage is not applied for on the motorcycle, then there is no PIP coverage. However, if a rejection form is not filed, then there is no way to recover for the first $10,000.00 in medical bills and lost wages from an at fault driver in a collision. So motorcycle owners and operators should always either purchase the additional PIP coverage or file a rejection form.
Lost wages are paid partially by PIP insurance. KRS 304.39-130 limits benefits to no more than $200 per week. Any additional lost wages from your car accident should be included in your claim against the person who hit you. Remember, PIP is paid by your own insurer, however, the responsibility for making you whole is the responsibility of the person at fault for the accident. You should be entitled to all the lost wages that are attributable to the accident. For this reason it is important to keep detailed records of your payment history as well as time off of work. Another thing to keep in mind is that PIP will only pay up to 85% of lost wages. This means if you work a part time job making $200 per week, PIP benefits will only pay 85% of that amount, not the full $200.00. This is because PIP benefits are non-taxable and the 15% reduction is to offset whatever taxes might be taken out of your check.
In the case of a situation where both workers compensation and PIP apply, both can work together. Workers compensation pays 65% of lost wages. The additional 20% up to 85% may be made up by PIP.
A PIP deductible is always a bad idea. PIP deductibles are allowed under KRS 304.39-140(4). This provision authorizes a deductible of $250, $500 or $1000. This deductible applies to the insured individual or to as many people from their household as are injured collectively. This means that if three people from an insured’s household, with a $1000 deductible are in a collision then each has a $333.33 deductible for a cumulative $1000. However, if one of those people has a separate policy of PIP insurance without a deductible then they can receive the amount of the deductible from their own policy.
The reason PIP deductibles are a bad idea is that you cannot recover that amount from an at fault driver. The limitation on tort liability contained in KRS 304.39-060 states that, except for a few exceptions, a person cannot recover the first $10,000 in medical bills (and a few other little things) from a person who hit them. PIP insurance is the only place those payments can come from. If a person puts a deductible on their PIP insurance then they cannot recover that deductible from anywhere.