This year, you went to the Kentucky Derby, which you never do. But your sister's in town and already bought a gigantic "lucky" straw hat shaped like a horse, and it's a venerable American sporting tradition and you always wanted to have a mint julep out of one of those silver cups. The Derby itself, of course, was fun. The traffic around Churchill Downs wasn't. Event organizers closed streets and turned others into one way roads. As you navigate your sister (who hates bourbon and didn't have anything to drink) though a confusing maze of barricades and detours clogged full of tired and confused motorists, you worried about a potential accident. And then it happened.
This article provides an overview of what to do after a car accident in Louisville. You can also read Car Accident Basics to get started.
Stop and Check the Damage
Immediately after an accident, stop, get out of your vehicle, and check the damage. Call for medical help right away if someone is injured, either by calling for an ambulance in non-urgent cases, or by calling 911 if someone is severely injured. You may be able to perform some basic first aid, although if in doubt it's always best to wait for trained medical professionals.
If the cars involved in the accident and their occupants can be safely moved out of the flow of traffic, it's best to do so as soon as possible. Next, get the names and contact information of any potential witnesses to the accident, including other passengers. Write down the following information about the other vehicles and their drivers:
- Name, address, and license number from the operator's license
- Vehicle registration number
- Make, model, and year of vehicle
- License plate number
- Insurance company name and number
- List of damage to vehicle
You may also want to write down details from the accident, including the conditions that may have led to it, while they are still fresh in your mind.
Call the Police
If you think the damage to either vehicle will exceed $500, suspect the other driver was speeding or intoxicated, does not carry auto insurance, or is guilty of some other wrongdoing, call the police as soon as possible. If you do not call the police, but there was $500 worth of damage done to your vehicle you must fill out an accident report (MS Word) and mail it to the Kentucky State Police using the address listed at the top of the form within 10 days of the accident.
If you collided with a parked car and cannot locate the driver, write your name, address, phone number, and vehicle registration number on a piece of paper and leave it with the damaged car.
It may be tempting to drive away from an accident as quickly as possible without leaving your contact information. However, in Kentucky this is a crime known as a "hit and run," which can have varying degrees of severity. Leaving an unattended car without leaving your name and contact information is a violation (similar to a traffic ticket). Leaving the scene of an accident with property damage but no serious injuries is a misdemeanor, and leaving the scene of an accident in which there are serious injuries is a felony. Either of these crimes carries a maximum penalty of a $2000 fine or one year in prison.
Contact your Insurance Company
Every driver is required to carry auto insurance in Kentucky. The policy minimums are as follows:
- $25,000 per person personal injury protection for third parties (yourself, passengers, other motorists, pedestrians, etc.)
- $50,000 personal injury protection for third parties (other motorists and pedestrians)
- $10,000 per occurrence property damage protection
You will need to file a claim with your insurance company within a certain deadline in order to take advantage of your benefits. If the police investigated your accident, you may need to submit a police report for your claim, so be sure to collect it from the police department.
Kentucky is a "no-fault" insurance state. This means that in a car accident where the one party's medical bills are less than $1000 and there were no severe injuries such as death, permanent disfigurement, or broken bones, that party may not sue the other drivers that were involved in the accident regardless of fault. If a party's medical damages exceeds this threshold, she may sue the other drivers, in which case the other drivers' insurance policies typically cover the damages and any legal expenses. Unfortunately, not every driver carries insurance, and uninsured drivers will not be able to pay any large medical damages. Prudent Kentucky drivers buy uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage, which will cover large medical expenses when the other party in the accident does not have insurance.
Consider a Lawsuit
If you have large medical bills, you may wish to consider suing the other driver. An experienced local car accident attorney is essential when starting a lawsuit, since she will be able to evaluate your situation and determine the best course of action. You can find a local attorney who specializes in car accidents using the search tool below.
One of the key steps in a suit over a car accident is determining which party is at fault. This can be a fairly complicated procedure which depends on traffic rules, road conditions, and the behavior of each of the drivers involved in the accident. A jury could determine that all drivers share some part of the blame. In these cases, the jury will assign a percentage of the blame to each party and divide up the damages according to the percentage of blame. Kentucky is known as a "pure comparative fault" state, which means that a party can go to court and still recover some damages even if he was 99% to blame for the accident. For example, if a jury determined that the person who brought suit was 99% to blame of an accident, and there were $1000 worth of damages from the suit, the person who brought suit would get $10 or 1% of the damages.
Get Legal Help After Your Car Accident in Louisville
We hope that these resources are useful when figuring out what to do after a car accident in Louisville, but this is likely not enough to handle every issue that arises. That's why it's a good idea to speak with a local car accident lawyer who can help you pursue a claim for your injuries and sort out the tangle of insurance companies and court filings that may be necessary to get the job done.