Comparative Negligence in Kentucky

Kentucky is a pure comparative fault state, which means that you can collect damages as long as you are not 100% at fault.
Written by Sean Boehme
Reviewed by Kathleen Flear
Kentucky uses a pure comparative negligence model, so even if you are 99% at fault for an accident, you can still file a claim for damages. Since the amount you can claim is proportionate to your responsibility, your compensation will vary based on the accident.
Even if it’s a minor crash, dealing with the aftermath of a car accident can be a stressful process. Every state has unique rules for what you can and can’t claim from the insurance, and understanding them can be tricky.
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What is comparative negligence? 

Comparative negligence is a legal principle that allows individuals involved in an accident to file a claim for damages based on how much they contributed to causing that accident
If you are in a car crash, you may be assessed 20% of the fault for the accident. This means that your actions were not the fundamental cause of the crash, but they still contributed to it. 
In this situation, you’d be able to file a claim for 80% in damages since that amount is proportionate to your fault. If you were 80% at fault, you might be able to collect 20% in damages, depending on the state where you live. 
Comparative negligence is relevant for any type of accident, including traffic accidents. When there is a traffic accident, you can file a claim with the other party’s insurance company, but your compensation will depend on your fault.

Comparative negligence vs. contributory negligence

Kentucky follows a pure comparative negligence model, but that’s not commonplace in the United States. There are three distinct models that states generally use. 
  • Pure comparative negligence: The amount you can collect in damages is proportionate to your fault, without exception. If you’re 99% at fault, you can collect 1% in damages.
  • Modified comparative negligence: The amount you can collect in damages is proportionate to your fault, but only if you are less than 50% (or 51%) to blame. If you are the primary reason for an accident, you cannot file a claim for damages. 
  • Contributory negligence: If you are determined to be at fault for an accident to any degree, you cannot file a claim for damages.
Modified comparative negligence is by far the most commonly used model in the United States. Kentucky is one of just 12 states that uses the pure comparative fault model.

What is Kentucky’s comparative negligence law?

Since Kentucky uses the pure comparative negligence model, the rules are easy to understand. If the other person is considered at fault to any degree, you can be rewarded proportionately.
If you're in an accident and are assessed 30% of the blame, you can file a claim and collect 70% in damages. If you’re 70% at fault, you can collect 30% in damages.
Even if you are assessed a whopping 99% of the blame for an accident, you would still have the opportunity to file a claim for 1% in damages with the other party’s insurance.

What happens if there are more than two responsible parties?

If three or more parties are involved in an accident, fault will still be assessed to each party. You may be able to file a claim with one or multiple of the other party’s insurance companies to collect damages after the accident.

How is fault decided in comparative negligence cases?

Insurance companies generally determine the fault of each party involved in an accident by using police reports, claims, and additional evidence. Some of the evidence that insurance companies may consider relevant includes:
  • Witness reports
  • The time of the accident
  • Weather and road conditions 
  • A map of the area where the incident took place
  • The make and model of the vehicles involved
Most car insurance companies have an algorithm they use to assess blame. If you are involved in an accident but feel you were not at fault, be sure to provide as much evidence as you can to prove that.

How does car insurance work with comparative negligence?

Since Kentucky follows the pure comparative negligence model, you usually don’t have to worry about whether you should file a claim or not. As long as you are not 100% at fault for an accident, you are eligible for compensation.
Let’s say you are rear-ended by another vehicle. The other car was driving 20 mph above the speed limit, but you failed to turn on your blinker before changing into this lane. You may be assessed 45% of the blame, and the other party assessed 55%.
In this situation, you could file a claim with the other party’s insurance company for 55% of the cost in damages. If the total cost were $1000, you’d receive $550 and be left to handle the other $450 yourself.
The other party would receive 45% in damages from your insurance company, or $450, and need to handle the additional $550 themselves. If you lived in a state that uses the modified comparative negligence model, this party would receive no compensation.
MORE: Should I report a car accident to my insurance company?

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Yes, your insurance rates will rise if you are determined to be at fault for a traffic accident. How much it increases will depend on several factors, including your age, driving record, and how at fault you are determined to be. 
On average, you can expect your premium to rise a little over 30% after an accident.
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