If you are a Kentuckian and have been in an auto accident, you will have some law terms thrown at you. You may or may not know what they mean. One thing is absolute, it is a confusing and stressful time. Here are some of the definitions and explanations to a few terms that may be confusing.
- Statute of limitations. It’s the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit.
- Discovery. It’s the method used by both sides to acquire facts on the case.
- IMEs. These are independent medical exams.
Statute of Limitations
You only have a certain amount of time to settle your case or file a lawsuit. In Kentucky, this time is two years from the date of the accident or two years from the date of the last medical no-fault payment. This may not exceed four years. This deadline is called the “Statute of Limitations.” Is your head spinning? As you can tell, determining the statute of limitations is very technical. Either contact an attorney or play it safe and file within two years. (Note: the statute of limitations for most personal injury cases in Kentucky is one year. Always consult with an attorney to determine this. Don’t take a chance.)
It even gets a little more confusing and there are some exceptions depending on whether you have opted out of the Kentucky No-fault Statute. Around 99% of people have not done this, but we won’t go into this very complicated area in this article.
Once a lawsuit is filed and the defendant is served, the court sets deadlines, including discovery and a trial date. These deadlines, like your trial date, can help move your case toward a settlement. Additionally, both sides participate in a process of asking for and exchanging information about the case. This process is called “discovery.” Each side is allowed to investigate and find out what evidence and witnesses may be used at trial by the other side. The discovery process usually includes sending or answering written questions, called interrogatories, and requests for documents. The defendant’s attorney will also be allowed to access your medical records and work history. This may include your financial records.
The discovery process also includes depositions. A deposition is a face-to-face meeting where the attorneys are allowed to ask a witness questions under oath while a court reporter transcribes every word. Sometimes depositions are taken by video. Any witness that may offer testimony at trial can be deposed, including you, your doctors, your friends, your family and the defendant. If your deposition is requested, it is very important that you prepare for it with your attorney. Your conduct at the deposition will influence the value assigned to your case and affect whether the case will settle before trial.
Independent Medical Exam (IME)
When a lawsuit involves a claim for personal injuries, the defendant is usually permitted to have a doctor of their choice examine you. This is called an Independent Medical Examination (IME). The independent does not mean that the opinion is unbiased. The doctor is hired by the insurance company. It only means that the examination is independent of the doctor-patient relationship.