Kansas is no stranger to accidents. Over 57,000 motor vehicle crashes occurred in the state in 2021, with more than 12,000 causing some form of injury. Unfortunately, 381 of these accidents involved fatalities. Another concerning statistic is dog attacks. Kansas residents working across the state border with Kansas City, Missouri, should be wary of the city’s 33 recorded cases of dog bites in 2022.
After an accident, working with insurance and healthcare companies is necessary to obtain compensation for your injuries. Sometimes, the reimbursement provided by the insurer is not enough to cover your accident-related costs. Personal injury claims, then, are essential, as they allow you to recover the damages you need to recuperate. You are not alone. More than 2,500 claims were filed in district courts across the Sunflower State, based on the most recent data.
This article provides information on your legal rights and responsibilities in accidents. It also aims to guide you through the state’s statute of limitations and damages caps. Additionally, the article offers legal resources that can assist you in pursuing the compensation you need to get back on your feet.
Kansas Distracted Driving Laws
As previously mentioned, the Kansas Department of Transportation recorded more than 57,000 traffic crashes in 2021. The most common contributing factor to motor vehicle accidents is driver inattention. In Wichita, the state’s largest city, around 800 vehicle crashes occur monthly. The frequent cause of these collisions is cell phone use while driving.
Unsurprisingly, Kansas ranks second among the states with the most fatalities due to distracted driving. Around 4.5 individuals pass away for every 100,000 licensed drivers.
To curb these incidents, KDOT and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration have initiated a marketing campaign called “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.” It aims to educate motorists on the catastrophic consequences of not putting the phone down while driving. Those caught texting while driving could face fines between $60 and $500. They might also get their license suspended for up to three months.
Kansas law clearly states that using wireless communication devices, like personal digital assistants, cellphones, laptops, and cellphones, is prohibited when driving. There are several exceptions to this, however.
For instance, motorists can use their devices to receive messages about weather alerts, emergencies, or traffic updates. Another exception is when drivers use their mobile phones to report illegal activity to law enforcement agencies. Additionally, police officers are not prohibited from using wireless communication devices as part of their official duties.
Underage Driving Laws in Kansas
Underage drivers in Kansas are nothing new. The state offers different types of licenses for various purposes. For example, those who are at least 14 years old but less than 17 may obtain a farm permit. This document allows them to drive class C vehicles under various conditions. These include traveling to and from their farm jobs, attending classes, or driving a passenger car with a licensed adult driver on a nearby seat. When the permit holder reaches the age of 16, their privileges expand to driving any time between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. and traveling to and from religious worship services.
Another type of document is the restricted license. It permits teenage drivers aged 15 to 16 to travel between activities involving work, school, or religious organizations. It also allows them to drive if accompanied by a licensed adult in the front seat. Restricted license holders over 16, like farm permit holders, may drive from 5 a.m. to 9 p.m.
An additional similarity between farm permits and restricted licenses is that they both prohibit 14- or 15-year-olds from driving with minor passengers who are not their siblings.
According to the NHTSA, 16% of all fatal crashes in Kansas from 2010 to 2019 involved drivers aged 15 to 20. Meanwhile, based on state data, the 15-19 age group was represented in over one-fifth of all speed-related crashes in 2021.
In cases involving teenage drivers, understanding who is liable is helpful for victims navigating the claims process. Under state law, vehicle owners who gave permission to minors under 16 can be held responsible if the latter is at fault for accidents.
In addition, plaintiffs may press legal action against the parents of children under 18 if they caused accidents willfully or maliciously. Parents are on the hook for a maximum of $5,000 of the actual damages. The limit, however, does not apply in situations where the accident was due to parental neglect. In such cases, plaintiffs can only recover compensation for their actual medical expenses.
Owners’ Liability for Dog Attacks in Kansas
Dogs are a familiar sight in households across the state. In fact, Kansas ranks 14th in the list of states with the highest percentage of dog owners. This number means there could be higher chances of being involved in a dog attack. One neighborhood in Kansas was reported not to have received mail from the U.S. Postal Service for two months due to the presence of a vicious dog.
Individuals seeking damages for their dog attack-related injuries should know Kansas’ one-bite rule. To claim compensation for being harmed by dogs, a plaintiff’s attorney should prove that the pet's owner was aware that the pet was likely to cause an injury. Evidence of this could be previous behavior. Suppose a dog has bitten someone before or has been trained to fight other dogs. In that case, such incidents or activities might prove that the owner knows their pet is dangerous.
Just because a dog bites a person does not mean its owner is liable every time. A plaintiff who bothers an animal by throwing objects or yelling at it will find it challenging to press legal claims against the owner if an injury occurs.
Courts look at other evidence to determine whether the animal owner is liable in a dog-related incident. For instance, chaining or tethering dogs is legal in Kansas. If it is shown that the owners exercised reasonable care to confine their pets within one area, plaintiffs have more difficulty recovering damages.
One thing to note is that some cities in the state ban certain breeds altogether unless certain requirements are met. For example, in Salina, residents cannot have pit bulls as pets unless they use color collars, maintain liability insurance coverage of at least $100,000, and take photos of their pets for identification. Other cities, like Sterling and Hesston, expand their ban to include rottweilers. In Overland Park, pit bulls and Tundra Shepherd dogs are allowed as long as their owners are covered by liability insurance of at least $300,000.
Kansas Laws Involving Truckers Remaining at the Accident Scene
The trucking industry is an important sector that keeps the economy of Kansas going. Thousands of trucks move a wide range of goods daily, from aircraft parts to agricultural products. Accidents can and do happen, though. Over 3,300 crashes involving large trucks occurred in 2021. These incidents resulted in 81 deaths.
Under Kansas law, truck drivers are required to stay at the scene of the accident they are involved in. They need to provide information, including their name, address, and vehicle registration number, to the affected motorist or the police officer. Upon request, the driver must also show their driver’s license and auto insurance policy.
The driver should also render reasonable assistance to those injured or killed in the accident. State law defines reasonable assistance as transporting the injured person as per their wishes to a hospital. Kansas law also mandates that drivers work with healthcare providers and arrange transport for affected motorists to hospitals.
Likewise, vehicle operators must contact law enforcement agencies if an accident causes over $1,000 in property damage or if any person is killed or injured.
Violators of these laws face multiple penalties. The consequences that a driver faces depend on the severity of the accident. For example, if the crash caused $1,000 or less in property damage, the vehicle operator can be charged with a class C misdemeanor. Penalties include a maximum fine of $500 and up to one month of jail time. If an accident results in property damage worth more than $1,000 or injury to a person, the court may convict the at-fault driver of a class A misdemeanor.
Remarkably, these laws do not apply to accidents involving driverless trucks. Through a bill passed in 2022, Kansas legislators exempt such vehicles if they remain at the scene until police arrive. There are also no penalties if the truck itself, through its capabilities, notifies emergency services or law enforcement agencies about the accident.
Laws about Non-Economic Damages in Kansas
After an accident, plaintiffs may seek economic damages from defendants. These costs cover monetary losses like medical expenses and property repair bills. They can also obtain non-economic damages. These non-monetary losses account for the plaintiff’s emotional distress, pain, and loss of companionship.
Under state law, compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering is recoverable. There are conditions, though. Regarding motor vehicle accidents, victims can obtain non-economic damages if their injury causes permanent disfigurement or loss of bodily function. They may also seek damages if their medical treatment expenses are reasonably worth $2,000 or more.
Kansas law further adds that the value of a plaintiff’s medical expenses might differ from the reasonable value they should receive. The fact that there is a gap between the two can be admitted as evidence for further analysis.
Attorneys have different methods of calculating the amount of non-economic damages. One way is through the per diem method. This approach involves determining the dollar amount for every day the plaintiff was in pain until they reached maximum recovery.
Another way to calculate pain and suffering is with the multiplier method. Simply put, an attorney multiplies the economic damages their client is seeking by a factor from 1 to 5.
Kansas Business Liability Insurance Requirements
Kansas businesses must possess workers’ compensation insurance policies. These help companies cover costs related to the work-related injuries of their employees. The maximum limits of such policies range from $130,000 per injury to $155,000 per injury. Some companies are exempt from these requirements, including those with less than $20,000 in annual payroll and Realtors working as independent contractors.
Another requirement comes in the form of auto insurance. Businesses in the state that operate vehicles need to purchase insurance policies that cover accident-related costs. Kansas mandates that these policies possess the minimum coverage of:
$25,000 for the death or injury of one person.
$50,000 for the death or injury of two or more people in a single accident.
$25,000 for property damage.
Kansas joins 11 other states that make it mandatory for vehicle owners to maintain personal injury protection insurance. This policy should cover an accident victim’s medical expenses of $4,500. In some cases, PIP can be used to deal with costs like:
Rehabilitation expenses valued at $4,500
Burial, funeral, or cremation costs worth $2,000
Loss of income coverage valued at $900 per month
In-home services, like lawn maintenance and grocery shopping, worth $25 per day.
An additional requirement is that motorists have policies that help them deal with accident-related costs from uninsured or underinsured motorists. The state sets the minimum limits of such policies as:
$50,000 per accident.
$25,000 for the injury or death of one person.
Is Kansas a No-Fault State?
Yes. The Sunflower State follows the no-fault system. This setup means that, regardless of who is responsible for an accident, the plaintiff has to turn to their insurer to cover medical bills. The insurance company, through the plaintiff’s PIP add-on, helps them manage other costs as well. These include funeral expenses and house cleaning bills.
Accident victims may pursue claims against liable parties if the incident resulted in over $2,000 in medical expenses. Additionally, individuals can take legal action if they have exceeded their PIP coverage of medical expenses worth $4,500. Another reason why lawsuits may be filed against defendants is if their actions caused the plaintiff to suffer disfigurement or permanent injury.
Is Kansas a Modified Comparative Fault State?
Yes. Most states adhere to a modified comparative fault system. Kansas follows the 50% bar rule. It means that plaintiffs determined to be at fault for 50% or more of the accident cannot obtain damages for their injuries. Compensation, however, is recoverable if the victim’s fault is 49% or less. It would be reduced depending on the percentage of their responsibility, though.
To simplify this, let’s say you were in an accident that caused $10,000 in damages. If you were found to be 20% liable for the incident, then your damages would decrease by $2,000. The final amount you can obtain, therefore, is $8,000.
How Much Can Someone Sue for an Injury in Kansas?
The Sunflower State has no caps on economic damages.
Before 2019, Kansas imposed a limit of $325,000 for non-economic damages. These awards compensate for a plaintiff's emotional distress, suffering, and loss of companionship. However, in June 2019, the Kansas Supreme Court voted to make such caps unconstitutional.
This decision does not mean that all limits involving non-economic damages are scrapped. In wrongful death cases, the damages are capped at $250,000.
Punitive damages are likewise not affected by the Supreme Court's decision. These are monetary awards to the plaintiff intended to punish the defendant's reckless or intentional behavior. Kansas maintains its cap of either $5 million or the defendant's highest annual gross income earned during any year within the five years before the accident.
The Statute of Limitations in Kansas
Kansas gives personal injury plaintiffs two years to recover damages from defendants. Accident victims may file a claim against liable parties two years from the day of the accident. The two-year window also applies in wrongful death cases. In such situations, however, the timeline starts on the date of the victim’s death.
Cases involving medical malpractice do not strictly adhere to the two-year rule. If the plaintiff was not aware of the injury, they have at most four years from the date of discovery to press legal action against the negligent healthcare provider.
Those under 18, meanwhile, have one year after they reach 18 to file a lawsuit against the defendants.
Legal Resources for Injured Folks in Kansas
Since its founding as the State Highway Commission in 1917, the agency has been working to develop and maintain the state’s transportation system. It oversees multiple programs, including the implementation of autonomous vehicles statewide. It also partners with local organizations to construct new parts of roads that go through Kansas City, including the Lewis & Clark Viaduct and the K-7 & I-70 Interchange. The agency also manages claims involving personal injury or property damage from affected motorists. It reimburses claims for accidents caused by the negligence of the agency or its employees. Kansans seeking damages may e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with the required form AR-98.
The association has been promoting the practice of law among its members and the general public since its founding in 1882. It maintains a website that contains information on organizations like the Kansas Trial Lawyers Association, the Kansas Judicial Branch, and the Kansas Association of Defense Counsel. Another program that the bar association handles is the Lawyer Referral Service. The attorneys in the service are adept at multiple legal areas, including personal injury and workers’ compensation. These practitioners also maintain good standing with the Kansas Supreme Court. Individuals may submit a request online or call the service for further assistance at 785-861-8838.
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