Truck accidents result in a high number of serious injuries and fatalities in Kentucky annually. According to a report by the Kentucky Transportation Center and the University of Kentucky, there were 8,703 truck-related collisions in 2020, with 106 fatalities and 1,315 non-fatal injuries. Improperly secured cargo and faulty brakes were two of the factors that caused truck accidents.
The same data also indicated that accidents occurring on interstate highways accounted for 29% of all truck collisions, while US and state-numbered routes accounted for 47%. Data from recent years points to I-75, I-65, I-64, US-25, and State Route 1747 as Kentucky's most dangerous roads and highways. Additionally, 2022 data showed that commercial motor vehicles were involved in 85 of the 744 road accidents in the state.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has established rules that govern the Kentucky trucking industry. The state enforces laws combating fatigue, distracted, and drunk driving to significantly reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities involving semis and large trucks.
This article discusses traffic laws, minimum insurance requirements, and personal injury liability guidelines to protect and guide truck drivers and accident plaintiffs.
Kentucky’s Commercial Driver’s License Laws
The State of Kentucky requires commercial motor vehicle (CMV) operators to obtain and hold a commercial driver's license (CDL). The table below shows the three classes of CDLs and their corresponding truck weights:
Gross Vehicle Weight Rating
26,001 lbs or more
26,001 lbs or more
More than 10,000 lbs
26,001 lbs or more
26,001 lbs or more
10,000 lbs or less
Less than 26,001 lbs
Less than 26,001 lbs
10,000 lbs or less
The Kentucky State Police has also released a Commercial Driver License Manual with relevant details about the testing requirements for obtaining a CDL.
Violations and Penalties
Level of Offense
Two "serious traffic violation" convictions in three years
speeding 15 mph or more over the limit
following too closely
erratic lane change
driving a CMV without a proper CDL
any traffic violation involving a fatality
60-day CDL revocation
*Any subsequent violations will result in a 120-day revocation
More severe violations
leaving the scene of an accident
driving under the influence
chemical test refusal
impaired CMV operation
using a motor vehicle to commit a felony
negligently causing a CMV-related fatality
operating with a revoked CDL
One-year license revocation for a first offense
*A second violation will result in a lifetime revocation, but reinstatement may be possible after a decade.
Kentucky Drowsy Driving and Hours-of-Service Regulations
Truck drivers who are drowsy while driving on Kentucky highways endanger everyone else on the road. People who have been awake for 24 hours straight are as impaired as someone with a 0.10 BAC. This is why the state adheres to the FMCSA's Hours of Service regulations, designed to ensure that truckers get enough rest and sleep. These requirements aim to reduce the risk of fatigue-related truck accidents.
The rules limit the maximum average work week to 70 hours and mandate that long-haul commercial truck drivers take at least a 30-minute break every eight consecutive hours on duty. The rules also restrict daily driving to 11 consecutive hours and the workday, including loading, maintenance, and paperwork, to 14 consecutive hours.
Truckers and commercial carriers who violate the Hours of Service regulations face fines of up to $2,750 per driver and $11,000 per carrier. A truck driver who causes a fatigue-related collision resulting in injury or death may face a civil lawsuit from the victim or family of the deceased. If they are found negligent, like having failed to log or record their driving hours and rest breaks, drivers may be compelled to pay for the victim's economic and non-economic damages.
Kentucky Drunk Driving Laws
The law prohibits truck operators from driving after drinking alcohol. For commercial drivers, the blood alcohol level limit is 0.04%. According to the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, truck drivers who drive while intoxicated may face the following penalties:
A first offense where the driver’s BAC is 0.039% or less
24-hour suspension from commercial driving
A first offense where the driver’s BAC is 0.04% or higher
One-year suspension from commercial driving
Permanent suspension from commercial driving
Violators may also face a fine of $200 to $1,000 and a jail sentence of up to one year, depending on the level of offense.
Driving while intoxicated puts everyone on the road in danger. Traumatic brain injuries, broken bones, burn injuries, amputations, spinal cord injuries, and even death can result from a collision caused by a drunk truck driver. According to the FMCSA, thousands of drunk drivers have been involved in fatal accidents in recent years. Injured victims or family members of those killed can file a claim against the at-fault truck drivers or trucking companies to recover compensation for their hospital expenses and other accident-related damages, including pain and suffering.
Kentucky Distracted Driving Laws
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as any activity that takes the driver's attention away from the road. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has warned that drivers may experience visual, manual, and cognitive distractions while driving. These distractions include using a cell phone, eating, adjusting radio controls, or maneuvering using a navigation system. A collision between a truck and another car or pedestrian frequently results in severe and fatal injuries. The disturbing statistics of people dying on the road due to distracted driving have prompted the FMCSA and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration to enact anti-distracted driving regulations.
Mobile Phone Restriction Rule
CMV drivers are not permitted to use any kind of handheld mobile device while driving. They are strictly prohibited from making a call, sending a text, or reading a message. The FMCSA found that drivers who use a mobile phone while driving are six times more likely to figure in an accident than those who do not experience a safety-critical incident such as an unintentional lane deviation, crash, or near-crash.
Driving a CMV while using a handheld phone may result in driver disqualification and a $2,750 fine. Trucking companies that allow or require drivers to use a handheld communications device while driving may face a fine of $11,000.
Under Kentucky law, drivers caught texting while driving will be fined $25 for the first violation and $50 for subsequent offenses and given three points on their driving record. If a truck driver causes a fatal accident, they can be charged with vehicular homicide, which carries a sentence of one to five years in prison and a fine of $1,000 to $10,000.
Basic Speeding Laws and Absolute Speed Limits
Kentucky traffic laws dictate basic speeding regulations and set absolute speed limits. Under the basic speeding laws, drivers are prohibited from exceeding a speed that is "reasonable and prudent, having regard for the traffic and the condition and use of the highway." For example, 55 mph may be safe on a normal day. However, going 55 mph in heavy rain with strong winds could be dangerous and thus violate the basic speeding law. In addition, drivers must adhere to posted speed limits in various designated areas:
Off-street parking facilities
Residential and business areas
Those who violate the rules may face up to a $100 fine and a license suspension, depending on how much the driver exceeds the speed limit.
Reckless Driving and Vehicular Homicide
Commercial truck drivers must drive cautiously to avoid an accident that could result in injuries or even death. When a speeding driver kills another road user as a result of his negligence, he may be charged with a driving-related homicide or manslaughter, which can lead to a $10,000 fine, up to ten years in prison, and license revocation.
Kentucky Commercial Trucking Insurance Requirements
Commercial motor vehicle owners in the state are mandated to obtain and maintain insurance before they can use their vehicles. Failure to meet the insurance requirements may result in penalties, including hefty fines and jail sentences. The state's minimum liability coverage includes the following:
$750,000 minimum for for-hire trucks weighing 10,001 lbs or more for interstate or foreign commerce while transporting non-hazardous property
$1 million minimum for for-hire and private trucks weighing 10,001 lbs or more for interstate or foreign commerce while transporting oil, hazardous waste, and specific hazardous materials
$5 million minimum for for-hire and private trucks weighing 10,001 lbs or less for interstate or foreign commerce while transporting specific hazardous substances
$100,000 to $300,000 minimum for the transportation of property 18,000 lbs or less
$100,000 to $600,000 minimum for the transportation of property of more than 18,000 lbs
$50,000 for property damage
Liability insurance (Household Goods)
$5,000/vehicle and $5,000/catastrophe
Kentucky also adopts the financial responsibility regulations set by the FMCSA for interstate trucking. The following public liability insurance covers bodily injury and property damage:
$300,000 for non-hazardous freight in vehicles under 10,000 lbs
$750,000 to $5,000,000 for freight in vehicles over 10,000 lbs
$5,000 per vehicle in cargo insurance for household goods
$10,000 per occurrence in cargo insurance for household goods
Both Kentucky and the US Department of Transportation require the insurance agents or companies of trucking operators to submit forms, including MCS-90, within FMCSA's set deadline. Applicants may learn more about the insurance filing requirements here.
Kentucky Is a No-Fault State for Insurance Claims
In terms of insurance claims, Kentucky is a no-fault jurisdiction. If a truck accident victim's injuries are not fully covered by their insurance, they must seek compensation from the defendant's insurance provider or file a lawsuit. However, determining who is liable may take some time because it will require a comprehensive crash scene investigation, vehicle assessment, and the submission of relevant documents such as the truck's manufacturing logs.
However, vehicle owners can opt out of the no-fault system when selecting and purchasing an automobile insurance policy. By declining PIP coverage through a "choice no-fault" system, the policyholder reserves the right to sue the at-fault driver in a personal injury lawsuit or liability claim. He or she also puts himself or herself at risk of being sued if found to be at fault for the collision. Vehicle owners who wish to opt out of the no-fault system must notify the Department of Insurance.
Kentucky Follows a Pure Comparative Negligence System for Trucking Accident Lawsuits
According to Kentucky Revised Statutes 411.182, Kentucky is a pure comparative fault state—one of the 12 states that follow this system. The rule states that the compensation a plaintiff can obtain in a truck accident-related lawsuit is reduced by the same percentage as their level of responsibility for causing the collision.
Under this system, the plaintiff can recover compensation even if the defendant was only 1% at fault for an accident. The judge or jury, considered the "trier of fact," will figure out the proportion of each party's fault in the accident by taking into account the nature of the conduct of those involved and the extent of the causal relationship between the act and the damages asserted.
Average Settlement for Kentucky Trucking Accident Lawsuits
The state has no set average settlement amount for trucking accident lawsuits because the extent of injuries, pain and suffering, and financial losses determines the compensation in each case.
Under the state's pure comparative negligence law, if a plaintiff sues the truck driver or trucking company, they will only receive compensation based on their percentage of fault. A plaintiff, for example, was found to be 20% at fault for the accident, and the judge awarded him $900,000 in damages. The plaintiff will only receive $720,000 because his damages award is lowered by 20% for his share of liability. Plaintiffs should hire experienced truck accident lawyers to help prove the other party was more to blame for the incident. Some legal practitioners provide representation on a contingency basis, meaning they are only paid if their clients receive financial compensation.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Truck Accident in Kentucky?
There is no fixed average settlement that a truck accident victim can receive from a personal injury claim, as every case is unique. Truck accident lawyers assist injured victims with filing lawsuits against the parties at fault, which may include the truck driver, trucking company, the mechanic who worked on the CMV, or the manufacturer of the truck or a component of the truck. Attorneys can help victims recover compensation for hospital bills, including surgeries and physical or occupational therapy; lost wages; vehicle repair costs; permanent disability; pain and suffering; and reduced earning capacity. Attorneys also assist families of people killed in truck accidents with obtaining compensation for funeral and burial expenses, as well as loss of companionship and support.
Kentucky Statute of Limitations for Truck Accidents
Truck accident victims have two years after the collision to file a claim or lawsuit. However, if the plaintiff was a minor at the time of the incident, the state's statute of limitations may be extended. When the victim reaches the age of 18, he or she must file a lawsuit within the statutory time limits.
The two-year period does not begin to run against a victim who has sustained a traumatic brain injury or has become unconscious due to an accident-related coma or surgery. The limitation period will begin once the disability has been lifted. Furthermore, if the defendant is a Kentucky resident who is out of state, the statute of limitations may be extended. Victims may file a lawsuit against the responsible party when the latter returns to the state.
Legal Resources for Kentucky Trucking Accident Victims
Kentucky Lawyer Referral Service
KLRS is a public service sponsored by the Louisville Bar Association. The service connects people needing legal aid with attorneys who can handle their specific legal issues. When a client calls the service, a trained staff member will ask questions to determine the type of lawyer required. The legal professionals at KLRS have agreed to provide a free 30-minute consultation. Clients can discuss the issues and the attorney’s fees necessary for additional representation during the consultation.
Northern Kentucky Bar Association Lawyer Referral Service
This LRS assists people seeking legal counsel in the following Northern Kentucky counties: Boone, Carroll, Campbell, Grant, Gallatin, Kenton, Pendleton, and Owen. The program's practitioners are screened for their experience and qualifications. Individuals can enter information about their cases into the online public referral form to be referred to a local attorney.
Central Kentucky Lawyer Referral Service
The Central Kentucky Lawyer Referral Service is a nonprofit public service of the Fayette County Bar Association created to assist people who are having difficulty finding legal representation due to a lack of experience with the legal system, inadequate knowledge regarding the kind of services required, and fear of the future costs of seeking a lawyer. Those who seek assistance may accomplish this form.
Kentucky Department of Insurance
This government office protects the public by effectively enforcing insurance regulations and assisting them in making sound decisions. Motorists, including car and commercial vehicle drivers, can use the website to find resources and forms for their insurance policies. They can also direct their insurance questions or concerns to the appropriate authorities.
FMCSA Insurance Frequently Asked Questions
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has compiled a list of frequently asked questions and answers for commercial vehicle owners and drivers. More information about insurance rules and requirements is available on the website.
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