Out-of-state car accidents may feel scarier than ones in your home state. The added element of being in an unfamiliar place can leave you more stressed out and with even more questions. As with any motor vehicle collision, the first thing you should not do if you’re involved in an out-of-state car accident is panic. Though it may feel terrifying, there’s actually very little difference in the steps you should follow. Some key elements of your situation may change. We’ll touch upon them as you read on so you can understand your rights and responsibilities in an out-of-state car accident.
Your Car Insurance Covers You No Matter Where You Travel in the U.S.
You may be wondering if your insurance covers you in an out-of-state car accident. It does. Almost all auto insurance companies provide nationwide coverage as well as coverage in Canada and U.S. territories.
But State Insurance Limits Vary…
True. Minimum insurance limits do vary from state to state, but if you have the required insurance in your home state, you’re considered to have the required insurance in another state when you travel there. Your insurer will usually allow for an automatic conversion of sorts where your coverage limits are sufficient for losses in another state even if they’re actually not.
For instance, if you carry the required $10,000 minimum property damage insurance in New York and cause $15,000 in property damage in an auto accident in North Carolina where the minimum property damage coverage is $25,000, your insurance provider will cover the additional $5,000 as if you had coverage for that amount.
Immediate Steps to Take in an Out-of-State Car Accident
Now that you know you can rest easy about your coverage in out-of-state accidents, here are some immediate steps to take after the incident.
- Call the police. This is especially important if someone is injured and it’s legally required. Even if no one is physically hurt during the car accident, a police officer will usually make a report documenting the event and gather key information about the other drivers, passengers, and insurance companies. The report will be pertinent evidence for a personal injury claim or lawsuit.
- Gather important contact and vehicle information from the other parties. You’ll need names, phone numbers, addresses, car insurance companies and policy numbers, and vehicle registration and license plate numbers. You should also collect contact information from any witnesses, if you are able. Often, a police officer will do all of this, but you should be prepared to gather this information just in case.
- Do not discuss the accident, especially guilt or who is at fault. This could come back to bite you in legal proceedings or insurance claims.
- Call your insurance provider to briefly inform them of your accident. They may require notification within a certain timeframe. Do not give details, do not discuss fault, and do not discuss your injuries. In some cases, the insurance company may send a tow truck or direct you to a local repair shop.
- Call an attorney. A car accident lawyer can advise you on what to say to the insurance company and help you start your insurance claim or file a personal injury lawsuit.
That last step is where things deviate from a car accident in your home state. Who should you call for an out-of-state car accident lawyer? And where will you file your personal injury lawsuit?
Finding a Lawyer for an Out-of-State Accident
Legally, you have two options for where to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver:
- The state where the car crash took place
- The state where the defendant resides
Which one you choose is up to you, but filing a civil suit in your home state is not an option unless the defendant also lives there or does business or maintains property there. The latter is known as having minimum contacts with the state.
Similarly, your attorney must also be licensed to practice in the state where your personal injury lawsuit will be filed. Most of the time that means finding legal representation within that state. A local car accident attorney will be most familiar with the courts and the jury pool in the area. You may also find a lawyer who practices in the state where you file your case but does not reside there. If your lawyer is licensed to practice in both your state and the filing state, it would be even better.
What Damages Can I Recover in an Out-of-State Car Accident?
The damages you can recover will depend on the negligence and fault laws of the state where you choose to file. Some states like New York are no-fault states, which means you must file an insurance claim with your provider first and your damages are limited to economic losses except in serious injury cases.
To receive compensation for pain and suffering, you have to meet a serious injury threshold as set by New York statute ISC § 5102(d). Other states are at-fault or tort states. This means that you are entitled to not only file an insurance claim against the at-fault party as a primary source of compensation, but you can receive pain and suffering damages without having to meet an injury requirement.
Find Help at the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP
An out-of-state accident lawyer can advise you on the applicable state laws involved in your car accident. Getting qualified legal help can make the difference in your case. Contact the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP at (516) 358-6900 for assistance today if you’ve been injured in an out-of-state accident in New York.
For a free legal consultation, call 516-358-6900