There is no denying that car accidents are unexpected and unanticipated events. Whether you’re commuting to home or travelling out-of-state on vacations, they may happen anywhere. As per a recent survey of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), approximately 7 million accidents occur throughout the USA each year. While most of them are just insignificant fender benders, others often leave car drivers suffering from potentially threatening injuries and serious vehicle damages.
That is why you need to be well aware of the negative impacts of the collision, especially if it happens out-of-state. Note that everything from road signs to speed limits to personal injury lawsuits and state laws vary when you are in a foreign territory. For instance, the statute of limitations (the deadline by which you have to settle your claim before you would need to file suit) varies from state-to-state. While the statute of limitations (SOL) in Arizona is generally two years, other states may have a longer, or shorter, SOL
Which State’s laws and rules will govern the accident and/or my injuries, my home State or the State within which the collision occurred? This is often referred to as the “Choice of Laws.”
The minimal amount of auto insurance coverage required can also vary from state to state, so which State’s insurance limits would apply to your situation could be an issue. However, if you are involved in an out-of-state car crash, if that State’s minimum auto insurance limits are higher than your own coverage, rest assured that your auto insurance coverage limits will automatically adjust to align with that State’s higher coverage requirements (where the accident occurred).
Will the hospital and/or medical provider(s) in another State accept and bill my health insurance? Will they agree to treat me on a lien (in which case they agree to wait to get paid until your injury claim settles)?
Which State’s SOL would apply could be an issue. If your claim has to eventually be litigated, can you file suit where you live or do you have to file in the County in the State in which the collision occurred?
What Should I do if I am Injured in Out-of-State Injury
Remember that receiving compensation for medical costs, lost wages, pain & suffering, or any other major expenses plays a significant role in the recovery of the driver. Typically, you should handle an out-of-state car accident the same as other collisions. The actions you must take to influence your insurance claim rights include:
- Check on/ensure the safety of all those involved in the collision;
- Report the collision to the local law enforcement department or the state patrol (take note where the collision occurred, such as the freeway, milepost, street/intersection, County, City, State, etc.);
- Get the contact information of the involved drivers, including their driver’s license, vehicle registration, auto insurance policy numbers (take photos of such cards);
- Take cell phone photos of the accident scene and damage to all involved vehicles.
- Avoid offering any statements (such as admitting fault) that could be used against you in the future;
- Seek medical attention locally asap if at all symptomatic, especially if there will be any appreciable delay in getting “home” (it is important to document any Getting medical care for injuries, even if there are no noticeable symptoms;
- Report the collision to your auto insurance company within 48 hours;
- Consider contacting an experienced and qualified personal injury attorney, and/or whether it should be an attorney from the State in which the collision occurred or in your home State.
(a) That decision may depend on which State’s laws will apply and/or the need to seek follow-up medical care out-of-state;
(b) However, in the event your claim may eventually need to be litigated, consider choosing an attorney that can keep your case in-house through litigation as opposed to an attorney that might have to associate with another attorney/firm if your case needs to be litigated.
Understanding Policy Coverage
Before you start panicking that your car insurance doesn’t cover you in other cities, rest assured, it is not true.
Your auto insurance policy is likely to cover you regardless of the state you are in. We say this because most auto insurance policies offer coverage in all 50 states and other U.S. territories, such as Rico. In fact, some insurance policies provide coverage in Canadian provinces as well.
However, it doesn’t mean that you should not determine the best possible solutions for worse scenarios like an out-of-state car accident. It is always better to consult with a competent lawyer to understand what auto insurance policy covers before embarking on a trip that takes your car across the state border.
Be cautious of driving southern borders that lead to Mexico or South American states, as many American auto insurance policies do not automatically extend coverage for collisions that occur over the border and/or in another country (although other countries do often allow you to purchase travel auto insurance to cover any collisions in their country/countries).
Although an out-of-state accident seems like a once in a blue moon experience, these incidents happen constantly. That is why most auto insurance companies ensure to make this protocol seamlessly easy.
All in all, every car crash is different. Several inconsequential conditions can significantly change the ways people handle your case. Keep in mind that even a small car accident may cause serious injuries or damage to your car. You must consult your injury lawyer who specializes and is a pro at handling auto accidents to help you evaluate legal options.