What if You Are Involved in a Car Accident Out of State?

What if You Are Involved in a Car Accident Out of State?
August 15, 2022

Our automobiles give us the freedom to travel anywhere the road will take us, but an accident can occur whether we’re a block from home or in another state. Out-of-state car accidents can raise important questions regarding insurance coverage and your legal rights. Specifically, how do these events differ from incidents in your home state?

What Is an Out-of-State Accident?

An out-of-state accident is a vehicle-related mishap occurring outside your state of residence. These incidents can happen when you’re on vacation, traveling for business, taking a trip to an entertainment venue or enjoying a leisurely drive on a scenic highway.

Car accidents in another state can be more complicated due to the structure and content of your automobile policy. When you purchase coverage, the plan follows the insurance regulations of your home state. For instance, if you reside in Pennsylvania, your auto policy’s provisions must comply with PA state insurance laws, which can differ from those of other states.

Fortunately, most auto insurance policies offer protection in all 50 states and other U.S. territories like Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa. Some plans even extend coverage to the Canadian provinces. So, while things can get complicated when the incident involves other drivers, you can feel confident that you will have coverage for an out-of-state accident.

What to Do After an Out-of-State Car Accident

The steps to follow in the immediate aftermath of an out-of-state accident are essentially the same as those for an incident occurring in your home state:

  • Check to see if anyone is injured and provide aid if possible.
  • Call 911 to request police and medical assistance.
  • Document the damage to all vehicles and use your phone to take photos.
  • Exchange contact and insurance information with the other driver and get contact information from any witnesses at the scene.

When speaking to your insurance carrier, be sure to inform them that the accident happened in another state. They should be able to help you arrange for towing, a rental car and repairs at an auto shop in the area.

Where Do You File a Claim?

While you will initially report the incident to your insurance company, the claim filing may not occur in your state of residence. In most cases, you’ll file the claim in the state where the accident took place and abide by its regulations. For example, if you’re from Pennsylvania and are involved in an accident while driving in Georgia, the latter state’s laws will apply.

What if It’s Not a “No-Fault” State?

Whether the state where the accident occurs implements a fault-based or no-fault auto insurance system will have a significant impact on an out-of-state claim and any subsequent lawsuits.

In a fault — or tort — system, the driver who causes the crash is responsible for compensating the other party for their losses. The injured party can seek compensation via an insurance claim or lawsuit.

Approximately a dozen states implement a no-fault auto insurance system. This process doesn’t identify which driver is responsible for the accident. Instead, injured parties seek compensation under their own policy’s personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. No-fault states require policyholders to carry at least a minimum designated amount of PIP insurance.

How does all of this play out in an out-of-state accident scenario? Remember that the laws of the state where the crash occurs guide the financial recovery process.

Suppose you’re a resident from Pennsylvania, which implements a hybrid no-fault model, and are struck by another motorist while driving through Maryland. Because Maryland is a tort state, the negligent driver is responsible for your injuries via the liability coverage on their auto policy instead of your PIP coverage.

On the other hand, if you’re driving in another no-fault state like Florida or Kentucky, your insurance policy would pay your medical claims under the PIP coverage.

Where Can You File a Lawsuit After an Out-of-State Accident?

In some situations, you may need to pursue a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages in an out-of-state accident. You’ll need to file the suit in the state where the incident occurred. If the negligent driver is also from another state, you can initiate legal action in either the state where the accident took place or the other motorist’s home state.

If the crash happens in a no-fault state, you have a limited right to sue. Generally, the accident must result in significant injuries or cause medical bills exceeding a designated financial threshold.

Spear Greenfield Can Help With Out-of-State Car Accidents in PA and NJ

Knowing what you should do if you are in an out-of-state car accident in Pennsylvania or New Jersey is important for many reasons. Thankfully, the experienced car accident attorneys at Spear Greenfield can help you explore all your legal options. Our team has been representing people in your situation for more than 30 years. We have an extensive track record of getting the best results for our clients, regardless of the case’s size, scope or complexity.

Contact us for a free consultation today.