When a car accident happens, it can be incredibly difficult — especially if you’re far from home. Experiencing a car crash is understandably traumatic and worrisome in any situation, but the stress of sorting out complicated details from another state makes it all the more emotionally exhausting. Whether your accident happened while you were on a business trip, traveling to see family, or taking the road trip of your dreams, it’s important to know the steps to take to stay safe and protect your legal rights. Knowing what to do in the aftermath of an out-of-state vehicular accident can cut down on stress and minimize the incident’s impact on your life.
If you’re in an accident out of state, it’s important to take the following steps:
After a car accident, it is crucial to call the police so everyone involved has official documentation of what happened. Also, a police report can be vital when it comes to determining the at-fault party who is responsible for any damages or injuries sustained in the accident. Police can also provide medical attention if needed and help ensure the safety of everyone involved at the accident scene. In many states, it’s required by law to report an accident if anyone is injured or there’s property damage over a certain amount.
Exchanging auto policy information creates a record of the incident and provides an avenue for you to seek compensation. You need the responsible party’s policy information to file a claim with their insurer, which, when paid out, can help cover your cost of car repairs, medical bills, and other expenses related to the accident.
Photos and videos provide invaluable visual evidence in the event of a dispute over the cause of the accident or the extent of the damages. They can also be useful when you’re negotiating with auto insurers. Make sure to take pictures of:
• The overall scene of the accident, including the position of the vehicles and any road marks.
• The damage to both cars. Get close-ups of all dents, scratches, broken glass, etc.
• The license plates of both vehicles.
• Any personal injuries or property damage caused by the accident, like a busted fence or damaged sign.
• Any road signs, traffic lights, or other landmarks that can help confirm the location of the accident.
It’s okay to ask for witness contact information after an auto accident, but that is also the responsibility of the police. Note that some witnesses may not want to get involved, and that’s their right.
Should you see a doctor even if you don’t feel hurt? Yes, even if you feel okay, you should get medical attention after an accident. It’s not uncommon for serious injuries, such as concussions or internal injuries, to have no apparent symptoms right away. Getting checked out by a healthcare professional is essential for preventing long-term harm or complications. Plus, documentation from a medical evaluation can help resolve any potential legal matters.
After an accident, the clock is ticking to report it. While policies vary, auto insurers often require notification within one week or even just a few days after an incident happens. Be sure to alert them in time for your own protection. Acting swiftly can help secure your rights and ensure that all possible coverage remains available.
The good news is that virtually all U.S. auto policies cover you anywhere in the country. Filing a claim for an out-of-state accident is the same as filing an in-state one.
The required minimum coverage required by law varies from one state to the next. If you have the minimum coverage required in your home state, even if it’s less than what’s required in the state where the accident happened, you’re automatically viewed as having the minimum required coverage in the accident-scene state.
In the U.S., there are two types of auto insurance systems: at-fault and no-fault. In an at-fault state, the driver who is at fault for the accident is responsible for paying for any damages or injuries that result from the accident. In a no-fault state, each driver’s company pays for their own damages and injuries — it doesn’t matter who caused the accident.
If you have an accident in a no-fault state, even if you reside in a fault state like California, the no-fault rules will apply to your case.
Filing an auto accident lawsuit is complex, and every accident is unique, so the process of filing a claim is different for everyone. That said, here’s a general overview of the process.
If your accident happened in a fault state, the first step is to determine which party was at fault for the accident, which can happen through an investigation by the insurer, a police report, or other evidence. Sometimes it’s clear-cut who was at fault, but not always.
One of the most objective ways to determine fault and decide if you have a case is to see if the accident was the result of basic driver negligence. Did any of the involved parties violate local traffic laws, such as speed limits and right-of-way rules? Witness statements, physical evidence like skid marks and vehicle damage, and, in some cases, expert opinions can help determine what (and who) caused the accident and if it was the result of negligence.
Your insurer may offer a settlement to resolve your claim. If the settlement amount is acceptable, you likely won’t have to file a lawsuit. However, keep in mind that your insurer seeks to pay the least amount possible, and they usually hire a car accident attorney to handle their negotiations with claimants. Watch out for any attempts by your insurer to settle the case prematurely. It’s best to consult with your own car accident attorney before agreeing to anything — that way, you can be confident in the decision that’s regarding your case.
Many car accident cases settle out of court. But if you can’t reach an agreement with an insurer regarding a settlement, you may need to take your claim to a courtroom. This involves filing a complaint with the appropriate court and serving the complaint on the defendant. Usually, there is a discovery phase, when both parties gather evidence and interview witnesses on the record to support their claim. A personal injury attorney can provide significant assistance in this arena.
Your case could be resolved without going to trial, but if the parties cannot reach a settlement agreement, the case may go to trial.
If you were in an auto accident in another state, you might be wondering where you need to file your lawsuit. The answer is you can settle a car accident lawsuit in a different state than where the accident occurred, depending on factors like:
• Jurisdiction: Jurisdiction describes the authority of a court to hear a case. In some cases, a court in one state may have jurisdiction over a matter that originated in another state, depending on the case’s specific circumstances. Consulting with a car accident attorney can answer questions based on the specifics.
• Where the Parties Live: The parties involved in an accident lawsuit can also influence where the case is heard. If one or more of the parties live in a different state than where the accident occurred, the case may be handled by a court in that state.
• Where the Parties Choose: The parties involved in a lawsuit can also agree to settle the case in a different state than where the accident occurred. This is known as “choice of venue” and is a common practice when one of the parties lives in a different state.
Consulting a car accident attorney is important for many reasons, including helping you to determine liability. It’s also valuable for protecting your rights, maximizing your compensation, and helping you deal with insurers. They help put the odds in your favor by representing you in court.
But should you hire a personal injury attorney in your home state to handle an out-of-state accident case if it goes to court? When you get into an accident in a different state than the one where you live, you typically need a lawyer who is licensed in that state to help you with your legal case. If you have a lawyer in your own state, they may still be able to help you, but they will likely have to work with a lawyer in the state where the accident happened.
If you’ve been injured in an out-of-state accident and believe it was caused by the negligence of another party, consult with a personal injury lawyer to discuss your options for seeking compensation.