What if you are involved in an out-of-state car accident?


Our automobiles give us the freedom to travel wherever the road takes us, but an accident can happen whether we are a block away from home or in another state. Out-of-state car accidents can raise important questions about 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 accident that occurs outside of your state of residence. These incidents can happen when you are on vacation, on a business trip, traveling to a place of entertainment, or leisurely driving down a scenic highway.

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

Fortunately, most auto insurance policies provide coverage in all 50 states and other US territories like Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa. Some plans even extend coverage to Canadian provinces. So while things can get tricky when the incident involves other drivers, you can be sure you’ll have coverage for an out-of-state accident.

What to do after an out of state car accident

The steps to take immediately after an out-of-state accident are essentially the same as for an incident in your home state:

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

When talking to your insurer, be sure to let them know the accident happened in another state. They should be able to help arrange towing, car rental, and repairs at an area auto shop.

Where do you file a complaint?

Although you initially report the incident to your insurance company, the filing of the claim may not occur in your state of residence. In most cases, you will file the claim in the state where the accident occurred and comply with its regulations. For example, if you are from Pennsylvania and are involved in an accident while driving in Georgia, the laws of that state will apply.

What if it’s not a “faultless” 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 accident is responsible for compensating the other party for their losses. The injured party can seek compensation through an insurance claim or a lawsuit.

About a dozen states have no-fault auto insurance. This process does not 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 insureds to have at least a designated minimum amount of PIP insurance.

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

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

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

Where can you file a lawsuit after an out-of-state accident?

In some situations, you may need to file a personal injury lawsuit to recover damages in an out-of-state accident. You will need to file the complaint in the state where the incident occurred. If the negligent driver is also from another state, you can file a lawsuit in the state where the accident occurred or in the home state of the other motorist.

If the accident occurs in a no-fault condition, you have a limited right to sue. Typically, the accident must result in significant injury or result in medical costs exceeding a designated financial threshold.

Spear Greenfield can help with out-of-state car accidents in PA and NJ

Knowing what to do if you are involved in a car accident outside of Pennsylvania or New Jersey is important for many reasons. Fortunately, the experienced car accident lawyers at Spear Greenfield can help you explore all of your legal options. Our team has been representing people in your situation for over 30 years. We have a long track record of achieving the best results for our clients, regardless of the size, scope or complexity of the case.

Contact us for a free consultation today.

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