There is a common misconception that auto accidents occurring out of state are not eligible for a personal injury lawsuit. But the reality is that out of state auto accidents can still lead to a successful lawsuit.
If you end up in an out of state car accident during your holiday travels, do not assume there is no avenue for legal recourse. Meet with our attorneys and we will do everything in our power to ensure justice is served on your behalf in the form of financial compensation.
What To Do If You Get Into an Accident Out of State
If you get into an automobile accident out of state, there are some first immediate steps that you should take before you can even think about a personal injury lawsuit. (In fact, these steps apply to auto accidents in state, as well.)
- Move your vehicle and yourself to a safe place. If your accident took place in the middle of the road but you can still move your car, try to get it out of the way of oncoming traffic. If you can’t move your car, at least get to the side of the road to keep yourself safe.
- Check on everyone and call the police. Check in on all of your passengers and go see if the passengers in the other vehicle are OK, too, or if anyone needs emergency services. You should also call the police (in fact, most states require it). Plus, the police will make an official record of everything.
- Gather evidence at the scene. Take pictures of your vehicle and the other vehicles in the accident, as well as any injuries you or your passengers have sustained, and the general area where the accident took place. Collect all witness names and phone numbers, too.
- If you or one of your passengers is injured, get to a hospital, doctor, or urgent care as soon as you can. It may take a day or two for your injury to show up, so go ahead and visit a doctor even if you feel fine. Be sure to tell your doctor about the accident.
- Don’t talk to the other driver’s insurance company, even if they call you repeatedly. You do not have to talk to them, and talking to them could only hurt you in the long run. Most importantly – do not admit fault in the accident.
- Keep track of lost wages, medical bills, etc. You’ll need all of that information and documentation when asking for compensation.
- Hire an experienced car accident attorney early on. An attorney who knows the law and knows how to deal with insurance companies will make sure all your information is ready for the suit and will fight for you every step of the way.
Where Does My Policy Cover?
If you’re stressing about your insurance policy before you can think about filing your personal injury suit, you probably don’t need to worry. Most auto insurance policies around the U.S. cover all 50 states and even some U.S. territories.
Of course, it’s best to check with your insurance company directly after the accident to know all the details. Your car accident attorney can also help you with the details with that.
Filing a Lawsuit After an Out of State Auto Accident
A lawsuit can be filed after an out of state accident. However, this lawsuit must be filed in the proper jurisdiction. In other words, the lawsuit must be filed in a jurisdiction that has the authority to hear the case.
Jurisdiction is determined by a variety of factors ranging from the location of the accident to the parties involved in the accident and the cause of the case.
If you have UM coverage (underinsured motorist), through a Louisiana car insurance policy, you can name your own insurance as a party to the litigation. With a Louisiana based defendant, which your UM insurer would be, you can file suit in Louisiana. But if you do not have UM coverage, that option does not apply.
(Side note: you should seriously consider adding UM coverage if you do not already have it.)
In the vast majority of auto accidents, the personal injury case is filed in the state in which the accident took place. It is quite possible that two out of state drivers will end up involved in a personal injury lawsuit in a state they do not reside in simply because the collision took place in the state in which they were traveling for the holidays or another event.
The bottom line is traveling outside of your home state subjects you to the laws of that state.
Out of State Auto Accidents are Inherently Complicated
If you are involved in an auto accident outside of your home state, it is important to understand the ensuing litigation will be somewhat complicated. In the vast majority of such situations, the laws of the state in which the auto accident occurred will prove applicable.
Such personal injury lawsuits tend to take some time due to the conditions and limitations of each unique state. So don’t expect a cut and dry case after an out of state accident.
Be patient and put your faith in our personal injury attorneys to pursue justice on your behalf, and we will work within the confines of the law to obtain maximum compensation.
What Do You Need Compensation For?
So your accident is bad enough that you need to seek compensation, but what are the types of compensation you can sue for?
- Medical expenses. Reimbursement for medical expenses includes all the medical bills you’ve had, as well as all pain medication or tests. If your injury or injuries require ongoing physical therapy or have lasting effects, you can also ask for compensation for future medical bills.
- Vehicle damages. If the accident caused serious harm to your vehicle, you can also ask for compensation to help pay for the repairs. That’s why it’s important to hang on to all bills related to the accident while you’re preparing your case.
- Lost income. You may be out of work temporarily due to your injuries or vehicle damages. This can include loss of future wages, as well, but only if you hang on to your W2s, tax returns, and other relevant documentation.
- Pain and suffering. This includes all physical and emotional trauma you suffered because of the accident.
- Punitive damages. Punitive damages are not nearly as common as the other types of compensation, since these cases are civil suits. However, you could ask for punitive damages, for example, if the other driver was drunk and you want to deter them from driving drunk again.
The Option of Suing the Negligent Driver in Federal Court
If you seek more than $75,000 in aggregate compensation after your out of state auto accident, it is possible to file a successful lawsuit in federal court.
It’s also possible to file the personal injury suit in federal court if the defendant lives in a different state than you. Such a situation is characterized by the term “diversity of citizenship” as the drivers involved in the accident reside in different states.
But The Clock is Ticking …
As noted above, jurisdiction is of the utmost importance. If your personal injury lawsuit is not filed in the appropriate jurisdiction, the case will be moved to the appropriate court.
However, this transition will result in delays or possibly even jeopardize your chances of obtaining the compensation you need to return your life to normal. Even though your auto accident occurred in a state where you do not reside, that state’s statute of limitations is still applicable.
Statute of limitations is the maximum amount of time you have to start legal proceedings after the initial incident (in this case, your car accident) occurs.
It’s quite possible that the other state’s statute of limitations is shorter than the statute of limitations in your state. This is precisely why it is so important to speak with our personal injury attorneys as quickly as possible after the crash occurs.
If your personal injury lawsuit is not filed in time, you forfeit the right to pursue justice in a court of law. Furthermore, if your personal injury lawsuit is not filed in the proper jurisdiction, you might run out of time to file the suit in the appropriate court. It is quite possible this delay will exceed the time limit permitted to file your lawsuit, resulting in the dismissal of your case.
Different States Have Different Types of “Fault”
Again, every state follows different rules for car accidents. Here are some of the different types of rules states follow in regards to fault:
- Some states are called “fault-based” states because liability must be determined so that the at-fault driver can pay for the other driver’s damages.
- In “no-fault” states, all drivers are required to carry personal injury protection insurance and use their own auto insurance policies after accidents.
Those two types of fault are fairly straight-forward. But some states have partial-fault rules that are a little more complicated:
- Pure Comparative Fault: Compensation under this rule is determined by fault percentage. So if you were found to be 20% at fault for the accident, you can only receive 80% of your damages from the other driver, even though they were mostly at fault.
- Modified Comparative Fault: Some states have a modified version of this. In this situation, if the driver is 50% or more at fault then they cannot collect damages from the other at-fault driver.
- Contributory Negligence: But some states are very strict. In these instances, if the injured driver shares any percentage of causing the accident, they are barred completely from collecting damages from the other driver – even if they’re found to be only 1% at fault.
So how does this look in practice? Here in Louisiana, for example, we follow the fault-based system. If one driver causes an accident and damage to another driver’s person or property, the at-fault driver is responsible for paying for those damages.
Florida, however, is a no-fault state, which means that all Florida drivers have personal injury protection insurance with their insurance policy. So if two Florida drivers are in an accident, both drivers will make claims to their insurance companies, regardless of what is at fault.
If you get into an accident in a no-fault state and are not sure how to handle it, you should contact your personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.
Who Else Can File For Compensation?
If any of these situations apply to you, get in touch with an experienced attorney to know what your next steps should be.
Contact Jones Law Firm today to get started on your case
At Jones Law Firm, we know that bad things sometimes happen to good people. That’s why we’re here to help. If you or someone you love has been in an auto accident, give us a call today at 318-442-1515.
Contact us today and let’s get started working on your case as soon as possible so that you can get back to your normal life.