WHAT HAPPENS IF I’M IN A CAR ACCIDENT IN ANOTHER STATE?
Car accidents can be traumatic, life-altering events. Even a minor fender-bender, with minor damage and no injuries, can be upsetting and disorienting.
All that worry and confusion gets greatly magnified when the accident happens far from home. Car wrecks in another state present a range of challenges, from dealing with car repairs and medical treatment in unfamiliar territory to trying to figure out what laws and insurance regulations apply. Here are some basic guidelines for what to expect if you’re involved in an accident in another state.
STEP ONE: EVALUATING THE SITUATION
The first steps you should take after an out-of-state accident are identical to what you would do if the same accident happened a block from where you live. Keep calm. Call 911. Check for injuries; even if you don’t believe you’re seriously hurt, you should consider having the paramedics examine you. Move your vehicle out of traffic if possible to do so safely.
Fill out an accident report, but don’t make comments admitting fault to anyone. Collect information from the other driver regarding insurance and obtain contact information for witnesses. Take pictures of the damage and, if relevant, road conditions.
In other words, document the accident to the best of your ability. That will make any subsequent dealings with insurance companies that much easier to navigate.
STEP TWO: PURSUING YOUR CLAIM
If it turns out that you have a claim for property damages or injuries as a result of the accident, it’s important to realize that the applicable laws and regulations are those of the state in which it occurred. That state may have very different requirements regarding the amount of liability coverage a motorist must carry, whether the question of which driver was “at fault” might play a part in settling a claim, and so on.
The good news is that almost all auto insurance policies offer coverage across the United States, if not abroad; the same policy that protects you at home should be in force where the accident happened. (If it’s a rental car, it’s possible the rental company's insurance policy or your credit card’s insurance coverage would apply; you should, in any case, review your coverages before embarking on any road trip across state lines or driving internationally.) In most cases, insurance companies will automatically increase your liability coverage if it turns out that your coverage falls below the minimum limits required in the state the accident occurred in. The insurance company’s local adjustors should be able to help you through the car repair process. In fact, assuming both parties are carrying required liability insurance, many aspects of filing a claim will be much the same as it would be in your home state.
But what if the other party is responsible for the accident and doesn’t have insurance? That’s why it’s important to carry uninsured motorist coverage on your own policy, regardless of which state you’re visiting.
STEP THREE: WHAT IF I HAVE TO FILE A LAWSUIT?
If your insurance company isn’t honoring the terms of its policy, or you believe that you have a claim against the other driver for damages or injuries, you should consult with a knowledgeable personal injury attorney. It’s important that the attorney is licensed in the state where the accident occurred — because that’s where any legal claim is probably going to have to be filed. If you already have an attorney you’ve worked with before in your home state, he or she might be able to recommend an attorney who meets the necessary requirements.
Keep in mind that states impose different time limitations (Statute of Limitations) indicating much time you have before you must file an accident lawsuit; the sooner you consult with an attorney, the easier it will be to comply with filing deadlines.
THE CAR ACCIDENT ATTORNEYS AT FRANK AZAR & ASSOCIATES
For more than thirty years the attorneys at Franklin D. Azar & Associates, P.C. have helped thousands of injured people obtain complete and timely compensation for their losses. Our proven track record and expertise have allowed us to grow into the largest personal-injury law firm in Colorado, with offices in Denver, Greenwood Village, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo. If you’ve been injured in a bus, car, truck, or motorcycle accident, you may be entitled to compensation. Please call the car accident attorneys at Frank Azar & Associates day or night at 720-372-2824 or contact us here for a free consultation and no-obligation evaluation of your case.