Summer is almost here, which means it’s time for you, your family and friends to plan your next summer road trips. While you may have already worked out every detail of your interstate trip, let’s admit that things may not always go as planned. One of those things you least expect but could happen is a car accident.
Driving on unfamiliar roads in strange cities could put you in such an unexpected car mishap. As they say, even the safest and most experienced driver runs the risk of being involved in car accidents, especially when traveling to new places.
Hence, if you travel by car across the country, consider preparing yourself for such an event. It will be a good idea to know in advance what to do when caught in an out-of-state car accident.
What is an out-of-state car accident?
As the name suggests, out-of-state car accidents are car mishaps that occur in a state outside your living vicinity.
To illustrate, say, you are a resident of Las Vegas (Nevada), and you embark on a road trip to San Diego (California). Somehow, you got into a car accident in San Diego with another car whose driver is a resident of Salt Lake City (Utah). Such a situation is what we call an out-of-state car accident.
The thing with out-of-state car accidents is that there are disparities in the applicable laws governing these two different states. Every State in the US has different laws that govern injury claims. Corollary to it, in enforcing your rights and claiming recovery for a car accident, the accident’s location has a huge impact on the case.
What should I immediately do in case of an out-of-state car accident?
Like any car accident, the first thing you should do is to call emergency services. Call 911 immediately.
When able, take photographs of the damages to both vehicles and report it to the authorities. Note that in making a report, you must not admit to anything, even if you think you may have significantly contributed to the accident.
On a later note, consider getting a thorough check-up from a physician for injuries or pains you may subsequently suffer because of the accident. However, if the accident occurred in a graver state, seek emergency services immediately, and have yourself checked and confined to the nearest hospital.
Briefly, the procedures mentioned above are the general, immediate, and less complicated responses to car accidents. However, the case is different when it comes to handling the technical and legal procedures of out-of-state car accidents. These more complicated parts often refer to the filing of personal injury claims, and sometimes, to the filing of insurance claims.
Where to file a personal injury suit after an out-of-state car accident?
As a general rule, if you are injured in a car accident, you may file a suit for compensation in the State where the defendant resides, or in the State where the accident occurred.
Given the earlier scenario, you can, therefore, sue the defendant driver in Utah (his State of residence) or California (the place of the accident). The law does not allow you to file a lawsuit against the defendant in your home state unless the defendant consents to it. Consequently, you are only limited to filing a personal injury suit in Utah or California.
It is worthy to note that the place where you sue a defendant determines which State’s laws apply to the case. If you decide to sue the defendant in California (the site of the accident), which is a tort state, Californian laws shall apply to the cases. The law of the place where the accident occurred shall, thus, govern.
All these may be too technical for an ordinary person. However, with the aid of car accident lawyers in the San Diego area, you will be able to claim reparation from the defendant applying San Diego’s comparative fault state laws with more convenience. You only have to look for the experienced lawyers in the area to handle your case. These attorneys will ably represent you before an arbitrator or a jury to be able to recover compensation on your behalf.
Not only that, but these lawyers will also be able to guide you through strict technical rules you might not know of. For instance, each State has different statutes of limitations for filing personal injury claims. You could lose your claim based on a technicality for failure to observe the statute of limitations. Thankfully, your lawyer can guide you through this.
Applying this to the above example, California has a two-year period within which you file a personal injury suit. Utah, on the other hand, has four years for filing a lawsuit. These are essential periods for filing that you must carefully observe. Since California laws were applied to the example, the personal injury suit must be filed within two years from the date of the accident. Otherwise, your claim will forever be barred.
Where to file an auto insurance claim?
Most often than not, car insurance providers will likely cover you regardless of where you are in the United States for as long as you qualify for recovery. Hence, if you get into an accident in any state outside your home state, you need not worry as much since your car insurance policy will cover you nonetheless.
Fortunately, car insurance policies extend coverage beyond state lines. Consequently, when you file a claim for an out-of-state car accident, such a claim goes through the same process as filing for an in-state car accident.
Nevertheless, no matter how simple this procedure may be, we still deem it wise to consult an attorney first to guide you through the process and better explain the legal repercussions of your options and decisions.
Car accidents, by itself, are complicated occurrences. Out-of-state car accidents are all the more difficult since there are many factors we need to consider in such an event. State laws are not uniform. As such, they vary in application. Fortunately, we have learned a few basics of what to do when caught in an out-of-state car accident. Remember, however, that if things are a bit too much to handle, you can always entrust technical procedures to reliable car accident attorneys in the area.
Kevin Moore is a Law student and contributing writer for various magazines, sites, and law publications. When he’s off duty from school and work duties, Kevin loves to hop from one historical museum to another to get his cultural fix.