Road trips can be great. Perhaps you’re visiting family or you’re traveling for work. However, any time spent on the road opens up the risk for car accidents. There are over 140,000 accidents in South Carolina alone each year. But, what happens if you get into a car accident out of state? Does your car insurance still cover damages? Can you still file a personal injury lawsuit? How do you go about seeking fair compensation? Which state laws apply?
As long as you insure your car in your home state, you should be covered for out-of-state car accidents too. You should also have the right to take legal action if needed. That said, state laws can vary and getting into an accident out of state can complicate matters. Working with a reputable South Carolina personal injury lawyer can help you get the compensation you deserve.
What Should You Do After an Auto Accident?
Immediately following a crash, what you should do in an out-of-state auto accident is the same as if you got into an accident in South Carolina. It’s still a car crash, so you’ll mostly take the same steps. The exact order of these steps might vary somewhat, depending on the situation:
- Call the police and emergency responders. Even in a minor accident, police can officially document the scene. They will collect valuable details. The police report can serve as valuable evidence to support your case later on. Get the officer’s business card.
- Seek medical help and treatment. If anyone is seriously injured, the most important thing is that they get the medical care they need. Even if you don’t feel hurt, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to document possible injuries. The official record can help your case too.
- Collect evidence and eyewitness contact information. Note the important details of the crash. Where and when did it happen? What are the weather conditions? Take pictures. If there are any witnesses, get their names and contact information.
- Exchange information with the other driver. Write down the make, model, and color of the other car, plus its license plate. Get the other driver’s license, registration, and insurance details.
- Tell your car insurance company about the accident. Keep this call relatively brief until you’ve had a chance to meet with your lawyer. Do not admit fault or even suggest it. Start the insurance claim process, but go no further without your attorney.
- Retain the services of a licensed lawyer. They can advise you of the best course of action. An experienced attorney can assess your case and explain your options. They are on your side. Get a lawyer where the accident happened. They’ll know the local laws better.
How Does This Affect the Car Insurance Claim?
Nearly all car insurance policies offer coverage all across the United States. This means if you insure your car in South Carolina, you should still be covered in Texas, New York, or Florida. This generally applies to all short-term visits, like summer road trips. If you move permanently to a different state, you will need to update your car registration.
Things may change if your road trip takes you not only out of state, but also out of the country. If you cross into Mexico or Canada, your insurance policy may or may not cover you for damages. It’s best to talk to your insurance provider about your specific policy in that case.
For out-of-state auto accidents, filing a claim is basically the same as for a car accident in South Carolina. Similarly, if you meet South Carolina state minimums, you are treated as if you meet minimum requirements in other states too.
Where Can You File a Lawsuit?
When you’re involved in an out-of-state accident, you generally have two choices for legal action:
- You can sue in the state where the crash happened. As a South Carolinian, if you get into an accident in Georgia, you can sue the other driver in Georgia.
- You can sue where the other driver lives. If that accident in Georgia involved a driver from Ohio, you can sue them in Ohio.
You cannot do both. So, you must pick one or the other. In either case, you cannot pursue legal action in South Carolina, even though that’s where you’re from. The exception would be if that driver is also from South Carolina. If you file in the wrong state, your case may be dismissed.
If the out-of-state accident involves multiple drivers, you can sue in any of their states. Say you get into a crash in Georgia with two other cars. One is from Ohio and the other is from Alabama. You can file the lawsuit in your choice of Georgia, Ohio, or Alabama. The same rules apply if the accident involves a business, like truck drivers.
Do Local State Comparative Negligence Laws Apply?
Generally speaking, local laws prevail where the accident happened. If the crash is in a state with comparative negligence, then that frames what legal recourse you may have. In that case, the amount of the claim is relative to the percentage of fault. If the crash is in a pure contributory negligence state, then that will apply. In that case, even if you are 1% at fault, you cannot pursue any damages. Similarly, if the accident is in a state with no-fault laws, like Florida or Kentucky, then those rules will apply.
This is the presumption that applies to most cases. But, you may be able to overcome this with the right argument. Your lawyer will be able to explain your options to you. This can help you decide how best to move forward with your personal injury lawsuit.
Licensed Legal Representation in the Right State
Car accident claims can get complicated quickly. It’s important to seek sound legal advice. With out-of-state accidents, you will need to get legal representation that’s licensed in the state where you are pursuing legal action. This is usually where the accident occurred.
Local lawyers understand local laws, like what it means to drive uninsured. They can explain the statute of limitations or other details that can affect your case.