Being injured in a car accident can be a painful and difficult ordeal, and if you are injured in a different state from where you live, you are probably wondering how your insurance, and receiving compensation for your injuries, works. Having an experienced auto accident attorney on your side is the first step in dealing with a car accident and the insurance companies, but let me also cover what can happen if you are in a car accident out of state.
The laws of the state where your car accident occurs will govern how any cases or claims will be revealed. Most states, like Colorado, are “at-fault” states. This means that whoever caused the accident is responsible for damages; however, there are some exceptions to that very basic rule. Some states follow what is called “pure comparative fault,” others “modified comparative fault,” and others “contributory negligence.” Unfortunately these terms can all be used interchangeably and thus become very confusing. Then there are “no-fault” states. In their basic form this is what all of these terms mean:
Pure Comparative Fault: In a state that follows this method, even if the injured driver had a role in causing the accident he or she can still collect damages from the other at-fault person. The amount of damages will be offset by the percentage the driver was at fault. So if you were 30% at fault for the accident, you would only receive 70% of your damages from the other driver.
Modified Comparative Fault: In a state that follows this method, the injured driver must be less than 50% at fault for the accident. If the driver is 50% or more at fault then they cannot collect damages from the other at-fault driver.
Contributory Negligence: In some states, if a driver shares any percentage of causing the accident, even 1%, then the injured driver is barred completely from collecting damages from the other driver.
No-Fault States: There are about a dozen states that have “no-fault” auto insurance laws. In these states if you are injured in a car accident you would go directly to your car insurance company and it wouldn’t matter for coverage purposes who caused the accident. No-fault states will require some type of personal injury protection (PIP) coverage.
Insurance Coverage When You’re Out of State
Most insurance policies cover you when you are in any part of the U.S., and possibly Canada. You will have to check your own policy to see. Because the laws of the state your accident is in govern, the state minimum requirements for insurance coverage may cover you. Your insurance company will look at your coverage limits and the minimum requirements in the state your accident occurs. In Colorado you are required to carry a minimum of $25,000 for liability per person. If you’re in a state that requires $30,000, your insurance would cover that $5,000 in liability if necessary. Liability coverage is what your insurance company would pay to the injured party if you were liable for the accident.
Your auto policy probably contains a section for out-of-state coverage. Most likely the policy will state that the policy will interpret the coverage to be that as required by the law in the state of the accident, and that law will replace the other coverage as stated in the policy. This may cover just liability cover or additional coverage, such as uninsured/underinsured motorist benefits. However, it is very important for you to read your own policy and see exactly how out-of-state coverage is worded.
For example, if you have a Colorado auto insurance policy, but you are in an accident in a no-fault state, your insurance policy should adjust to and transform to a no-fault policy. If this is the case you will not have to deal with the insurance company of the at-fault party, but just your own. Again this is dependent on the type of policy you have. Thus, if you are injured out-of-state, your insurance company or the state’s laws may provide benefits even if your basic policy does not. Regardless of where your accident happens, we recommend contacting a personal injury attorney in your home state to help you determine how to proceed.
What Should You Do When the Accident Happens?
You should do the same things you would do if the accident happened in your hometown or in a different state. Those things are:
- Call the Police
- See a Doctor Immediately
- Notify Your Insurance Company
- Organize Your Contacts
- Don’t Sign Anything
- Contact an Experienced Attorney like McDivitt Law Firm
It is very important to know what to do after the accident, so always be prepared when traveling out of the state.