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Car Accidents In Another State: What Happens Next?

Car accidentIf you're planning on traveling out of state this holiday season, it's important to be aware of the possibility—however unlikely—of an accident away from home. Crashes are stressful enough, but you may be unsure of what to expect across state lines in terms of laws and your insurance coverage. Here are the basics. Obviously, your first step should be determining if anyone needs medical assistance.

As usual, exchange insurance information with the other driver. Next, gather names and phone numbers of any witnesses, as well as badge and license numbers of any involved police officers. From here, insurance might seem like a complicated issue—but it's really not.

A vast majority of insurance companies extend coverage all across the US and even Canada, but double check with your provider to be sure.

The tricky part comes if and when an injury has occurred.That's because several states (and Washington, DC) have a “no fault” policy when it comes to car accidents, meaning injured drivers draw from their own insurance first after an accident. Those states are:

  • Florida
  • Hawaii
  • Kansas
  • Kentucky
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • North Dakota
  • Pennsylvania
  • Utah
  • The District of Columbia

That means no matter who's at fault, your accident is paid for by your insurance. The only exception is if someone sustains a very serious injury. In addition, some states have varying degrees of shared liability in accidents that can reduce or negate your compensation for damages.

Pure comparative fault states allow you to collect damages proportionate to your total fault in the accident—meaning you'd receive $1,000 in damages if your total costs were $2,000 and you were 50% responsible for the accident.

Likewise, you'd receive $500 out of $2,000 if the accident was 75% your fault.

In modified comparative fault states, you may only collect damages if your are less than 50% responsible.

And in states who follow contributory negligence, anyone partially at fault for the accident is unable to collect damages.

Also, be mindful of the statute of limitations in each state you are traveling to (meaning how long you have after an accident to file a lawsuit). Most states allow claims up to a year after an accident, but this number may vary.

That being said, a crash outside your home state doesn't have to be more stressful than one close to home. Keep a cool head and you'll be just fine.

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