Out of State Car Accidents Explained


There’s never a good time for a car accident but being involved in a motor vehicle collision is even more inconvenient hundreds or thousands of miles away in another state. Unfortunately, accidents don’t just happen close to home. They can occur while a driver is on vacation or away on business, and the unfamiliarity of being in a new place with different surroundings may leave you feeling confused and unsure about what to do next.

Accidents that happen out-of-state frequently bring up questions about how insurance coverage works, as well as where personal injury claims must be filed to recover damages resulting from a crash. The Omaha personal injury attorneys at Berry Law will fight to protect your interests and to recover the damages owed to you after you were injured in an out-of-state accident. They can investigate, review the other driver’s auto insurance policy, and advise you on how to proceed to ensure that you receive the maximum compensation to which you’re entitled. 

What Should I Do if I’m Involved in an Out-Of-State Car Accident?

The immediate steps to take following an out-of-state collision are the same as if the accident occurred while at home.

  1. Move to Safety

If you are able to safely maneuver your vehicle out of oncoming traffic, do so. Check to make sure that other drivers or passengers involved are also safe. Never move an injured person unless he or she is in immediate danger. For example, they are inside of a vehicle that is on fire or are in the path of oncoming traffic. Doing so can cause further damage and may put you at risk for liability.

  1. Call for Help

Dial 911 and explain as clearly as possible where you’re located. Provide the street or highway name, mile markers, and any nearby landmarks that may be helpful in locating you if you aren’t sure of your exact location.

  • Seek Medical Attention

Even if you feel fine, it’s important to be examined by a medical professional following any accident. Some injuries may be hidden and could take hours or days to present themselves. It’s also helpful to have documentation of any injuries you sustained, and the treatment received in the event that you need to file a personal injury suit later.

  • Take Photos

Document the scene of the accident when possible, including damage to the vehicles involved. Take both full body and up-close photos of any injuries you sustained to establish that the injuries belong to you and that they were the result of the accident in question.

  • Collect Information

Write down the contact information and license numbers of people involved in the accident or other witnesses in case you or your attorney needs to contact them in the future. Keep copies of any paperwork or case numbers given to you. You will likely want to request a copy of the police report later.

  • Avoid Admitting Fault

Phrases like, “I’m sorry,” It was my fault,” and “I didn’t see you,” can imply fault on your part, making it more difficult to recover damages later. Instead, keep language neutral and stick to asking if anyone is hurt or needs medical attention while you wait for the police to arrive.

  • Notify Insurance Company

Let your insurance company know about the accident within 24 hours so that they can begin the claims process.

Will My Auto Insurance Policy Cover Damages from an Out-Of-State Accident?

The good news is that auto insurance coverage typically extends to all 50 United States, as well as to U.S. territories and to the provinces and territories of Canada. This means that if your policy was purchased in Nebraska and you have an accident in Minnesota, the coverage should still apply as it’s outlined in your policy.

How Do State Personal Injury Fault Laws Affect Auto Insurance Claims?

Because accident fault laws are different from state to state, the insurance policy you file a claim with may vary based on the fault laws of the state where the accident occurs. For example, if you’re involved in an accident in a state with no-fault laws, you will need to file a claim and seek benefits from your own insurance company, regardless of whether you or the other driver were at fault for the accident.

In a state that uses fault-based personal injury laws, you will file the claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company.  

What Steps Will I Need to Take to Report an Out-Of-State Accident to My Insurance Company?

When reporting an out-of-state crash to your insurance provider, you should follow the same process as you would have if the accident occurred in your home state. The insurance company may choose to assign an adjuster from the state in which the policy was purchased or from the area where the wreck occurred, depending on their procedures.

In the event that a driver would need to seek out repair services near where the accident happened, most large insurance providers should be able to offer recommendations for towing companies, mechanics, body repair, and adjustors within their network across the country.

What Should I Do if My Claim Is Denied?

Since insurance policies are typically written to follow the laws of the state in which they are purchased, as long as your auto insurance claim falls within the guidelines of the policy, you shouldn’t have trouble being compensated just because the accident occurred in another state. 

If you feel that you’re being unreasonably denied compensation because the accident happened outside of your home state, you may need to involve an attorney who can protect your interests.

In the Case of Out-Of-State Accidents, Where Are Personal Injury Lawsuits Filed?

When it comes to personal injury lawsuits, the location of the accident makes the situation a bit more complicated. In order to receive compensation for medical bills, pain and suffering, damage to property, loss of wages, and extra travel expenses for an out-of-state accident, you will need to determine where the lawsuit should be filed.

The first step will be to understand who has jurisdiction over the claim in question. An injured person may file a lawsuit either in the state where the defendant resides or in the state where the collision occurred, which could be the same depending on the situation. Although it may be more convenient, a plaintiff can’t typically file a claim in his or her home state unless that’s where the crash happened.  

How Does State Law Impact the Outcome of a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

Regardless of where a personal injury lawsuit is filed, the laws of the state where the accident occurred almost always apply. As a result, the location of an accident can significantly affect the outcome of your claim. There may be limitations and conditions that impact a personal injury suit either positively or negatively.

It’s also important to be aware that the statute of limitations for filing may differ from state to state as well and is subject to the rules of the state where the accident occurred. In Nebraska, the statute of limitations to file a personal injury claim is four years from the date of the accident, but it may be shorter in other states. Seek out legal counsel to ensure that you are staying within the limitations and aren’t left without the ability to recover your losses due to a missed deadline.

What if I’m Involved in an Out-Of-State Accident With a Commercial Vehicle?

All of the information that pertains to out-of-state auto accidents is similar in nature to the rules that govern out-of-state accidents involving commercial vehicles as well. If you are involved in an accident with a large commercial truck from out of state, you can sue the trucking company in the state where the accident happened or in the state where the company has their main place of business.

In some cases, a trucking company that does a certain percentage of business in a state may be subject to that state’s jurisdiction under the minimum contacts exception, meaning that they can be sued in a state where they frequently conduct business, even if they aren’t incorporated there.

How Do a State’s Negligence Laws Factor into a Personal Injury Lawsuit?

While there is a presumption that the laws of the state where the accident happened apply when it comes to recovering damages in a personal injury suit, that presumption can be overcome. However, it’s very difficult to do so in the case of car accidents.

Where a lawsuit is filed can be an important consideration depending on the state laws that will apply. The location of a suit matters since it will determine the damages the plaintiff is able to receive in many cases. If there are multiple defendants involved in a personal injury suit, the plaintiff could choose to sue all of the defendants either in the state where the accident happened or in any state where at least one of the defendants resides.

States have differing laws regarding who is able to recover damages following a collision and surrounding who is considered negligent in a motor vehicle accident. Negligence laws can fall under Contributory Negligence Laws and Comparative Negligence Laws.

Pure Contributory Negligence Statute says that a plaintiff who is found to be even one percent at fault for an accident is unable to recover any damages in a personal injury suit. If your accident occurs in a Pure Contributory Negligence state and you’re found to be even partially responsible, you would not be able to file a personal injury claim.

Conversely, Comparative Negligence Laws allow all drivers to pursue compensation for damages, even when they are partially at fault for an accident. There are two types of Comparative Negligence Statutes:

  • Pure Comparative Fault is used when a plaintiff’s damages are reduced by their percentage of fault for the accident. For example, if the court in a personal injury case determines that there were $100,000 in damages resulting from an accident and that the plaintiff is 20 percent at fault, he or she would only be able to recover $80,000 in damages.
  • Modified Comparative Fault allows a driver to seek compensation if his or her percentage of fault is under a certain threshold. Nebraska is a modified comparative fault state, so plaintiffs in the state may not recover damages if they are found to be 50 percent or more at fault for an accident.

If you’re from a modified comparative fault state, but your accident happened in a state governed by different negligence laws, a personal injury suit would be subject to the laws of the state where it’s filed. This is why it’s important to meet with an attorney who is familiar with out-of-state motor vehicle accident claims. He or she has the background to help make sure that you’re making the right strategic decisions to bring you the best possible outcome for your situation.

It can be helpful to hire a personal injury attorney in the state where you are filing suit since that individual will have the most knowledge regarding the state’s laws. For example, if you live in Iowa, but had an accident in Omaha, consult our team to begin understanding your rights.

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