Understanding Jurisdiction in Out-of-State Car Accidents

Americans put more miles on their cars than drivers in every other country in the world. In fact, we travel by car 40 percent further than Canadians and 60 percent further than Australians each year. Many of those miles are logged in interstate travel, as vacations and family visits often have us crossing state lines in our cars. While some traffic laws differ from state to state, it’s generally a seamless transition between states on interstate highways. But what happens when you’re injured in a car accident in another state? Which state’s laws are you governed by — your own or the state you’re in? Who should you call for help?

Insurance Coverage in Out-of-State Accidents

The first thing to be aware of is when you get in an accident, your car insurance will cover you no matter what state you’re in. Most auto policies provide coverage in any state in the U.S., plus any territory or possession of the U.S. and any province or territory of Canada. However, many policies don’t cover travel to Mexico or Central America, so be sure to understand your policy limits before traveling to these areas.

Suing for Injury Compensation

Unfortunately, not every accident is straightforward. If you or your passengers were injured in a crash that was the fault of another driver, you may have to sue to get compensation for your injuries. When the accident occurs in another state, you may be confused about how and where to file a lawsuit, as issues of jurisdiction are in question.

In general, you can and should file a suit in the state in which the defendant lives, as states have personal jurisdiction over all their residents. This means that if you’re from Illinois but are injured in a crash while driving through Kansas and the driver who caused the crash is a Kansas resident, you’ll have to file suit in Kansas. You’ll also be subject to the procedural laws, including statute of limitations, of the state in which the accident occurred. For these reasons, your best course of action is to hire an experienced local law firm to handle your case.

The Advantages of Using a Local Law Firm

While you may have a trusted attorney back home, if you find yourself in an out-of-state legal situation — including an injury car accident — you’ll likely get the best results by hiring a law firm based in the state where the accident occurred. A local attorney will be more familiar with state traffic laws, statutes of limitations, and procedural considerations and may also have personal connections with certain insurance adjusters, defense attorneys, and judges in the area — something the attorney where you live isn’t likely to have. A local attorney will also be able to handle the legal side of things while you recover at home.

No Matter Where Your Accident Occurs, Do These Things

Whether your accident occurred out of state or close to home, you must take certain steps immediately following the crash to protect yourself and your claim, including the following:

  • Call 911. Get emergency medical care if you need it and get the police to the scene of the accident.
  • Contact your insurance company. Remember: most auto policies cover you in every state and U.S. territory. Even if you are eventually awarded a settlement from the at-fault driver, you will need to report the damages to your own insurance company.
  • File a police report. Make sure the responding officer gets your version of events and contact information for those involved and potential witnesses.
  • Take pictures. If possible, take pictures of the crash scene before anything is moved. You may need these in court later on.
  • Call an attorney. Find a local car accident and personal injury law firm and call it as soon as you’re able to following your accident.

Have You Been Injured In A Kansas City Area Car Accident?

If you’ve been injured in a car accident you need to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Kansas City office directly at 816.471.5111 to schedule your free consultation.