What to do if in a car accident out of state (NJ)

December 17, 2020 | Chris Costello, Esq.

Road trips are an American tradition, from meticulously planned coast-to-coast explorations to weekend getaways and trips to grandparents. But we are all too aware that not all road trips go as smoothly as planned. In 2019 more than 4 million people in the U.S. were in car accidents and suffered injuries serious enough that they had to seek medical treatment. If you were injured in a car accident out of state and need to file a lawsuit or a claim with the other driver’s insurance company, it may not be as easy as you think.

Report the Accident to the Local Authorities

Whether the crash occurs in New Jersey or another state these 10 steps are important following the crash. Getting the compensation you need to cover lost wages, medical care and other expenses plays a vital role in your recovery. You should take many of the same steps reporting an out-of-state car crash that you would if it were local in New Jersey:

  • Report the accident to local or state police
  • Get the contact, license, insurance, and registration information for all drivers involved with the crash
  • Take photos of the accident scene and damage to your vehicle
  • Seek medical treatment to determine if you have any potential medical injuries.
  • Avoid making recorded statements without legal representation, even if you are not at fault. The insurance company will request you to give a recorded statement, but it is best to seek counsel from an attorney prior to making a recorded statement.

Medical symptoms from a car crash can take days or weeks after the accident to appear. Seeking medical care immediately after your accident can help ensure your future rights to compensation.

File a Claim with Your Insurance Company

Your car insurance will cover you no matter where you are in the United States. The process for filing a claim with your carrier is the same out of state as it would be if you filed one for a local New Jersey car crash. Most companies have the option of filing online, via an app, through a claims phone number or with your local agent.

Keep in mind that insurance companies’ goal is to make a profit. Although they typically ensure an adjuster is assigned to your case quickly, they may also try to lowball your claim. This means that they may offer a settlement before you find out how much damage was done to you or your car. Consider consulting an attorney before talking with an adjuster to help ensure you are position to get the maximum fair compensation available.

File a Claim with the Other Driver’s Carrier

If the other driver has auto insurance in one of the 12 no-fault states, even if the crash was not within those borders, you may still have to go through your insurance company to file a claim against the other person. If your accident occurs in a tort (the at-fault driver is responsible for paying for the damages) state, you will need to file a claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance for damages such as medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering.

File a Personal Injury Lawsuit After the Accident

You can generally file a personal injury suit in the state where the accident occurred or where the at-fault driver lives. For example, imagine you live in New Jersey, are driving to Florida and have an accident in North Carolina. A driver from Georgia hit you. You can sue the driver in North Carolina or Georgia. Since you do not live in either of the states, however, the process is inconvenient.

Attorneys typically have a license to practice in their state and perhaps a bordering state. You must find an attorney licensed in the state you choose to file the lawsuit. The personal injury laws in each state may differ, making it more favorable for you to file in one of the states. For example, North Carolina is a contributory negligence state. You can’t sue for damages or injuries if it’s proven you contributed even 1% in any way to the accident.

The statutes associated with contributory negligence often have harsh results. Most states follow the comparative negligence doctrine. This reduces the amount you can recover in damages by the percentage in which it is determined you are at fault. There are three types of comparative negligence:

  • Pure – The amount of damages awarded to you equals the percentage for which the at-fault driver is responsible
  • Modified –You can recover damages only if the amount of your “fault” is equal to or less than the other driver
  • Slight-Gross –You can recover damages only if your fault is considered “slight” and the other driver’s negligence is deemed “gross”

The other driver’s insurance policy also affects how much in damages you can recover from the carrier versus the driver, and the statute of limitations for filing a claim varies from state to state. Check the time allowed to make sure you do not wait too long and risk being barred from your claim.

File a Personal Injury Claim Against a Business

If your accident involved a commercial truck driver or other business employee driving a company-owned vehicle, you could sue the company in the state where:

  • The business is incorporated
  • It has its primary place of business
  • The accident happened

If the organization does a significant amount of business in your state, you may be able to bring a lawsuit there.

Company car policies typically protect the business against car accidents resulting in lawsuits with additional coverage. If a driver was using his vehicle for company business, you may recover damages from both the business and the driver.

File a Lawsuit Against Multiple Defendants

In cases with multiple defendants, you can file a lawsuit in the state where the accident occurred or in any state in which at least one defendant has legal residence. Following the example above, if the accident happened in North Carolina and involved three other drivers, with one driver residing in Georgia, one living in Florida and one living in Tennessee, you can file a lawsuit in any of those states.

Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer

Whether for business or pleasure, driving across state lines can be the fastest way to get to your destination. However, it also comes with a certain amount of risk. Filing a car accident lawsuit locally can be complicated and stressful as the NJ civil lawsuits process is very involved. But when you file out of state things get even more complicated. If you are in a car accident out of state, it can add to your burden, taking an emotional toll on you and your family. Having an experienced personal injury attorney can help reduce your stress and is critical for getting the compensation deserve. Contact us to discuss your claim. If your car accident was in a state we do not have a licensed attorney practicing we can try and help find you a reputable attorney in that state.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice.

Chris Costello, ESQ.

Chris Costello, ESQ.

Chris handles matters in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania and is an active member of the New Jersey Association for Justice as well as the Burlington County Bar Association. As a Burlington County personal injury lawyer, Mr. Costello has served as chairman of the Burlington County Bar Association Personal Injury Committee and lectured on topics related to auto accidents and insurance law.

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