Getting into a car accident is a nightmare even when there are no injuries and only minimal damage. Getting into an accident when you are out of town, especially if you get hurt, is a disaster scenario.

And with the holiday season here, many people will cross state borders to spend the holidays with family, which means your risk of an accident is going to go up, too.

Watch our Legal Break video for more information on what to do after an out-of-town accident, or read on.

Prepare Before You Leave Home

If possible, make sure you have your insurance information with you and , if you are renting a vehicle, make sure ahead of time if you are covered for damages and liability if you get in a wreck.  Call your agent and read your policy to see if a rental car is covered.  If it is not, you should buy the coverage in the state where you are going and make sure you are covered.

Get All the Information You Can

If you get into an accident while out of town, as inconvenient as it may be, never leave the crash scene without calling the police to file a report! It’s going to be vitally important to collect all the information you can at the scene, and a police report is a big part of that. If you won’t be in town long, this may be your only chance to do so.

In addition to collecting the contact information of everyone at the accident scene, you should take pictures of everything, including:

  • All involved vehicles, especially the damage each incurred.
  • Any debris on the road and its positioning.
  • Any skid marks on the road.
  • Any other property damage, such as to road barriers.
  • The scene where the accident occurred, including street signs or traffic lights, overhanging trees or bushes, and so on – this could be used to help determine how the accident happened.
  • Pictures of surrounding businesses – your attorney can reach out to these businesses later to determine if they captured security footage of the crash.
  • The other driver, any passengers in either car, any witnesses, and the responding police officer, to help prove who was at the scene.
  • Any injuries you sustained.
  • The other driver’s license plate, driver’s license, insurance card, vehicle registration card, and vehicle (with make and model badges visible).

This is even more important in out-of-town accidents than in local accidents, since you won’t be as familiar with the area, if at all.

Report the Accident to Your Auto Insurance Provider

Even if laws about what type of insurance you need and how much vary from state to state, most auto insurance coverage extends past state lines, not just the state where it was purchased. Meaning, if you have a Georgia address but get into a crash in Alabama – or even California or New York for that matter – you are still covered. Some policies also cover accidents in U.S. territories, such as Puerto Rico, and even accidents that take place in Canada.

If the policy limits are different in the state where your accident occurred than in your home state, the policy will adjust if your company does business in that state. For example, if the minimum policy limits are higher in that state than your home state, your policy will adjust higher. But don’t worry, if you are in an accident where the minimum requirements are lower, your policy will not adjust down.

For that reason, the process for reporting an accident while out of town isn’t any different than the process for reporting an accident that takes place where you live.

However, depending on how your insurance provider decides to run things, you may end up with either an adjuster in your local area or an adjuster local to the area of the accident.

Get Medical Treatment Right Away

Not all injuries are immediately obvious, so it’s smart to get checked out by a healthcare professional soon after the accident, even if you think you are uninjured or your injuries are minor.

If it’s only a short visit, it should be fine to wait until you get home as long as you schedule an appointment immediately and let your doctor know you’ve been in a car accident. But if you suspect you were injured, consider visiting an urgent care center in the area where you were injured rather than wait. The sooner you see a doctor, the more clearly your injuries can be linked to the accident, if you decide to pursue compensation.

Get Your Car Fixed

You have the right to take your car to any repair shop of your choosing after an accident, so the decision to choose a shop local to the accident or local to you is your decision – but it can complicate the reimbursement. That’s another reason to call your insurance right away! Your insurance may cover towing your vehicle to the shop of your choosing, even if that shop is at home, and hundreds of miles away.

Were You In a Rental Car?

If you are in a rental car and get in a wreck while out of town, your personal auto insurance should also protect your rental car. However, things may be different if you aren’t visiting family or on vacation.

If you are using a rental car for business, plan on purchasing rental insurance at the counter of the rental agency. Most personal vehicle insurance will not cover rentals for business purposes. Call your agent to make sure and document what they tell you with a reply email or text. 

Hire a Lawyer

As with selecting a body shop, it’s your choice to choose either a lawyer near where the crash happened or back home, if you decide to file a compensation claim. However, we recommend going home first.

If you were injured in a neighboring state, many local lawyers may also be licensed in the state where you were injured as well. But if you were injured further away from home, a local personal injury lawyer can still advise you on whether you have a case, and connect you with a lawyer they recommend local to the area where you were injured.

If you have other questions about what to do after an out-of-state accident, especially if you or someone you love has been injured in one, we have the answers. Contact the Law Offices of Gary Bruce today.