Maybe you were traveling out of state to go on vacation, or maybe you live near the border between two states and commute back and forth when going from home to work when you were involved in a crash.
After a collision involving an out-of-state driver (whether that’s you, the other driver, or both of you), people who are injured can choose to file a lawsuit in either the state where the defendant (the at-fault driver) lives, OR in the state where the accident happened.
So the short answer is yes, you can sue or be sued for a wreck in a different state than where you live.
What Happens After a Car Crash When Insurance Laws Differ Between States?
Good news: your car insurance will cover you no matter where you are in the United States, not just the state where you live. So if you get in an accident out-of-state, you can still file a claim.
Each state is allowed to set its own requirements for auto insurance. Both Georgia and Alabama laws state that drivers must purchase a minimum of $25,000 in bodily injury liability coverage per person, $50,000 per accident, and $25,000 in coverage for property damage.
However, in Florida, for example, drivers are only required to purchase $10,000 in coverage for injuries and $10,000 in property damage.
Does this mean that if you are struck by a driver from Florida, where drivers are required to purchase much less insurance, that you can’t get more than $10,000 for your injuries? Thankfully, the answer is usually no.
If a driver from a state with a low insurance requirement causes an accident in a state with a high insurance requirement, the at-fault driver’s insurance will typically be required to meet the higher minimum.
On the other hand, if a driver from a state with a high insurance requirement causes an accident in a state with a low insurance requirement, their insurance will usually still be required to keep their own higher minimum instead of getting away with paying the lower amount.
However, out-of-state accidents can be tricky, so we always recommend discussing your case with a lawyer to learn how different insurance standards might apply to your situation, especially if you live in a fault state like Georgia or Alabama (where the at-fault driver’s insurance pays) and are involved in a crash in a no-fault state like Florida (where each driver’s own insurance pays for them) or vice versa.
What Happens After a Car Crash When Liability Laws Differ Between States?
Even more important than the difference in insurance requirements between states is the difference in liability laws between states.
For example, in Georgia, drivers can get compensation if they are injured in crashes, even if they are partially at fault, as long as they are not the majority at fault. As long as they are ruled to be 49% at fault or less, they can get compensation from the other driver’s insurance, although the amount of compensation they do get will be reduced in proportion to their fault.
However, in Alabama, if a driver is even 1% at fault for their crash, they can’t get any compensation at all.
This is important because the lawsuit needs to be filed in either the state where the at-fault driver lives or in the state where the accident happened.
Say an Alabama driver is injured in a crash in Alabama by a Georgia driver. The Alabama driver is 1% at fault and the Georgia driver is 99% at fault. If the lawsuit is filed in Alabama, the Alabama driver can’t get compensation. But because they can also file the lawsuit where the at-fault driver lives (Georgia), they might be able to get compensation because the rules are different there.
However, the Georgia driver’s insurance provider will likely push for the trial to happen in Alabama, if the claim comes to that. That’s because there is a legal doctrine called “forum non conveniens” that says that even if a state has jurisdiction, a judge could choose to dismiss a civil lawsuit and force the victim to file somewhere else if another state is more “convenient.” That’s why we always recommend speaking to a lawyer as soon as possible after a wreck involving an out-of-state driver. We’ll fight to make sure your claim is filed in the state that is most convenient for you.
Ready to Speak to a Lawyer?
An auto accident attorney experienced in cases involving out-of-state drivers will be able to help you determine where you can, and where you should, file a lawsuit after a crash that left you injured.
Even if you are not able to file a claim in the state where that lawyer practices, they can usually refer you to a lawyer in the correct state. At the Law Offices of Gary Bruce, our team offers free consultations, and is licensed to practice in both Georgia and Alabama. Call today to schedule your free case review.