Living in the Panhandle, we are surrounded by idyllic vacation spots from Panama City all the way to New Orleans, but sometimes our out-of-state trips can have unpleasant consequences. Imagine traveling to see the New Orleans Saints play and while driving through Mississippi you get rear-ended. Although common-sense tells you that there should be few differences about handling an accident just because it takes place out of state, there are several important differences to keep in mind.
Injuries From An Out-of-state Accident
As a Florida resident, if you are in your own car, then even though an accident occurs in another state, your own car insurance will still be responsible for paying your medical bills. Because all Florida residents have to have no-fault or personal-injury protection benefits (PIP), you can seek medical treatment out of state and still have coverage.
If, however, you are riding in someone else’s car when the crash happens, your insurance may not provide you with no-fault/PIP coverage, leaving you to use private health insurance (if you have any) or to pay out of pocket for your treatment. No matter what state the accident happens in, the at-fault driver’s insurance will not pay for your medical treatment right away.
Furthermore, depending on the severity of your injuries, you or your family may have to stay overnight or even several days while receiving treatment and recovering from your injuries. Whatever expenses you incur as a result (hotel, food) are a part of your damages that should be reimbursed by the at-fault driver’s insurance company.
Damage to Your Vehicle
After you have tended to your injuries, the next issue will be your car. If it is safe to drive, then you can wait until you return home to have it repaired. The at-fault driver’s insurance company will want to send an adjuster to evaluate the vehicle, but that process can take a week or more.
Things become more complicated if the vehicle cannot be driven home. Your car will be towed from the scene to a local repair shop, and you will need to secure a rental car immediately. Unfortunately, the at-fault driver’s insurance company will not be in a position to provide you with one right away as they will still be establishing the claim. If your insurance policy has Rental Coverage, then you have nothing to worry about. If, however, you do not have rental coverage, then you will need to rent a car on your own. For those without a credit card or the money to afford a rental car, you will need to rely on friends or family to help get you home.
You cannot force the at-fault driver’s insurance company to act immediately, as the law gives them time to investigate an accident (in Florida, for example, this can take up to Thirty (30) days). Keep the receipts because the at-fault driver’s insurance company will be responsible for reimbursing you for that expense. If you have Collision Coverage, contact your adjuster immediately as they can begin evaluating the damage to your car and can begin the repairs. Don’t worry; your insurance company will help you go after the at-fault driver to recover any deductible you owe.
The Statute of Limitations Varies
Another important consideration is the statute of limitations, or time within which you have to file, or “bring” your claim. Car accidents are called “negligence” claims, and every State has a different statute of limitations. In Florida, you have Four (4) years, whereas in Alabama you only have Two (2) years, and in Louisiana it is One (1) year. In addition to every state’s negligence statute of limitations, if you or the car you are riding in have Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage, then a separate statute of limitations can apply if you want to bring a claim for these benefits. In Florida, you have Five (5) years, but in some states that time period may be even less than the time period to file a negligence claim!
Get Help – Schedule A Free Consultation
If you or your family has been involved in an accident outside of Florida or Alabama, you should contact an attorney immediately to discuss your options. As we have discussed above, there are significant differences—and difficulties—when dealing with an accident away from home, and the lawyers at Michles & Booth can help you understand your legal rights. Call us today for a free consultation.