Being involved in an automobile accident, no matter where it occurs, is a disruptive, and traumatic event.
Unfortunately, when an accident takes place outside of your home state, it can and probably will complicate several factors that bear on who or what insurance company is responsible for certain aspects or elements of your damages. Obviously logistically, it can complicate obtaining car repairs. And perhaps most important, it can change what law applies to certain aspects of your claim.
Personal Injury Protection Benefits
If you are a Florida resident and you’re hit while driving your car out of state, your P-I-P or PIP benefits, will follow you and will be applicable to the accident.
What does this mean? Florida PIP or Personal Injury Protection acts as a type of health insurance when you’re hit in an automobile accident. It’s often referred to as, “No fault coverage,” so it kicks in and becomes the primary source of payment, whether or not you are at fault.
Sometimes this is troubling to clients, that their own car insurance must pay when someone else is at fault. To put it simply, this is just really the way the Florida legislature set things up. This way no one fights about fault, with respect to getting the initial bills paid.
When PIP does not apply
The flip side of the above is that you may not be able to use your PIP benefits when you’re out of state and out of your insured automobile.
So, for instance, if you’re hit while driving with friends in Alabama, your friends PIP will cover your friend, assuming they’re in their own insured automobile. But their PIP will not cover you, and your own PIP will have an exclusion.
You may have supplemental med-pay coverage that applies, but if not, your own PIP will likely deny coverage. This means your health insurance will become the primary payer for your health care needs.
In the absence of healthcare insurance, it may be difficult to find a source of payment for your medical bills, other than from the at-fault party.
Personal Injury Law Is Different In Other States
Generally speaking, when in an accident out of your home state, the law of the state where the accident occurred will control substantive issues in the claim or case.
Statute of Limitations
This includes first of all, the statute of limitations. In Florida, you have four years to file suit after a car accident, before the claim is extinguished or barred. In Louisiana by contrast, the statute is one year.
For instance, if you’re hit while traveling to New Orleans, the claim must be either resolved pre-suit or a lawsuit filed within that one year limit from the date of the accident.
This is certainly a trap for the unwary Florida attorney who attempts to handle cases arising out of a Louisiana accident.
Likewise, different states have different laws regrading comparative fault. Florida is a pure comparative negligent state, while the laws of Alabama and Texas are very different.
Whether a jury can allocate fault among various parties and how it impacts your ability to make even a partial recovery will be governed by the law of the state where the accident took place.
For instance in Texas, if the claimant, the person claiming to have been injured in an accident by the result of the negligence of another is found to have been 51% or more at-fault, it is an absolute bar to recovering even one dollar of damages.
Non-Economic Damages – Pain & Suffering
Another difference between Florida and Alabama is that Florida law requires victims of auto accidents to establish that their injuries are more likely than not permanent in nature to allow for a recovery for their pain and suffering or non-economic damages.
This can be challenging, but not all states have a requirement like this. The law regarding what damages can be recovered will often be governed by the law of the state where the accident occurred.
In most accidents, if filing a lawsuit becomes necessary, it must usually be filed in the state where the accident occurred.
Tort and Contract Claims
Now, things can get tricky when claims involve both tort, and contract claims. What I mean by this is that, in a typical automobile accident case, the claim is against the other party for causing the accident. We would call that a tort claim in negligence.
Consider this example however a Florida resident is hit while traveling in Alabama by a driver that does not stop – a hit and run. Now, you were smart. You bought uninsured motorist coverage on your auto policy to protect you in this exact scenario.
So you’re injured, you get treatment, you fail to make a good recovery, and have lingering ongoing issues. Where do you look for recovery?
You look to your own Florida UM policy, which stands in the place of the person that hit you and took off. Now, is it necessary to prove your injuries are permanent in order to make a recovery for your pain and suffering? Where will the lawsuit ultimately be filed?
This claim would be based on breach of contract against your own insurance company, not against an at-fault party, who in this scenario, cannot be found. Will Florida courts apply Alabama law in assessing your injuries, and what statute of limitations should apply?
Get Help Today.
These are sometimes difficult questions. If you or someone you know has been injured in an out-of-state accident, the attorney’s at Michles & Booth are equipped to offer a free consultation to explain how these questions will ultimately be answered based on the specific facts of your scenario.
When appropriate, the attorney’s here at Michles & Booth will inform prospective clients that it may or might become necessary for attorney’s from multiple states to collaborate to appropriately handle a claim. Please don’t hesitate to give us a call.
Call Today For A Free Consultation (800) 848-6168