Auto accident law is tricky under even the best circumstances. Your claim could be affected by a state’s fault/no-fault law, comparative fault, the statute of limitations, and the details of filing and maintaining a lawsuit. Things can get even trickier if you are involved in an accident in another state, especially if you suffer an injury.
Immediately after an out-of-state car accident, you need to perform the same actions that you would undertake if the accident had occurred in your home state – at least to the extent that your physical condition allows you to:
This step is usually quite simple. In almost all cases, the law of the state in which the accident occurred will govern the claim. Although under certain circumstances, another state’s law might apply (for example, New York law might apply to a car accident that took place in Connecticut), this rarely happens. If the accident occurred in Connecticut, then the Connecticut law probably applies. It matters which state’s law applies because auto accident laws differ significantly from state to state.
One way in which state auto accident laws differ drastically from each other is in the area of comparative fault. The comparative fault principle applies when more than one party is at fault for the accident.
Suppose you were one percent at fault for the accident. Under the rules stated above, it will make a considerable difference which state’s law applies. Drive very carefully when passing through any of the contributory negligence states – Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Twelve US states are considered “no-fault” states. If you are involved in a car accident in a no-fault state, and the accident doesn’t result in serious injury or damages, your insurance policy will pay for your losses regardless of whose fault the accident was. Connecticut, however, recently repealed its “no-fault” auto insurance law and is now considered a “fault state.”
What happens, however, if you live in a “no-fault state,” but you have an accident in Connecticut? Since Connecticut law almost certainly applies to an accident that occurred in Connecticut, you should seek compensation by filing a third-party claim against the other driver’s insurance company – at least to the extent that the accident was the other driver’s fault.
Almost every state requires its drivers to carry a certain amount of auto insurance. In Connecticut, the legal minimums are:
These minimums apply to any vehicle registered in Connecticut, but not to cars registered out of state. Naturally, it would be a good idea to carry more than these minimums to avoid the possibility of financial ruin after a major car accident. Even if you hold less insurance than these minimums, however, you are not breaking the law as long as your insurance coverage complies with the laws that apply in the state of your car’s registration.
You probably don’t need to worry about whether your insurance coverage will apply in another state – most auto insurance policies apply throughout the US and Canada as well. You might have a problem, however, if you are involved in a car accident in Mexico.
Additionally, reporting an out-of-state accident to your insurance company shouldn’t present any particular difficulties if the accident occurred anywhere in the US or Canada. You should also be able to repair your vehicle at a shop close to where the accident took place, and have your car towed there by a local towing company.
Unlike Connecticut, most states do not require their motorists to carry uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance (UM/UIM coverage). If you decline to purchase UM/UIM coverage because you live in a state that does not require it, and if you are involved in an accident with an uninsured, underinsured, or hit-and-run motorist, you might have trouble obtaining compensation for your damages.
The statute of limitations sets the deadline by which you must either file a lawsuit, finalize a private settlement, or forfeit your claim. Think of the statute of limitations as a stopwatch that you can turn on and off. In Connecticut, the stopwatch ticks for two years before time runs out. In most cases, it begins ticking on the date that the accident occurs. Several exceptions exist, however:
It is almost always best to start preparing your case as soon after the accident as you can, regardless of the length of time you have to file a lawsuit. Nevertheless, it is essential to know the ultimate deadline for filing a lawsuit, which is determined by the personal injury statute of limitations in the state where the accident occurred.
Connecticut’s statute of limitations deadline is usually two years after the accident. Nevertheless, the following exceptions apply:
Most car accident claims settle out of court. Nevertheless, if you are not willing and able to file a lawsuit, it is unlikely that the other side will take your compensation demand seriously. The question is where you will file a lawsuit if it comes to that.
Remember, the issue here is which state’s court will hear the lawsuit, not which state’s law will apply to the claim. It is possible, for example, for a Texas court to hear a case (because the defendant resides in Texas) using Connecticut law to decide the case (because the accident occurred in Connecticut).
The auto accident lawyers at Berkowitz Hanna enjoy several decades of combined experience in handling car accident claims, all the while winning tens of millions of dollars for their clients. Call Berkowitz Hanna today, or contact us online for a free initial consultation, so that we can listen to your story and answer your questions.