Written on Mar 9, 2018 10:48:59 AM
You Were Involved in an Out-of-State Car Accident: Now What?
Accidents happen. But when they happen out of state, it raises a whole new set of questions and concerns, with the main one being of course: am I still covered?
Living in the Sunshine State, it’s a question we hear a lot, because Florida is a very unique state! In 2016 alone, we had nearly 113 million tourists visit us (nearly one million of whom are considered “snowbirds,” making themselves at home here for at least one month or more). That means we share the road with a lot of out-of-state drivers. Of course, we like to escape the heat sometimes too, and can just as easily be involved in an accident in unfamiliar territory too.
Good news: almost all insurance policies cover you across all 50 states, US territories such as Puerto Rico, and even Canada. Thinking of heading south of the border? You may want to speak with your insurance provider in advance because you may not be covered in Mexico.
Liability Coverage by State
Of course, just as traffic laws vary state-by-state, so does auto insurance coverage. The biggest variable across states are the liability limits—the minimum you must carry to be considered covered in the event of accident or injury. For example, Florida’s minimum is 10/20/10:
- $10,000 personal injury protection (PIP)
- No more than $20,000 paid per accident
- $10,000 property damage liability (PDL) per accident
However, head north to Georgia, and the minimums jump to 25/50/25.
Now what? It’s not as complicated as it may seem: no matter where you hang your hat, your coverage limit will adjust to meet the requirement of the state in which the crash occurs.
Of course, there is one thing that (almost) all states agree on: carrying automobile is the law. Notice we said almost. A few states—Arizona, Virginia, and New Hampshire—do have “Proof of Financial Responsibility” loophole. This law allows people to drive without insurance if they can prove their ability to cover any accident financially by making a large five-figure cash or securities deposit with the State Treasurer. Because most people don’t want to put up this kind of money upfront, most opt for the insurance.
Pro Tip: If you frequently travel out of state, or live near a state line and cross between the two regularly, it may be in your best interest to purchase a policy with the higher coverage rates. You’ll pay more in the short-term, but if you remain accident-free, in the long-term you will likely save more. Purchasing above the minimum demonstrates responsibility, which to an insurance company, is the sign of a safe driver. In time (generally five years), studies show your policy may be as much as $185 less per year than someone with lower coverage.
The No-Fault Factor
Florida law requires no-fault insurance as part of your auto insurance policy (that puts us in the company of 17 other states: AR, DE, HI, KS, KY, MD, MA, MI, MN, NJ, NY ND OR, PA, TX, UT, and WA).
No-fault insurance covers the insureds’ bills up to the limit of the policy.
Why do some states require this? It’s intended to reduce litigation; rather that immediately suing one another and clogging up courtrooms, both insured parties will have their bills covered, regardless of who was at fault.
So what happens if, as a Florida driver with no-fault insurance, you are involved in an accident in a state not requiring it? Because you’re in that states jurisdiction, their laws will apply which could mean that you may be deprived of your no-fault protection. If you are determined to be responsible for the accident, you may be subject to high liability claims; and if you’re not at fault, you may need to file a lawsuit against the other driver to collect damages.
On the Road and Uninsured
Unfortunately, we know that not everyone is going to follow the law: many individuals drive without insurance. In fact, Florida ranks as one of the states with the highest rate of uninsured drivers—one in four drivers to be exact! But uninsured drivers exist everywhere, and if you’ve been in an accident in or out of state with one, we’ve written more on the topic which you can read here.
At Lowman Law Firm, our hope is that you never experience an automobile accident. Navigating insurance laws and policies can be confusing, even more so across state lines. But because accidents happen, we are here from you.