Say you set out on a vacation with your loved ones in the family car. While driving through another state, you're involved in an auto accident. Or, in another scenario, you're out of state on business and an accident occurs. What steps should you take?
Illinois is a no-fault state, so you may be familiar with your options: contact your own insurer to file a claim and let them seek a subrogation claim against the at-fault driver, file a claim directly with the at-fault driver's insurance, or file a personal injury and/or property damage lawsuit against the negligent driver.
In another state, however, do the same rules apply? When it comes to filing an insurance claim, the same rules should apply if you are the victim and not the at-fault driver. Illinois is an at-fault insurance state, so the three options mentioned above should apply according to the terms of your policy.
It will certainly help if you have more than basic coverage; that is, you have collision coverage and MedPay (medical payment) to cover damage to your vehicle and injury to you or your passengers. Uninsured motorist (UM) and underinsured motorist (UIM) coverage are also added protections, which fortunately are mandated, basic requirements in Illinois.
When it comes to filing a lawsuit for personal injury or property damage in another state, that presents a whole new scenario. You have the choice of filing legal action in the state where the accident occurred or in the state where the at-fault driver resides. The potential problem here is that states have different laws regarding such suits, to say nothing of the geographic challenge the lawsuit will pose.
If you're a resident of Naperville, Illinois, who has been involved in an accident in another state and you need to discuss your options to obtain compensation for injuries and/or property damage, contact the personal injury and car accident legal team at Marker & Crannell Attorneys at Law.
We will review the circumstances with you, help you pursue your claim, and if necessary, launch a lawsuit to recover what's due to you. We also proudly serve clients in areas neighboring Naperville, including Bolingbrook, Aurora, Romeoville, Joliet, Plainfield, Wheaton, and more.
What to Do Following an Out-of-State Car Accident
At the scene of the accident, the same rules and procedures apply as they would in your home state. Pull the car to the side of the road if possible, and call 911 for help if you or anyone is injured. You should also use that call to get police to come to the scene and investigate, and then try to get a copy of their report when they file it.
Of course, get the other driver's personal contact and insurance information. If there are witnesses, get their statements and contact information. Use your smartphone to take pictures or videos of the scene, showing property damage, injuries, road conditions, and any traffic signs that were violated. Then, contact us at Marker & Crannell to start the process of recovering compensation for your losses, injuries, and property damage.
Filing a Personal Injury or Property Damage Lawsuit
Hopefully, everything can be resolved through the insurance process. If the accident occurs in a no-fault state, your Illinois insurer can still seek an abrogation claim for personal injury as well as for property damage. If that proves an obstacle, then a lawsuit might be necessary. That being said, the laws of the state where the accident occurred will determine the course of action you can take beyond filing an insurance claim, such as filing a lawsuit.
States have different rules regarding the determination of fault. Illinois is a modified comparative negligence state, which means that each driver involved in the accident will be assigned a percentage of fault. Say you're rear-ended but your brake lights malfunctioned. The insurance claim adjuster or the jury in a trial can assign a portion of the fault to you.
Say the portion of fault assigned to you is 25 percent, and your claim or lawsuit is for $20,000. You will then be entitled to only 75 percent of the total, or $15,000. Also, if your fault rises above 50 percent, you cannot recover at all. That's why modified comparative negligence is also called “the 51 percent rule.”
In other states, different rules may apply. For instance, Alabama is a pure contributory negligence state, which means that if you're even one percent at fault, you cannot recover anything. Other states like New York are pure comparative negligence states, which means that you can recover no matter the percentage of fault you're assigned even if it's above 50 percent, but of course, your settlement or award will be reduced by that percentage.
As mentioned earlier, if you do choose to file a lawsuit, you have the option of suing in the state where the accident occurred or in the state where the at-fault driver resides. If you try to sue in Illinois, the driver can choose not to show up and there's nothing you can do about it. Things can get really tricky if it's a multi-car accident in which the drivers are all from different states.
Also, there are different statutes of limitations for these accident-based lawsuits in different states. These statutes can vary depending on the identity of the plaintiff. Minors and disabled plaintiffs can often take advantage of extended statutes of limitations. Also, if you're suing the government, different rules apply. You need to check with us when contemplating legal action to be taken in another state.
Filing a Claim With Your Insurer
Your policy will cover you for an accident in another state, but remember that you will have to deal with an insurance claim adjuster not only from your own insurer but also from the at-fault driver's company.
Claim adjusters are trained to ask questions and make statements asking you to agree to them so that they can then pin some measure of fault on you, with the goal of lowballing or even denying your claim. If you're unfamiliar with their tactics, they will try to take advantage of you. Let us handle negotiations for you. We are familiar with claim adjusters and their ploys.
Understand Your Next Steps
Though you will need to file a claim fairly soon after your auto accident, before you do so, you need to share the details of what happened with us so we can advise you of the best steps going forward. In fact, when you file your claim, you should refer the insurance companies involved to us and we can negotiate for the best possible settlement. If a lawsuit is necessary, we can advise you of that as well and then help you aggressively pursue the just compensation due to you.
If you live in or around the Naperville area, contact us immediately after your accident at Marker & Crannell Attorneys at Law. We can confer by phone or in person, or if you're injured and recovering at home, we can come to you. Combined, we have more than 35 years of experience in car accident and personal injury cases. Reach out confidently.