Car accidents are never welcome, and they’re especially complicated when they happen while you’re traveling. If you’ve been hurt in an accident away from home, you need to know what to do to protect your rights.
What are the first steps I should take?
Your first step is always to seek medical treatment. Then, whatever state your accident happened in, you should contact the insurance company covering the at-fault driver and make a claim.
If your car has been damaged, you’re free to get it fixed where the accident occurred. If you’re from Mobile, Alabama, but were involved in an accident near Corvallis, Oregon, for instance, there’s no obligation to take your vehicle back to Alabama to get it fixed. Auto repair in Corvallis, OR, is just fine. Just be careful to keep records of everything.
Do you need a lawyer?
The next step is deciding if you even need a lawyer. If your claim is straightforward, you may not need to hire anyone. This may be the case if the accident was minor and your damages weren’t severe, or if the other party’s insurance company is quick to pay up, or if there’s no question who was at fault.
When should you hire a lawyer in your state?
If the accident was significant, or if the other party’s insurance company refuses to cover your loss and damages, then it’s probably time to hire a lawyer. If the accident happened in your home state, the situation is simple.
If the accident happened in a nearby state, you can likely hire lawyers in either state. If you’re from Mobile and your accident happened just down the road in Pensacola, Florida, there’s a good chance your auto accident lawyer in Mobile, AL, is licensed to practice in Florida and other surrounding states.
When should you hire a lawyer in another state?
Geography really comes into play if your home state and the state where the accident occurred are far apart. If you’re from Alabama and the accident happened in Oregon, things can get tricky.
In this case, your best bet is probably to get a lawyer in the state where you’ll be bringing the lawsuit. In most cases, that will be the state where the accident occurred. If the other person has “minimum contacts” in your home state, you can potentially bring the suit there, but otherwise, there are a couple good reasons to look for a lawyer in the state where the accident occurred:
Every state has its own personal injury laws, and an attorney who works in that state will be most familiar with those laws and regulations. This can make a big difference to your case.
The issues surrounding filing claims can also vary by state. In some cases, it will be necessary for your lawyer to talk to the insurance company on your behalf. If that happens, it helps if the attorney is familiar with insurance regulations in that state.
What if I really like my lawyer?
If you have a lawyer you know you want to work with, it is possible for him or her to prosecute your case in another state. Take the Alabama and Oregon example once again: if your Alabama lawyer is a member of the Alabama State Bar, it will be fairly easy for him or her to partner with a lawyer who works in Oregon.
The Oregon lawyer can then apply for special permission for your lawyer to be admitted to the Oregon courts. In most cases, this permission is readily granted.
Whether you get a lawyer in your own state or in a state where you’ve had an accident, be sure to get the legal help you need to protect your rights.