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Travel Trauma: What Happens if You Get into an Auto Accident in a Different State?

Travel Trauma: What Happens if You Get into an Auto Accident in a Different State?

As the pandemic continues to recede, gas prices drop, and the holiday season approaches, more and more Michiganders are beginning to travel outside our fair state. At the same time, we’re seeing greater numbers of out-of-state license plates on Michigan’s highways as visitors return to our pleasant peninsulas to enjoy popular tourist attractions, beaches, towns and cities.

As exhilarating as it can be to visit different places and have new experiences, an unexpected car crash in an unfamiliar place can disrupt the frivolity in an instant. It can be scary, overwhelming, and confusing – not to mention painful. So, this week we’ll take a few moments to help you navigate out-of-state car insurance rules and legal processes, whether you’re a Michigander traveling away from home, or a tourist visiting here on a long-anticipated vacation.

Advice for Michiganders Traveling Outside the State

Our number one piece of advice is to drive defensively — getting into a car crash anywhere can be terrible but having an accident far from home feels even worse.

The first thing to do in any accident anywhere is to call local law enforcement to be sure you receive emergency medical assistance and that a police report will be filed to document what happened. With those basics out of the way, you will be protected physically, and can rest assured that with officers on the scene there’s less chance of a stressful situation escalating into a road rage incident.

Fortunately, you don’t need to be too anxious about your car insurance because your Michigan No-Fault policy most likely covers you from coast to coast. Check with your insurance company to be sure, and you’ll breathe a sigh of relief upon confirmation. By the way, the same coverage reciprocity also applies to people from other states who travel to Michigan through what’s called a “broadening clause.” That means if you’re properly insured in your home state, your coverage is deemed to be legally good nationwide. And even though states in coverage limitations and requirements, your insurance will usually expand as needed to meet local rules.

You should also know that only about a dozen states have No-Fault insurance policies similar to Michigan’s. And even if you happen to be driving in another no-fault state, if you’re involved in an accident there you’ll be dealing with different laws, rules and regulations that can sometimes be confusing. Our advice is always to seek local legal representation to be sure your interests are being properly protected.

If you cause an accident while driving in a tort state (as opposed to a No-Fault state like Michigan), it’s possible you could be sued for damages. The majority of states fall into the “tort” category, which means that drivers who are found to be at fault for accidents there are held legally responsible for the injured party’s medical expenses, car repair costs, lost wages, and even the pain and suffering resulting from the accident. Your Michigan-based insurance will be valid, and your insurance provider (and its legal team) will most likely represent you under these circumstances. But as we’ve mentioned, you’d be wise to consider hiring a local lawyer in the state where the accident occurred to ensure your interests are appropriately represented.

If, on the other hand, the accident in the “tort” state is not your fault, you might wish to sue the driver who caused the accident (and their insurance company) to recover damages. A personal injury lawyer based in the jurisdiction the accident occurred will be most familiar with state laws and can probably give you the best advice on how to proceed. We’ll describe how to find a good one in a moment.

Advice for Out-of-State Visitors Driving in Michigan

First of all, follow the same advice we’ve given our fellow Michiganders when they visit your state: Drive safely. We’re glad you’re here and hope you don’t run into any problems while you enjoy your travels.

Following our advice to Michiganders, it’s always best to dial 911 after any accident to make certain emergency services are on their way. That way you’ll know that law enforcement officers will be on hand to handle such necessities as traffic control, administer essential first aid, de-escalate flaring tempers, and file a police report (which you’ll want to obtain later).

If you’re visiting the Great Lakes State and do somehow get into an accident, your auto insurance policy will most likely function under Michigan’s No-Fault rules. The coverage reciprocity we’ve noted above will come into play, and you’ll probably be covered just as if you were a Michigan resident thanks to the “broadening clause” we’ve described.

That means regardless of who’s at fault, your own insurance generally covers your costs, and the other driver’s policy takes care of theirs. You can file suit against an at-fault driver in a no-fault state only under specific circumstances — or if the damages you’ve experienced surpass a specified dollar amount. In Michigan, for example, accident victims can sue at-fault drivers only if the accident caused them to suffer “serious impairment of a body function or permanent and serious disfigurement.” The key word here is “serious” – and it’s up to the court system to determine whether or not your injuries meet that description. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help you make your case by obtaining a police report, interviewing bystanders and expert witnesses, gathering relevant evidence, and presenting it persuasively to a judge or jury.

Our Final Advice for All Drivers Anywhere

To be able to file a lawsuit against another driver in any state, you’ll need to hire a lawyer licensed in that state. We’re prepared to help with that process. You can call Mike Morse Law Firm at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946) if you’re hurt in an accident anywhere in the United States and we’ll jump to help. For instance, we’ve developed relationships with a number of highly effective personal injury law firms nationwide, and we can likely advise you on local attorneys who could help you out wherever you happen to be.

And, if you’re in Michigan, you’re lucky enough to live in our home state where we work tirelessly to help accident victims recover from their injuries and receive compensation for their pain and suffering (not to mention medical bills, rehabilitation expenses, lost wages, and other costs resulting from accidents for which they weren’t responsible). Beyond that, our law practice isn’t limited to just car accidents – we handle a wide variety of personal injury cases from dog bites to birth injuries, from workplace accidents to medical malpractice lawsuits, and more. So, contact us whenever – and wherever – you need us. We’ll answer the call day or night.

Travel Trauma: What Happens if You Get into an Auto Accident in a Different State?

Content checked by Mike Morse, personal injury attorney with Mike Morse Injury Law Firm. Mike Morse is the founder of Mike Morse Law Firm, the largest personal injury law firm in Michigan. Since being founded in 1995, Mike Morse Law Firm has grown to 150 employees, served 25,000 clients, and collected more than $1 billion for victims of auto, truck and motorcycle accidents. The main office is in Southfield, MI but you can also find us in Detroit, Sterling Heights and many other locations.