You have a lot to deal with after a car accident. It’s complicated enough when you are hurt close to home – but what happens when you get in a car accident in another state? Being in a car crash is bad enough, but a car accident out of state adds a whole level of complexity if you don’t know what to do.
You may live in Maine, and your car accident occurred while driving out of state. Or you may live in another state and were involved in a crash while visiting Maine. Either way, you need to know the rules for filing lawsuits when you live in one state and are injured in another.
Where Can You File a Lawsuit When You’re in a Car Accident Out of State?
The general rule is that if you are in an accident outside of the state where you live, you must file the lawsuit in the following:
- The state where the defendant (the person you’re suing) lives, or
- The state where the accident occurred.
For example, say you live in Maine, and while driving in Vermont, another driver who lives in New Hampshire ran a red light and crashed into your car. You will most likely be able to sue the driver in Vermont, where the accident occurred, or New Hampshire, where the defendant lives.
What Laws Apply to Your Lawsuit?
“Venue” means the place where you file a lawsuit. “Choice of law” means the state laws that apply to your claim. Sometimes, the venue and choice of law are not the same. In car accident cases, courts usually apply the laws of the state where the accident happened, even if the lawsuit is brought to another state!
If you are injured out of state, your attorney will look into the state laws applying to your claim because it can make a big difference. For example, states have varying rules about what to do if both drivers in an accident are partially at fault. Depending on the state, when both drivers contributed to the accident:
- You may receive compensation that is proportional to how much the other driver was at fault, or
- You may receive commensurate compensation, but only if less than half the fault was yours, or
- You may not be eligible for compensation (this only applies to a few states).
How Do You Find a Lawyer to Handle an Out-of-State Car Accident Case?
If you get a lawyer to represent you in an out-of-state car accident lawsuit, that lawyer needs to be licensed in the state where the case is filed. How do you find such a lawyer? You have several options:
- If you know and trust a lawyer near you, call that person first and ask his or her advice about finding a lawyer in the state where you were injured. Lawyers often refer cases to other attorneys this way and know how to pick someone with the experience and expertise you need.
- A personal injury lawyer near you can even represent you alongside counsel that he or she finds in another state.
- Many lawyers have licenses in more than one state. You could hire a lawyer who is licensed both near you and in the state where you are suing.
- You can try to find a lawyer in the state where you were injured on your own. Make sure to investigate whether the person has good experience negotiating claims like yours – and taking them to trial!
We always recommend that, before you decide, you talk to a local lawyer to get advice on the best way to handle this complicated situation. An experienced Maine car accident lawyer will most likely have contacts with car accident lawyers in other states and can give you referrals if needed.
The experienced Maine personal injury attorneys at Garmey Law would be glad to help. Call us at (207) 481-4683 or fill out our contact form for a free consultation.