It’s bad enough getting in an auto collision in your home town or even within your home state. When it happens in a different state, where you’re unfamiliar with the local laws and not sure if your insurance policy will cover the accident, it can get even more stressful. Here’s what you need to know – and do – if find yourself involved in an accident outside your home state.
Do The Basic Stuff
There are five steps you should always take immediately following an auto collision, no matter where it occurs.
The first step after any accident is to determine if anyone is hurt, how badly, and whether they can be moved. If everyone is okay, get to a safe place so that nobody gets hurt by oncoming traffic. If people are seriously injured and can’t be moved, call 911 immediately.
If the vehicles have suffered only minor damage, move them out of traffic to a safe place off the road. If they can’t be moved, shift into park, turn off the engine and turn on your car’s hazard lights if they’re still working. Place, cones, flares, or other safety devices around the scene of the accident to warn other drivers on the road.
Notify the police or highway patrol.
If you get involved in an accident that involves personal injury or major damage to the vehicles, you are required to call the local authorities. However, even in a minor fender bender it’s a good idea to notify police to formally document the accident. This can help determine who was at fault and provide needed information when submitting the insurance claim.
Once everyone involved is out of harm’s way, it’s time to exchange personal information that will be required to process the insurance claims. This includes:
- Names and contact information of drivers and passengers
- Vehicle descriptions, including make, model year, and color
- Driver’s license and license plate numbers
- Insurance companies and policy numbers
Next, document the details of the accident, including:
- Location and time of day of the accident
- Extent of damage to all vehicles (take photos)
- The police officer’s name and badge number
- Weather, road conditions, and any other circumstances that may have contributed to the accident
- Names and contact information of any witnesses
Remain calm throughout the process. Don’t threaten or act aggressively toward the other driver(s). Do not admit fault, even if you caused the accident. Don’t sign any documents except those produced by the police or your insurance agent.
Contact your insurance company.
Never put off calling your insurance agent or company. The sooner they know about the accident, the sooner they can begin processing the details and working on the claim. Most insurance companies allow you to file claims online. But, in accidents involving major damage or personal injury you could be better off speaking directly with an agent.
Call for roadside assistance.
If your vehicle can’t be driven, ask your insurance agent if your policy covers the cost of towing and a rental car. If not, they can recommend a local towing company and a repair shop to tow it to.
Don’t Sweat the Insurance
If you’re worried about insurance coverage in other states, the good news is you’re covered in several ways.
First, your insurance policy automatically covers you for accidents in every state in the U.S., no matter where you live. Many policies also include Canada and U.S. territories in their coverage. Also, if coverage limits in your home state are lower than those of the state in which the accident occurred, they will automatically increase to meet the requirements of the other state.
For example, the state of Louisiana has minimum liability limits of 15/30/25. This means your insurance policy must provide at least, $15,000 of bodily injury coverage per person, $30,000 of bodily injury coverage per accident, and $25,000 of property damage coverage. Meanwhile, the adjoining state of Texas requires higher minimums of 30/60/25.
If your policy originates in Louisiana and you have an accident in Texas, your policy will automatically adjust to meet the Texas minimum. Furthermore, if you live in Texas and have an accident in Louisiana, your policy will not drop down to the lower limits required by Louisiana. Instead, it will provide the full coverage on your policy even when it exceeds minimums established in Louisiana. These requirements hold true for every state.
No-Fault and Other Insurance Considerations
There are other insurance considerations that can vary by state that you should know about.
Suppose you live in a “no fault” state, which means when you get in an auto collision your insurance company will pay the claim no matter who caused the accident. If you get in an accident in a state that isn’t no-fault, your insurance policy will adjust to meet the requirements of that state.
So don’t assume having a no-fault policy guarantees your insurance company will pay a claim you incur in another state. Conversely, if you don’t have no-fault insurance and have an accident in a state that does, don’t be surprised if your insurance company ends up paying the claim even when you aren’t at fault.
You can always buy coverage for more than your state’s minimum requirements. Your insurance premiums will cost more. But with the high cost of medical care, having additional coverage can be well worth the investment, especially if you cause an accident that results in serious bodily harm requiring long-term medical treatment.
Receiving a fair claim settlement.
Insurance companies sometimes get a bum rap. But the laws of the land are designed so that insurance firms are required to do the right thing whether you get in an accident pulling out of your driveway or thousands of miles from home. If you have sufficient auto insurance, your claim meets all your policy’s guidelines and you submit the claim in a timely manner, you’re entitled to receive fair compensation no matter where the accident occurred.