Friday, April 30, 2010

50 States, 50 Auto Insurance Laws: Why your lawyer may have to understand insurance laws in many states

Wade Coye, Accident Attorney
It is a rare case that involves only one area of the law. If laws and the legal system were straightforward and easy to navigate, there would be significantly less demand for legal assistance, i.e. attorneys. People call lawyers to understand their options, work on their problems, and ultimately recover from them. Some attorneys serve clients by being well-versed in many practice areas and others do this by specializing in a limited range of cases. There are advantages to focusing on a few practice areas, but some attorneys lack the knowledge or initiative that complex issues require. For example, car accidents in other states are inherently complicated because each state has different laws governing the sources and process of claiming benefits. If you live in a different state from where the accident occurred, it is intimidating to say the least.

Every day, Americans travel from state to state by car with their families or friends. This form of travel can give people great freedoms in their vacations or visits, but it can also carry some risk. If you have ever been involved in a car accident in another state, you know it can be difficult to sort out even without serious injuries. Each state has different laws governing insurance and liability. The insurance and personal injury lawyers of the Coye Law Firm want to help you recover quickly from these overwhelming circumstances.

Unfortunately, some attorneys may say "you need to find an attorney in that state" or "I'm not experienced in insurance claims" when you call their offices. This sort of "tunnel vision" comes about when legal professionals only take on cases in a small number of practice areas. The attorneys at the Coye Law Firm know that this strategy doesn't do the most to help clients. We want to help people solve the many problems that they need help with. Out of state car accidents, as mentioned above, are a prime example of the coordination, investigation, and communication that attorneys need to resolve a client's complex problem.

Out of State Drivers in Florida

The first thing that tourists or other visitors from out of state need to know is that Florida is a no-fault state. This means that, regardless of who is at fault in an accident, a person's injuries are paid for by their own insurance policy under most circumstances and up to the limits of their Personal Injury Protection. The system is designed to prevent law suits and pay benefits quicker, but it can also be confusing and limiting for people who don't know what areas of liability exist in their accident. For example, you can use health insurance or workers' compensation benefits in some circumstances to help cover extra medical bills or lost wages if necessary. These other forms of insurance can be repaid by any recovery you receive from the at-fault driver in court. As you can see, skillful coordination is needed in these accidents.

So what does this process mean for you and your accident? If you are an out of state driver and get into an accident in Florida, your own insurance may pay for your injuries if you are from a no-fault state and have a no-fault policy. Accident victims from non no-fault states may recover their full payment from the at-fault driver in some circumstances. Your ability to sue for more money may be limited in a no-fault state. In Florida, your injuries and other damages must surpass a certain threshold in an aspect of your policy in order to bring the case to court. Visitors from other no-fault states may have some familiarity with the system and can have a significant amount of coverage to protect themselves. People from non no-fault states, however, can feel overwhelmed and confused when seeking compensation for their injuries. A lawyer can help you understand insurance policies, laws, and areas of liability. A personal injury attorney from the Coye Law Firm can get you the benefits and peace of mind you need in the aftermath of an out of state car accident.

Florida Drivers in Other States

The Florida no-fault law requires that resident drivers have a minimum of $10,000 for Personal Injury Protection (PIP) and Property Damage liability. Just like the name implies, "no-fault" insurance pays for the policy holder's injuries regardless of who caused the accident. Of course, your insurance policy may limit or deny claims that occur in other states based on the contract. For example, you might be required to be in the car listed on your policy. But if you are covered and in a car accident and break your arm, your own insurance pays for the hospital bills up to the amount you have insured. If your injuries go over the amount you have insured under the car insurance policy, then your health insurance can pick up the rest of the bill. You can choose to pursue benefits from the at-fault driver, but there is no guarantee that you can recover benefits this way. Property Damage Liability coverage pays for any damage you may cause in an accident up to the amount that you have insured. Both of these coverages also protect family members, as well as some unrelated passengers if they do not own a vehicle or have their own PIP coverage.

What happens if you get into an accident in another state? The short answer: it depends. Some other states (including Massachusetts, New York, Michigan, and Utah) have no-fault laws as well. Although the no-fault system is designed to limit the amount of law suits, the injured driver's ability to sue for damages varies based on the way the state's law is written. For example, drivers in Massachusetts can file a suit if their injuries surpass a certain quality, i.e. their injuries are classified as "disabling" or "severe." In New York or Florida, a person can file suit if the damages exceed their covered amount in a certain area, such as coverage for medical bills. If the victim is disabled and can prove that they need costly long-term care, they can pursue damages as well. Additionally, no-fault benefits often only cover your injuries if you are in the vehicle listed on your policy.

Compounded Laws: Interstate Accidents

What happens when a driver from New Jersey gets into a car accident with a driver from Florida while they are both traveling on I-95 in South Carolina? Road trips can be a great way to see the country, but each state has its own set of laws that govern who is at fault, who pays for damages, and how the legal system protects those involved in an accident. It is important to know that wherever your accident occurs, that is where the case or claim will be filed, and the laws of the state dictate the process of delivering benefits. This area in which the accident occurs is referred to as the "jurisdiction." So, in this example, the case will be filed in South Carolina and the recoverable benefits are governed by their laws. The cases can be moved in rare circumstances, but victims should be prepared to communicate with attorneys in many areas of the country in these situations. Again, the benefits you are entitled to and the process of getting them is governed by the state in which the accident occurred. The Coye Law Firm can communicate with other attorneys and multiple insurance carriers in order to speed up your recovery.

The Coye Law Firm helps injured victims in many ways. Our lawyers are experienced in many practice areas, thorough in their research, and able to practice in many parts of the country. Additionally, our firm maintains professional relationships with other firms around the United States. These connections help Florida residents or visitors work from their home states and recover the benefits they are seeking. If you have been in a car accident in Florida or anywhere else in the country, contact the Coye Law Firm to recover quickly, both physically and financially.

The information contained in this post is not intended to be or replace legal advice. Consult an attorney at the Coye Law Firm to receive legal advice tailored to your situation.