What to Do If You Have an Out of State Car Accident
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What to Do If You Have an Out of State Car Accident

Whether you’re taking a vacation or you’re on a business trip, getting in a car accident while out of state can be confusing. How do you report the accident? Who is at fault? How does your insurance handle autobody repairs? Here’s what you need to know to minimize liability and make sure your car is covered.

Who Pays for Injuries and Damages?

Depending on which state you’re in, liability can work one of 5 ways. Here’s how each system works in a crash with two drivers who each have $10,000 in medical care and property damage expenses.

– At fault or tort system: Only one driver can be at fault, and that driver pays for 100% of the damage. The at-fault driver must pay $10,000 to the other driver, and they can’t make a claim for their own damages.

– Pure comparative fault: Fault is assigned as a percentage between the involved vehicles. If liability is split 70/30, then the 70% liability driver pays $7,000 and claims $3,000. The 30% liability driver pays $3,000 and claims $7,000.

– Modified comparative fault: If one driver is more than 50% at fault, they can’t claim damages against the other driver. The 70% liability driver pays $7,000, while the 30% driver pays nothing. Wisconsin is a modified comparative fault state.

– Contributory negligence: If a driver is at fault at all, they cannot collect damages from the other driver. If an accident has shared fault between two drivers, neither driver can make a claim.

– No fault: Each driver pays for the damage to their own car and medical care for anyone in the vehicle. Instead of having liability or comprehensive insurance coverage, drivers carry property damage insurance for their vehicle and personal injury protection (PIP) coverage for their medical expenses.

How Does Out of State Insurance Coverage Work?

You are legally required to have insurance coverage that meets the minimums of the state you’re traveling in, not the state you’re from. Wisconsin requires $50,000 per person injury coverage, $100,000 total injury coverage and $15,000 property damage coverage. Our required injury coverage is higher than most states, but property damage is about average. Illinois requires $20,000 in property damage coverage, and some states require as much as $25,000.

Most policies will automatically increase coverage in different states to meet minimum legal requirements. If the accident occurs in a no-fault state, then the insurance will include PIP coverage. Be sure to read over the “out of state” section of your insurance contract to make sure you have this extended coverage.

Who Handles the Court Case?

In most circumstances, the case is under the jurisdiction of the state where it occurred, even if both drivers are from out of state. There are some cases where you can sue in the other driver’s home state, or in your own state if the driver has “minimum contacts.” This includes owning property or doing business in your state. The case can go to a federal court if the drivers are from different states and total injury and property damage is over $75,000. An injury attorney can advise you on the best course of action.

Is There Any Difference in How I Report an Out of State Accident?

The minimum damage required for a police report varies from state to state. You don’t need to know this amount, just don’t be surprised if you’re told to fill your own report after a minor fender bender. Otherwise, you should act as you would in any other accident situation:

– Call 911.
– Use your phone to take photos of the damage and the people involved.
– Stay off the road. If your vehicle is intact, stay inside.
– Contact your insurance company.
– Don’t admit guilt, even if you are sure the accident was your fault.

Whether you Live in Lake Country or You’re Just Visiting, Take Your Car to Merton Auto Body

Having an accident is stressful, and it’s even worse if you’re far from home. When you bring your car to Merton Auto Body for collision repair, you can rest assured that you’ll get your car back quickly, so you can get your life back to normal. In fact, there’s a good chance you heard of us because we’re the first choice for major insurance companies thanks to our reputation for quality autobody repairs and fast service. We have an on-staff appraiser who can work with your insurance company and a staff of ASE-certified technicians. We’re a short drive or tow away from Hartland, Pewaukee, Lisbon, Sussex and North Lake.


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