Someone who lives in Florida, and is hurt in a car accident in another state, may wind up dealing with the laws of at least two states. Things can get confusing very quickly.
(I wrote a separate article for out of state visitors who are hurt in Florida car accidents.)
However, here, we’ll see what happens if someone from Florida gets hurt in a car accident in another state. I’ll discuss what aspects (of the claim) the out of state law controls. The other state’s law will have the biggest impact on your personal injury claim against the careless driver.
The out of state law will have less of an impact on the Floridian’s uninsured motorist (UM) insurance coverage on a Florida UM policy. I wrote an article on a Floridian’s PIP claim if he is hurt in an out of state car accident. (When I say “he”, I am referring to “he” or “she”.)
Both states’ laws may have an effect the settlement value of the case.
The time limit you have to sue the other driver
Many states have short time deadlines to sue. Some of these states have shorter deadlines to sue for personal injury than Florida does.
For example, Georgia typically gives you two years to sue the at fault driver. Mississippi allows the claimant three years to sue the careless driver.
However, if a Floridian is hurt in a car accident in another state, and he is making an uninsured motorist (UM) insurance claim on a Florida UM policy, then the Floridian has 5 years to sue the UM insurer.
UM coverage applies if the careless driver was uninsured or underinsured.
Several years ago, I represented a Floridian who was hurt after he a truck rear ended him in Georgia. The truck that caused the crash is below.
I settled his personal injury claim for $200,000, without a lawsuit, against the trucking company’s insurer. Since the crash happened in Georgia, the injured man had 2 years from the date of the crash to sue.
If he would’ve wanted to sue, I would’ve needed a team up with a lawyer licensed in Georgia who would have filed the lawsuit. (I am not licensed in Georgia. I am only licensed in Florida.)
However, since my client was from Florida, the careless driver’s trucking company was from Florida, and my client’s doctors were in Florida, we may have been able to sue in Florida.
My client had 5 years to sue for his UM benefits because it was a Florida insurance policy. However, we settled without a lawsuit.
The total settlement was for $210,000.
You May Be Able to Collect the Full Medical Billed Charges, Not Just the Paid Amount
The out of state law will determine if a Floridian can collect his full medical billed charges against a careless driver. On the other hand, that law may limit the Floridian to recovering the amounts that his health insurance paid.
Some states, like Georgia and Mississippi, allow you to collect your full medical billed charges. Wal-Mart Stores v. Frierson, 818 So.2d 1135 (Miss.2002). This makes the claim more valuable because your claim for medical bills is higher.
However, other states don’t allow you to recover the total amount of billed charges. These other states, like Florida, limit medical bill recovery to amounts paid by insurance, and/or out of pocket payments.
This reduces the full value of the economic damages claim.
Out of State Law Will Determine if You Need a Permanent Injury
The law of the state where the crash happened will determine if you need a permanent injury in order to be entitled to money for pain and suffering. Some states, like Georgia and Mississippi, don’t require a permanent injury in order to get money for pain and suffering. They are more generous than Florida in this aspect.
Twelve no-fault states, require some type of permanent injury or threshold in order to get money for pain and suffering. States, other than Florida, that require a permanent injury are Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
There is a good chance that a Floridian will need a permanent injury, in order to get money for pain and suffering, if he is hurt in an auto accident in one of the above states.
The other seven states—Hawaii, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota and Utah—use a monetary threshold in order for the Floridian to be entitled to money for pain and suffering. The Floridian’s financial losses have to be above a certain amount for him to get money for pain and suffering.
Kentucky, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are known as “optional no-fault” or “choice no-fault” states. In these states, drivers choose whether they will be held to a no-fault system. Thus, a Florida resident who is a passenger in a car in one of these states needs to know if the vehicle had no-fault insurance.
Out of State Law Determines if You Get Nothing if You’re Partially at Fault
The out of state law will determine if you still have a case if you’re partially at fault. Some states, like Georgia, don’t allow you to recover compensation if you’re 50% or more at fault.
This law applies to both the personal injury claim against the careless driver, and the uninsured motorist insurance claim.
On the other hand, other states, like Mississippi, let you recover compensation even if you were more than 51% or more at fault.
Other State’s Law Determines if Careless Driver’s Insurer Must Tell You How Much Insurance They Have
In most cases, the out of state law will determine if the careless driver’s insurer has to tell you how much insurance they have. However, there may be exceptions, such as when the at fault driver has an insurance policy from a state other than where the crash happened.
Some states, like Louisiana, don’t require the at fault driver’s insurer to tell you his bodily injury liability (BIL) insurance limits. Other states, like Georgia, require the insurer to tell you the careless driver’s BIL limits if you provide his insurer with the claimant’s affidavit and other info.
Some states, like North Carolina, have generous minimum liability insurance requirements for private passenger vehicles. They are:
$30,000 – bodily injury, one person
$60,000 – bodily injury, two or more people
$25,000 – property damage. (NC G.S. 20-279.21).
Out of State Law Determines if There is a Cap on a Pain and Suffering Payout
The out of state law will determine if there is a cap on a pain and suffering verdict against the careless driver. Some states like Mississippi, have a $1 million dollar cap on pain and suffering in an auto accident. MS Code § 11-1-60.
Florida PIP May Apply if You Were Inside Your Car, or a Family Member’s Car
However, even if the crash happened in another state, Florida residents are entitled to Personal Injury Protection (PIP) insurance benefits if at the time of the accident, they were inside a car owned by them or a relative who they lived with in Florida.
This is true even if the crash happened in a state that doesn’t have No-Fault laws.
If the Florida resident was inside a car that wasn’t owned by him or a resident relative, then he won’t be entitled to Florida PIP.
State Where Injury Occurs Likely Determines The Proper Choice of Law
Florida courts have said that:
The state where the injury occurred would, under most circumstances, be the decisive consideration in determining the applicable choice of law.
The proper place to sue the out of state driver may be in the county where the crash happened. However, there may be exceptions to this rule.
Exceptions may include if the careless driver doesn’t live in the state where the crash happened, or was working for a company that is based in a state other than where the crash happened.
If An Accident Occurred Out of State, and The Injured Person Lives Out of State, Can The Claimant Sue in Florida if the At Fault Driver Lives in Florida?
Maybe. In Connell v. Riggins, 944 So.2d 1174 (Fla. 1st DCA 2006), the accident occurred in Georgia between a Florida resident and a Georgia resident. Riggins was a Georgia resident. He was injured in the accident.
Riggins sued Mr. Connell, a Florida resident, who was an employee of a Jacksonville, Florida-based company.
Riggins sued Connell for personal injury in Florida. The case was allowed to stay in Florida court.
However, the court applied Georgia’s modified comparative negligence scheme, which prevents recovery against a driver who is less negligent than the plaintiff. The Florida court applied this law instead of Florida’s Florida’s pure comparative negligence scheme.
The court determined that all of the case’s contacts, with the exception of the the lawsuit being brought in Florida and the defendant’s (Connell’s) residence in Florida, were associated with Georgia. The court said that Florida law should apply for negligence and damages.
I’ve touched on just a few laws that apply for Floridians who are hurt in another state. There are many other factors that I haven’t mentioned.
Can You Sue in Florida for Florida Uninsured Motorist Insurance Benefits if the Accident Happened in Another State?
The Florida Supreme Court has allowed this. The case is State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Olsen,406 So.2d 1109 (Fla.1981). It isn’t my case.
The Olsen lawsuit arose from an automobile accident occurring in Illinois between an uninsured Illinois driver and a Florida resident, Johnnie Olsen. Mr. Olsen was killed.
Olsen was insured under a policy of automobile liability insurance issued in the state of Florida by State Farm. Helen Powell Olsen was Mr. Olsen’s wife.
In Florida, a spouse can sue for pain and suffering if their spouse is killed due to someone else’s negligence. The death of a spouse often results in large settlements and verdicts.
The spouse can also sue for funeral expenses and loss of net accumulations.
As his wife and personal representative of the decedent’s (Mr. Olson) estate, she filed a demand for arbitration of any uninsured motorist benefits due under the policy in question. She also asked that the arbitration be governed by the substantive law of the state of Florida, i.e. comparative negligence. Unfortunately for her, Illinois’ law of contributory negligence would prevent her lawsuit.
The Florida Supreme Court said Illinois law governs this case since the accident happened in Florida, and there were no exceptions It also said that Illinois had a huge interest in the rights of its citizens who were subject to subrogation by an insurer on any uninsured motorist coverage it paid.
However, Florida law still governs the interpretation of the uninsured motorist insurance policy.
Florida Law Will Determine How Much Florida UM Coverage Is Available
Even if the crash happened in another state, Florida UM law will determine how much Florida UM Coverage is available. Florida has stacking and non-stacking uninsured motorist insurance policies. It can get confusing.
Florida Law Applies to Interpretation of a Florida Uninsured Motorist (UM) Insurance Policy
There is a chance that an uninsured or underinsured driver causes a Floridian’s injury while he is in another state.
Floridian Usually Needs a Permanent Injury to Get a UM Payout for Pain and Suffering on a Florida UM Policy
Most Florida UM policies say that an insured can’t recover pain and suffering compensation unless the insured has a threshold injury. A threshold injury is typically a permanent injury, or permanent and significant scarring.
This makes the UM claim less valuable than the personal injury case against the careless driver in a state that doesn’t have a permanent injury requirement. Examples of states without a permanent injury requirement are Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia and many others.
If a Floridian is hurt in another state, and is making a claim against a Florida UM policy, the UM insurer will argue that Florida courts have said that if the policy providing UM coverage limited coverage for pain and suffering damages to injuries as described in section 627.737(2), then permanency is an issue. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. v. Dixon, 732 So.2d 1, 2 (Fla. 3d DCA 1999).
One Out of State Court Says Floridian Needs a Permanent Injury on a Florida UM Claim
At least one out of state court has said that a Floridian, who is hurt in another state, always needs a permanent injury in order to get money for pain and suffering if the Florida UM policy requires a permanent injury.
The Court said that the permanent injury requirement applied to a Florida motorcyclist in his UM claim against a Florida UM policy. The UM policy required the permanent injury.
This was a federal trial court in Tennessee. Stakem v. Randolph,431 F.Supp.2d 782 (E.D.Tenn.2006).
In that case, Daniel Stakem was operating his motorcycle in the Tennessee with his wife Carol riding along as a passenger. Kimberly Randolph was driving an automobile traveling in the opposite direction.
Ms. Randolph made a left turn in front of the Stakems’ motorcycle, causing a collision. The motorcycle impacted the right rear quarter panel of Ms. Randolph’s vehicle. The Stakems were thrown from the motorcycle.
Mr. Stakem had abrasions to his elbow but his physical injuries were limited compared to his wife’s injuries. He heard her crying and he could see her lying in the right lane of the highway some 10 to 15 feet from him.
Motorcycle Passenger Had Blood Coming Out of 1 Of Her Ears
She was lying on her right side, her eyes were closed and blood was streaming out of one of her ears. He also said that she was “wiggling.”
Mrs. Stakem also received two $100,000 payments, for a total of $200,000, representing the full policy limits available to her through her two policies of uninsured motorist coverage with her uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance carrier, State Farm.
The insured needs to read the language of the UM policy to see if this threshold language is in the policy.
Floridians Hurt in a Car Crash in Another State Can Sue for UM Benefits in Florida
If you’re a Floridian with a Florida uninsured motorist (UM) insurance policy, and you’re hurt in another state, you don’t need to sue the uninsured motorist in a lawsuit against the UM insurer. Diaz-Hernandez v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., 19 So.3d 996 (Fla. 3d DCA 2009).
This can be favorable to the claimant if the Floridian was injured in a county in another state that has a conservative jury, but lives in a county in Florida with a liberal jury. This assumes that the Floridian is allowed to sue for his UM claim in Florida.
Liberal juries tend to award more money for pain and suffering.
The above information is not intended to solicit clients for injury claims against drivers who caused an accident in states other than Florida. As I stated earlier, I am only licensed in Florida.
However, if a Floridian is hurt in another state, and he has Florida UM insurance that will likely apply, he or she should hire a Florida lawyer to understand his or her UM rights. This is because the Florida lawyer will be able to interpret the Florida UM insurance policy under Florida law.
If you’re a Florida resident who was hurt in a car accident in another state, and you are insured under a Florida UM policy, you’re welcome to call me at 888-594-3577 to see if I can handle the UM claim.
Can a Florida Lawyer Represent You if You’re Injured in a Car Accident in Another State?
Many states let a Florida lawyer represent a Florida resident if he or she is injured in another state. However, some states require, even before a lawsuit, the Florida lawyer to associate with an attorney from the state where the accident happened. “Associate” means to work on the case together. Also, the Nevada lawyer must have actual responsibility for the representation and actively participate in the representation.
For example, if a Florida resident is injured in Nevada, a Florida lawyer cannot represent the Florida resident for the the Nevada personal injury case unless the Florida lawyer associates with a Nevada lawyer. Nevada Rules of Professional Conduct 5.5(b)(5).
Thus, let’s say a Florida resident is visiting Las Vegas, Nevada. Assume he or she is hurt while a passenger in a Uber or Lyft vehicle. The Uber passenger can hire a Florida lawyer, but only if the Florida lawyer teams up with a Nevada lawyer.
This is true even if the Florida resident is trying to settle the case before a lawsuit. Also, the Florida lawyer’s representation of the Florida resident cannot be part of a regular or repetitive course of practice in Nevada.
Additionally, the client must agree to the arrangement, including the share each lawyer will receive, and the agreement is confirmed in writing. Rule 1.5(e).
So far I’ve focused on claims for people who live in Florida, and are injured out of state.
But what happens when the opposite occurs?
I wrote a detailed article for Out of State Visitors Hurt in Florida Car Accidents.
Hurt from an Accident Where You May Have Florida Uninsured Motorist Insurance?
Call me now at (888) 594-3577 to find out for FREE if we can represent you. We answer calls 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.