Take this scenario – A family lives in New York, and was injured by a Florida driver in a rear end collision in Maryland.
Where do we file suit? Can a New York car accident lawyer handle a case involving a car accident in another state?
The answer to both questions is “it depends.”
Back to the first question.
In a situation like this, the most important question on my mind would be making sure my clients’ medical needs were taken care of. As long as the car is registered in New York, and the insurance was purchased in New York, the New York auto policy with its built in No-Fault coverage would still apply to cover any and all medical treatment related to the accident for up to $50,000 per person. This still is true even though the accident happened in Maryland, and the initial treatment – the ambulance and the Emergency Room – all took place in Maryland.
What about money for pain and suffering? Where should the lawsuit be filed and how much can the family get?
In this scenario, the car that rear-ended the family is registered in Florida. Oddly enough, Florida does not require drivers to carry liability insurance and this driver did not. Florida law does require drivers to carry PIP (personal injury protection) insurance that pays the medical expenses for the driver and passengers injured in an accident. However, Florida law does not require car owners to carry insurance to cover others outside of the car. So in this instance, the driver who hit my clients has car insurance, just not the right kind of car insurance.
Fortunately, my clients would be able to attempt to collect money form their own New York policy. Assuming they have the minimum amount of coverage, there would be potential coverage in the amount of $25,000 per person, $50,000 per accident. This is a claim that can be filed here in New York and thus can be handled by a New York injury attorney. (This amount is often grossly inadequate so I always encourage my clients, friends, and family members to get at least $1 Million of uninsured motorist coverage per person in the household.)
What if the car that hit them in Maryland had a large insurance policy? Would it be best to bring the lawsuit in Maryland? Florida? New York? In a case like this, suit could be brought in Maryland because of the legal concept of lex loci delicti which means the “law of the place where the delict [tort] was committed.” It would not be possible for New York residents to bring a lawsuit in New York for a car accident that occurred outside of the state, unless the party that injured them lived in New York also.
The suit could also be brought in Florida, as that is where the defendant driver lives. A Florida court could exercise jurisdiction over a Florida domiciliary, even though the accident occurred out of state. In situations like this, where a suit could potentially be brought in multiple jurisdictions, I always research which state has the best laws for my clients. Some states are better than others. If I were unable to settle the case with the insurance company, and suit had to be brought, I would partner with a firm in one of these other states. This is very common and I have worked on many car accident cases around the country with top-notch firms from different states. I have worked with other out of state accident attorneys and have handled car accident cases in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, California, and North Carolina.