Out-of-State Car Accidents: Fault and Insurance Company Responsibility

Unfamiliarity and confusion can increase the risk of an accident when driving in another state. But no matter where it occurs, the same rules of negligence will apply, in that someone’s careless or reckless actions will ultimately lead to fault. However, it’s important to understand how an out-of-state car accident will impact an auto insurance claim.

When someone purchases an auto insurance policy, it provides coverage no matter where an accident occurs – provided it occurs in the United States. But each state has its own insurance system in place, which will determine which insurer is responsible for covering the damages.

Accidents Involving Visitors to Pennsylvania

For instance, some states—such as Pennsylvania—follow the no-fault insurance system. So regardless of who was responsible for the accident, all parties would file a claim with their own insurance company.

So if an out-of-state visitor is driving in Pennsylvania and gets injured in a crash, a claim would need to be filed with his or her insurer. This process is much easier if the driver also happens to be from a no-fault insurance state.

However, if the visitor to Pennsylvania is from an at-fault insurance state, the ability to recover damages from the other driver is going to be more difficult. In fact, it may necessitate help from an attorney.

Of course, this also depends on the type of coverage the individual carries. If the out-of-state driver has medical payments coverage, no matter who was at fault, medical expenses will generally be covered (up to the limits of the policy).

Accidents Involving Pennsylvania Drivers in Other States

Let’s say a Pennsylvania resident is rear-ended in an at-fault state. It might be easier to file a claim and receive compensation for damages, even though the driver is from a no-fault state. That’s because the other driver’s insurance company will be responsible for paying damages if it can be proven the other driver was at fault.

Again, it’s also important to consider how the types of coverage a motorist carries would impact the case as well. For instance, some drivers might have personal injury protection, which pays for accident-related costs no matter who was at fault (and no matter if it occurred in an at-fault or no-fault state).

It’s easy to see how complicated these types of cases could become, which is why it’s often helpful to seek legal advice if seriously injured in an out-of-state accident. In addition to learning whose insurance company is responsible for damages, there could be another option: filing a personal injury lawsuit when the physical harm is severe or disabling.

How Negligence Laws Could Impact an Out-of-State Accident

As if navigating insurance systems wasn’t challenging enough, there is another issue that could arise: negligence laws. Some states follow contributory negligence, in that if a driver is partially at fault (even just one percent), there is no ability to be compensated for damages. Most states follow comparative negligence laws, which allow for recovery of compensation less the individual’s proportion of fault.

However, comparative negligence laws are broken down into three types:

  • pure comparative negligence;
  • modified comparative fault – 50 percent; and
  • modified comparative fault – 51 percent.


States that follow pure comparative negligence allow for recovery of damages no matter how much fault a driver is assigned. The motorist could be 99 percent responsible and still be compensated for one percent of his or her damages.

In a state that follows modified comparative fault – 50 percent, the driver’s degree of fault cannot reach 50 percent. To be compensated, he or she must have been 49 percent or less at fault.

And in states that follow modified comparative fault – 51 percent (such as Pennsylvania), fault cannot reach 51 percent; compensation is only available when 50 percent at fault or less. In either case, recovery is again reduced by the individual’s proportion of fault.

This is yet another reason to seek legal counsel, so if you were in an accident in the Morrisville area, contact Cordisco & Saile LLC for legal help. Call us at 215-642-2335 to set up a free consultation.