What to Know About Car Accidents with Out-of-State Drivers

 

After a year of social distancing and staying at home to avoid COVID-19, the country is finally opening up, if slowly, and it couldn’t be happening at a better time. Summer is almost on us, and Floridians, just like the rest of the country, are itching to hit the highways. In fact, places like Port St. Lucie and Vero Beach will likely see as many out-of-state drivers as in-state as Americans come to enjoy all the Treasure Coast has to offer.

out of state license platesWith so many drivers on the road, locals, and visitors alike, extra caution is needed, especially considering many of us have been self-distancing for more than a year. With over 274,000 miles of highway, the most in the country, the state hopes to rebound from the 2020’s 10-year low of visitors and return to the 131 million average of tourists to the Sunshine State.

Along with that, however, comes the responsibility of knowing just what is expected of drivers if an accident occurs. Getting the assistance of a quality car accident attorney is a must if worst comes to worst, but everyone on the Florida roads needs to inform themselves before they get behind the wheel.

What Every Driver Needs to Know About Car Insurance in Florida

Like eleven other states in the union, Florida is a “no-fault” car accident state that relies on Personal Injury Protection (PIP) policies. This means every driver licensed by the state of Florida must have a minimum of $10,000 in PIP insurance, which pays for your own injuries regardless of fault, as well as $10,000 in Property Damage Liability (PDL), which pays for damages inflicted to another vehicle when the policyholder is deemed at-fault. 

The expense of PIP insurance makes Florida one of the most expensive insurance states in the country, which affects how many drivers aren’t insured. A little over one in five drivers on the Florida roads is driving without insurance, the third-highest rate in the country.

Like the rest of the PIP states, Florida is also a “no-fault insurance” state. For people living in the Treasure Coast, this means all insurance claims will mostly be with the injured party’s own insurance. Drivers have the option of purchasing third-party Bodily Injury Liability (BIL) coverage to pay for the costs of injuries they inflict in an accident they caused, but few drivers elect to do so.

This arrangement makes it so that neither party has to worry about proving fault in a typical accident with minor injuries. However, if someone’s injuries are serious and exceed the PIP coverage available, they may wish to establish fault against another driver and pursue a third-party claim. Payout is decided using a “comparative negligence” system, which means if legal proceedings are required, the court reviews the evidence to decide which party is most at fault. This occurs when injuries are caused and four things must be determined:

  • The “at-fault” party, or which driver is actually responsible for the accident
  • Whether or not the defendant met their duty to drive to avoid causing harm
  • Whether or not the defendant breached, or failed to follow, that duty
  • Whether or not damages – physical, financial, or emotional – were caused by the accident in a legally recognized fashion.

It’s important to remember what no-fault insurance covers and what must be pursued via legal action. PIP insurance covers up to 80% of medical fees and 60% of lost wages up to $10,000. This includes:

  • Medical care, nursing services, and ambulance services
  • Hospital stay, rehabilitation, and physical therapy
  • Prescription medications, X-rays, and prosthetic devices

While no-fault insurance won’t compensate for pain and suffering suffered in a car accident, individuals can pursue legal action against the other driver if they can prove fault to compensate for lost wages, loss of function, etc. There are some restrictions, however, but an accident can bring a lawsuit for one or more of the following:

  • Death of a loved one
  • Permanent loss of important bodily function
  • Scarring
  • Doctor-identified permanent injuries

What To Know if a Tourist Hits You

Most states don’t require PIP insurance, so most tourists won’t have it. However, vehicle renters can purchase PIP insurance while visiting the Sunshine State. Otherwise, the tourists’ car insurance follows them while they visit the state. Depending on where they’re from, this can be a good thing or a bad thing. Most states’ coverage requirements are at least slightly different, and some require personal injury protection coverage.

Like with any car accident, it’s important to contact the law to report the accident. In fact, accidents involving tourists must be reported to the law. It’s also a good idea to exchange insurance information, which is a good way to find out where the other driver is from. Usually, the police officer is able to determine who is likely at fault based on citations issued for improper driving behaviors or failure to obey laws.

Depending on where the at-fault driver is from, you might be entitled to a higher payout when it comes to compensation thanks to more-generous policies and higher minimum coverage mandates. This list goes into detail about what each state requires for insurance coverage. 

Note that if the other driver is from a no-fault, PIP state, figuring out who pays what where is rarely different than it would be for two Florida drivers.

What To Know If You Hit a Tourist

It’s a little different for Florida drivers who are responsible for accidents with tourists. Again, most out-of-tourists won’t have PIP insurance, and Florida doesn’t require bodily injury insurance. This could leave you legally liable for paying the other driver’s medical bills if any are incurred. 

Also, because out-of-state insurance doesn’t factor into comparative fault decisions, your own damages and injuries may not factor in at all. On the balance, the differences in state-required insurance usually favor the out-of-state driver. Florida drivers are able to retain in-state legal council if the accident goes to court, as with rare exceptions the court will be held in the accident’s jurisdiction.

What About Winter Visitors, AKA Snowbirds?

Since business magnate John D. Rockefeller first started coming to Ormond Beach in 1914, Florida has been the most popular destination for Northerns avoiding the harsh winter months. Usually retirees, these “winter visitors” spend time down south to trade the wind and the cold of their home states for the balmy breezes of the Treasure Coast and Florida’s beaches. They’re also called “snowbirds”, but this has taken on a pejorative connotation with younger people in recent years with visions of slow drivers and clogged restaurants.

Actually, winter visitors bring an enormous economic boost to Florida. It’s impossible to discern between them and regular tourists; millions of people from across the country and especially Canada come to Florida. Some come in RVs, grouping in what are called “white cities,” and some own second homes here, which they often rent out when they go back North. Many become “sunbirds,” making their main home in Florida and only going to their original state or country for a few months at a time. Some relocate permanently when both couples retire — and with Florida’s year-round great weather, can you really blame them?

For the most part, winter visitors’ home state insurance follows them during their stay in Florida. However, for those people who stay longer than most tourists, there are a few things to keep in mind. These pointers include:

  • If you stay in Florida for more than 90 days consecutively, you must register your vehicle(s) with the state of Florida. You also must purchase insurance that covers you under Florida law. This means you must purchase the full $10,000 for PIP and PDL insurance.
  • If your home state is an at-fault state, your status turns to no-fault as long as you’re in Florida. If you’re injured in an accident and the other driver is at fault, you can file a personal injury claim or lawsuit if your PIP benefits do not cover the extent of your medical bills.
  • Most insurance companies will allow policyholders to easily shift between policies when they change locales. Check with your insurance agency before assuming anything, though.

Things To Remember When A Car Accident Happens

Regardless of whether your a tourist who’s come to enjoy the fishing around Lake Okeechobee or you’re a Vero Beach native who gets rear-ended by a visitor from the Midwest, car accidents are almost universal. 

With the hopeful return of our typical 131 million visitors this summer, there will be many driving unfamiliar roads. Conscientious drivers should know what to do when an accident occurs. This includes:

  • Stay calm. It does no one any good to get upset. 
  • Check for injuries. After checking yourself and possible passengers, check on the other automobile’s occupants. If anyone is injured, call for an EMT immediately.
  • If the EMT recommends seeing a medical professional, do so immediately. Whether or not any injuries were noticeably incurred by the accident, see a doctor within a couple of days. Many injuries can be hidden and a check-up is required to pursue legal recourse by the state.
  • Call the law. Again, it is state law everywhere to report automobile accidents on public roads. Report the accident to the police to make sure you have the proper paperwork if further legal action is required.
  • Exchange insurance information with the other driver. Talk to the other driver if they’re willing, but keep it simple. Never admit fault or try to assign it. Try to keep the conversation short and focused on the known facts, not speculation. The same goes when speaking to police and, when you’ve contacted them, your insurance agent.
  • Never admit blame or culpability. This can hurt any possible legal actions’ chances in the future. You never know what may be uncovered during an investigation, so don’t make a blatant admission to the other driver, not to the police, and not to your insurance agent — not until you’ve had legal counsel.
  • Most of us have smartphones, which have cameras and recording capabilities. Document as much as you can, such as damage to your car, the other driver’s car (if they allow it), road conditions, the weather, etc. Anything pertinent. Use the phone to record statements on the crash. If the other driver acquiesces, record a statement from them as well.
  • Smartphones can run out of power. Keeping a pen and paper handy as well as a disposable camera isn’t a bad idea.
  • Just like you should visit a doctor within a few days, take your car to your auto mechanic for a check-up if the vehicle is still drivable. Like with medical conditions, long-term damage to a car may not be immediately apparent, and documentation will help future cases.
  • Even if you don’t plan on pursuing any legal recourses, contact a qualified car accident attorney as soon as possible. They can provide you advice, make you aware of your options, and notify you of any important factors to consider. All traffic accidents can be complicated, but with an out-of-state driver, professional legal help is definitely beneficial.

Call An Attorney, They’re There to Help

The attorneys at the firm of Hoskins, Turco, Lloyd, & Lloyd have the experience and resources to help drivers from both in-state and out. We can assist you when navigating the differences between different states’ legal and insurance requirements. 

With offices in Port St. Lucie, Vero Beach, Ft. Pierce, Sebastian, and Okeechobee, we’re somewhere near you. Contact us online today or call us at 866-460-1990 for a free consultation.

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Locations


Ft. Pierce Office
302 South Second Street
Ft. Pierce, FL 34950
Phone: (772) 464-4600
Fax: (772) 465-4747
Port St. Lucie Office
1887 S.E. Port St. Lucie Blvd.
Port St. Lucie, FL 34952
Phone: (772) 344-7770
Fax: (772)344-3838
Okeechobee Office
1910 S Parrott Ave
Okeechobee, FL 34974
Phone: (863) 357-5800
Fax: (863) 763-2237
Vero Beach Office
2101 15th Avenue
Vero Beach, FL 32960
Phone: (772) 794-7774
Fax: (772) 794-7773
Sebastian Office
1561 US Highway 1 Sebastian, FL 32958
Phone: (772) 646-0662
Fax: (772) 646-0662