car accident out of state while on vacation

Have you ever had the terribly unfortunate experience of having a car accident out of state, while on vacation? An otherwise perfect trip can be completely ruined in an instant.

You could be California resident who has had a car accident while on vacation to the Grand Canyon, or an Arizona resident on who has had an accident outside of Disneyland. Because you reside in one state and have an accident in another, you may face a series of highly important, but very common, questions regarding finding the right lawyer for your accident claim.

Negretti & Associates is a personal injury firm that is licensed to practice law in Arizona, California, and Colorado. We’re familiar with the laws of those three states, and we have handled many claims in each. We have helped many Arizona residents who have had accidents in California and receive treatment for injuries while at home in Arizona.

Experience has taught us this: If you have been involved in a car accident out of state, you will want to work with an attorney who is licensed both in the state where the accident occurred, as well as the state in which you live and are receiving post-accident treatment.

This is because there are different laws in all 50 states of the United States. What’s more, there be conflicts between state laws, and some states have little-known laws that can directly impact what you are entitled to, in terms of damages and recovery. It can be tremendously helpful to work with a lawyer who knows and understands the differences of “local” state laws.

Example: A Disneyland Trip Gone Wrong

Imagine that you and your family drive from Arizona to Anaheim, to take the children to Disneyland. You’re nearing the entrance to the Disneyland parking lot and suddenly you get rear ended.

You take the kids the hospital, to have them checked out. You quickly realize that it’s best to return home early. Vacation is over.

Once at home, you start looking for a personal injury attorney to help you with your accident claim. The accident happened in California, and the person who rear-ended you is a California resident. Yet, you are an Arizona resident who will be receiving medical treatment in Arizona.

Some questions start to bubble to the surface:

  • Should I hire an attorney in California, or an attorney in Arizona?
  • Does it matter whether the attorney in Arizona is licensed to practice law in California?
  • Does it matter whether the California attorney is licensed to practice law in Arizona?

These are normal, common questions to be thinking about in this situation. As the following legal cases show, a lawyer who knows and understands the differences in state laws can have an important impact on your accident claim.

Differences in California and Arizona Accident Laws

In the event that you are on that trip to Disneyland, and you don’t have auto insurance at the time of your accident, you may be limited on what you can recover as a claimant in that auto accident claim, because of a less-well-known law called Proposition 213.

Prop 213 says is that if you are in an auto accident and you are not at fault, but you did not have auto insurance at the time of the accident, you are not entitled to recover for your pain and suffering. That drastically changes what you can recover for your injuries in an auto accident claim.

California attorneys would be very familiar with Prop 213. Yet an Arizona attorney who has never practiced in California may not aware of this law, because there is no equivalent to Proposition 213 law in Arizona. In effect, you could work with an Arizona attorney to pursue your claim, and all of the sudden you realize that you’re only able to be paid back for your medical bills — not additional pain and suffering.

In addition, there is also a California Supreme Court decision, called Howell v. Hamilton Meats & Provisions, Inc., of 2011.

The Howell case decided that, in California, the auto insurance company only has to pay you for paid hospital or medical charges, not billed hospital or medical charges.

To illustrate, assume that you get into an accident in Arizona. You go to the hospital, and the bill for medical treatment is $1,000. Your health insurance pays $250. You submit the $1,000 bill and you get compensated $1,000 by the auto insurance company that insured the driver who caused the accident. They may argue about the reasonableness of that bill, but essentially, the argument would be that you should get paid for the $1,000.

In California, according to Howell, there are key differences. You would go to the hospital and be billed $1,000, and your health insurance pays $250. Yet, the other driver’s auto insurance company is only required to pay $250. This causes a number of problems:

  • Your health insurance company may have a right to be reimbursed for anything they paid on your behalf, which means your net result there is zero.
  • The hospital, itself, may record a lien, stating that it wants to recover the difference between what your health insurance paid ($250) and what the billed charges were ($1,000). As a result, you would owe the hospital $750.

Scenarios such as these frequently come into play when dealing with out-of-state car accidents. That’s why having an attorney who is familiar with local state laws can be helpful when you are in an accident in a different state.

Compensation for Unused Tickets and Reservations

Let us return to the Disneyland accident example for one moment. If you were unable to enjoy your theme park visit because of the accident, you should be compensated for the unused tickets, in addition to car damages and medical bills. The unused tickets are considered to be among your damages, which is a legal word for your losses that occurred as a result of that accident.

Yet, if you were in an accident and went into Disneyland anyway, and it wasn’t any fun for you, because you had a sore back, a claim of damages would be a tough argument to make. There would be no way to verify whether you didn’t enjoy yourself, or didn’t enjoy the park as much as you would have, had you not been involved in an accident.

Other forms of loss that you may have experienced — such as unused, nonrefundable hotel reservations, or having to purchase plane tickets to fly back home early, because you could not drive — may also qualify as damages. All sorts of out-of-the-ordinary things can happen with accidents while on vacation.

That said, if you are an Arizona, California, or Colorado resident, and you have a question about damages related to your out-of-state car accident — while on vacation in Arizona, California, or Colorado — contact Negretti & Associates. We’ll talk you through what compensation you may be entitled to.

Having Trouble Finding an Out-of-State Lawyer? Contact Negretti & Associates

If you get into an accident in a different state than where you live, and you are trying to find an attorney who is licensed in both those states, and it may not be easy.

If you cannot find a lawyer that is licensed in two specific states, give Negretti & Associates a call. We have access to a database of attorneys who practice all over the US. We will do our best to find you someone who is licensed where your accident occurred and licensed where you live.

We would rather have you put in the right hands — a law firm who understands local laws and can help you properly resolve your accident claim. You should achieve a recovery that’s commensurate with everything you endured with regards to your accident.

Please call us at 602-531-3911, 619-777-3370, 720-636-3444 or click here to email us.