By Pendergast Law on December 19, 2020
Nestled between Idaho and Oregon, the Evergreen State receives millions of out-of-state drivers every year. Whether traveling for work, tourism, or school, these visitors help bolster our state’s economy and build up our reputation as a great tourist destination. However, these visitors can also bring problems, including reckless or careless driving habits. Some drivers do not know how to handle themselves on Washington’s rural roads, especially in our state and national parks, but they can also cause accidents on the busy and complicated streets of Seattle. It is not uncommon for local residents to be injured by negligent out-of-state drivers. When this occurs, you may be wondering what your options are.
Factors in an Out-of-State Accident
Over 38.1 million visitors traveled to Seattle in a single recent year, including both domestic and international travelers. While some travel by plane, cruise ships, or trains, many drove over from neighboring states to enjoy our wonderful city. In addition to tourism, our city’s bustling economy is also supported by the trucking industry, which brings its own set of issues into the equation.
All drivers in Seattle are required to abide by our traffic laws, whether or not they are from here. This means out-of-state drivers must obey our laws regarding cell phone use while driving, our negligence laws, and our auto insurance laws. If an out-of-state driver hits you, then you can file an auto accident claim under Washington state laws. This helps your case in several ways.
For one, Washington is a pure contributory fault state. This means that an accident victim can still receive compensation in a personal injury trial even if he is found to be 99% at fault for the accident, although the total amount of compensation he will receive will be reduced by 99%.
This contrasts with states like Oregon and Idaho, which both follow modified comparative negligence laws. With modified comparative negligence, victims cannot receive compensation if they are found to be 50% or more at fault for an accident. Thus, Washington’s negligence laws are more lenient and will only bar you from recovering money if you are 100% at fault.
Washington’s insurance laws can also impact your case. Most insurance companies include clauses about interstate travel in their policies that will adjust an out-of-state driver’s insurance policy to match the local policy limits.
For example, a California driver is only required to have $15,000 in liability insurance for a single injured party. If she traveled to Washington, then her policy would increase to Washington’s limits, which are $25,000 for a single injured party. This means a Seattle accident victim could recover more money in a claim than what an out-of-state driver’s policy original offers.
In addition, if a driver’s policy has a higher policy limit in their home state â€“ or, in the case of out-of-state truck drivers, has a higher commercial policy limit â€“ then that policy would also apply in Washington state.
Lastly, accident victims in Washington have up to three years from the date of an injury to file an auto accident claim. This is higher than states like Oregon, Idaho, and California, which all have a statute of limitations of two years. While this extra time can help your case, you will want to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible to ensure all evidence is collected in a timely manner.
How to File a Claim Against an Out-of-State Driver
In general, the process of filing a claim against an out-of-state driver is not that different from filing one against an in-state driver. Typically, when you file an auto accident claim, the entire process is handled by you, your attorney, and the other driver’s insurance company. After your accident, you may never even see the other driver again unless they are involved in a criminal case, such as a DUI or hit-and-run. But beyond those scenarios, the focus of your claim will be on their insurance company.
However, dealing with any insurance company is difficult. These are for-profit businesses that bolster their profits by minimizing the amount of money they pay to accident victims. If you try to file a claim on your own, the other driver’s insurance company may delay in providing coverage, offer too little money to cover your injuries, or blame you for the collision.
Your best option to combat these tactics is to contact a Seattle car accident attorney immediately. With our more than 30 years of experience, we have handled numerous auto accident claims throughout the state of Washington and can diligently investigate your case, even if you were injured by an out-of-state driver. We will handle all communications with the other driver’s insurance company and advocate for full compensation for your injuries so you can focus on healing.