What Happens When You Get in a Car Accident Out of State?


Summertime is a time for travel. After the two years of pandemic restrictions that many have been faced with, getting out and traveling this summer has become a must for the preservation of good mental health. But, what happens when you drive across state lines and get into a car accident?  This is a very valid concern that you should have but many do not think about it until it is too late. This article will discuss what you should do to prepare and what you can expect in the event that you are in a car accident while on the road.

insurance coverage

Does My Auto Policy Cover Me When I Drive Out of State?

Your auto policy will cover you for short trips out of the state. However, because different states have different rules and different limits of coverage, your coverage may change when you leave the state under a Broadening Clause.

What is a Broadening Clause?

A Broadening Clause is a clause in your insurance policy that converts your auto insurance policy to the minimum insurance requirements for any other state that you temporarily travel to. Most auto insurance policies contain a broadening clause. This clause can be good or bad. If you travel to a state where the insurance requirements are less than what you purchased, you may actually lose some of the coverage you paid for under this clause. On the flip side, if a person from Florida carrying the minimum limits of $10,000.00 per person per accident there comes into Texas and hits you, his insurance policy will cover up to $30,000 per person/$60,000.00 per accident policy.

What Laws Apply When I Get in a Wreck Out of State?

When you travel to another state, you are subject to their state laws. If that state is a no-fault accident state, you will have to file a claim against your own insurance company as a no-fault claim.  If you travel into a liability state and are from a no-fault state, you will have to make a liability claim on the other vehicle’s insurance if they are at fault. This can cause confusion when you are used to one system and have to file under a new one.

Contributory Negligence vs Comparative Negligence States

Even in liability insurance states, there can be drastic differences in how the laws work. Some states have true contributory negligence. This means that if the plaintiff is any percent at fault for the accident, he cannot make a recovery. In a comparative fault state, you can still recover depending upon the percentage of negligence. True contributory negligence states include Alabama, the District of Columbia, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Pure Comparative Negligence vs Modified Comparative Negligence

There are twelve pure comparative negligence states. These are Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington.  Even if the plaintiff is 99% at fault, he can recover 1% of the damages that the other person caused.

Modified comparative negligence states set a maximum amount that the plaintiff can be negligent and still make a recovery. Twelve states bar the plaintiff from recovery if his negligence is 50% or more responsible for the accident. These include Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, and West Virginia. Twenty-one states use a 51% bar for comparative negligence meaning that the plaintiff must be less than 51% at fault. These include Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.


If you drive out of state and get in an accident, you usually expect your auto policy to provide the minimum coverage required in that state. However, you should be aware that some policies may not have a broadening clause. You also need to be aware that you are under the laws of the state you are in and, thus, your rights may be drastically different than you are used to in your home state. Every state has their own rules regarding insurance policies and exclusions in policies. The best thing to do to stay informed is to call your agent and ask them to explain whether you have a broadening clause in your policy and to look at the states above to determine what negligence rules will apply if you are in a wreck. You might decide you want to discuss other optional coverages with your insurance agent before you travel.