How Are Car Accident Legal Claims Handled With Out-of-State Drivers?

Key Points:

  • Auto insurance policies vary from state to state, but the protection you buy covers you no matter where you drive in the country—even if you’re driving in a state with different insurance requirements.
  • If you have a negligence claim against an out-of-state driver who is determined to be at-fault, their insurance carrier must pay damages for a car accident in Georgia.
  • In cases where the out-of-state driver’s insurance company refuses to offer a fair settlement amount, the Georgia Nonresident Motorist Act allows victims to file a lawsuit to recover compensation. 
  • Legal claims against at-fault drivers and their insurance companies who are from out of state can be filed either in a Georgia driver’s county of residence or the jurisdiction where the accident took place.
  • Minimum insurance coverage limits are established by Georgia law rather than the at-fault driver’s home state, and comparative negligence rules apply to compensation even if the driver resides in a no-fault state.

Atlanta’s metro has drivers coming and passing through from all over the nation. Unfortunately, these drivers are not immune from getting into car accidents. 

Where to Start: Focusing on the Out-of-State Driver’s Insurance Policy

If injured by an out-of-state driver on the road in Georgia, one of the first things to investigate is whether the at-fault driver has auto insurance coverage. 

If insured, the at-fault driver’s insurance carrier must indemnify the accident victims under the policy’s contract. Indemnification means the insurance carrier must make a settlement offer for compensation up to the policy limit when liability and damages are evident. This obligation is the same regardless of where the at-fault driver lives.

How Minimum Coverage Changes on a Policy

Each state has its unique minimum auto insurance coverage requirements. Minimum coverage means the coverage on the auto insurance policy must be at a certain amount for each item on the policy. States enact these requirements to protect drivers financially.

Under Georgia law, drivers must carry at least $25,000 per person and $50,000 per accident in bodily injury liability coverage.

If an insured driver is from a state with a lower minimum coverage requirement, that changes when driving within Georgia.

For example, if an out-of-state driver were to cause an accident, the insurance company must go by Georgia’s minimum coverage requirements. That means even if the policy has a lower coverage amount, it will switch to whatever Georgia requires.

This obligation is because of the “broadening clause” that most insurance policies contain, increasing the coverage limit under these circumstances.

What if the Policy Coverage is Higher Than Georgia’s Minimum?

The policy coverage will not lower to Georgia’s minimum. Instead, it would stay at its current agreed limit.

Georgia is a Comparative Negligence State

Minimum coverage requirements are not the only insurance changes once a driver enters Georgia. Georgia is a comparative fault state. Therefore, out-of-state insurance companies have to abide by comparative fault rules.

In a comparative negligence state, the drivers may share responsibility for the accident and costs. However, you cannot recover compensation if you’re at least 50 percent to blame. If you were negligent for any percentage below 50%, that negligence would reduce your settlement. 

For example, if you were 20 percent at fault for the accident and your costs were $10,000, you can recover $8,000 from the other driver’s insurance company.

The location of the accident truly determines the insurance rules that apply. 

What if the Driver Is from a No-Fault State?

Even if the at-fault driver is from a no-fault state, Georgia law still determines the insurance rules and compensation in a local accident. In no-fault states, each driver’s carrier pays for their insured’s accident costs regardless of fault. But jurisdiction in a nonresident motorist claim is determined by the location of the accident—not where the at-fault driver lives.

Georgia Law Allows Residents to File Legal Claims Against Out-of-State Drivers

Georgia law has provisions allowing an accident victim to file a legal claim against an out-of-state insurance policy to recover compensation. 

The car accident attorney hired will work diligently to settle the claim with a reasonable offer. 

If the negotiations fail, the car accident attorney can move on or take the legal claim to trial.  

Georgia Long-Arm Statute; Allowing for a Car Accident Trial With Nonresidents 

A car accident attorney is about to take a legal claim with an out-of-state insurance company to trial. 

Under Georgia’s long-arm statute, a court “may exercise personal jurisdiction over any nonresident” if the nonresident “commits a tortious injury in this state.” O.C.G.A. § 9-10-91. In other words, when someone’s negligent driving causes you to be injured, that’s a tort, and the statute gives you the right to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver (and their insurance company) in the jurisdiction where the accident took place—even if the driver isn’t a Georgia resident.

For example, if a Florida resident causes a car accident in Fulton County, you can sue them/their insurance carrier in Fulton County. That means the trial would happen in Fulton County.

How Georgia’s Nonresident Motorist Act Applies 

If you’re filing a lawsuit against an out-of-state driver, you must also comply with the Georgia Nonresident Motorist Act. 

Under the act, plaintiffs have an additional filing option when the tort involves an at-fault driver from another state. O.C.G.A. § 40-12-3 states that a car accident victim may file a lawsuit in the county where the accident occurred or where the victim resides.

For example, if the accident in the above scenario happened in Fulton County but the victim/plaintiff was a Cobb County resident, the statute allows the plaintiff to choose whether to file suit in Fulton or Cobb. 

The accident victim should consult an attorney to see which venue might be more favorable for plaintiffs in car accident cases.

Requirement 1 – Properly Serving the Defendant From a Long Distance 

If you’re filing a suit under this act, you should know that specific requirements make filing lawsuits against out-of-state drivers more complicated. First, the act requires the plaintiff to take all reasonable measures to serve the defendant properly. You or your attorney must notify the defendant of the pending lawsuit by serving them a copy of the complaint by registered or certified mail at their address.

Requirement 2 – Documents and the Return Receipt

Second, you must attach the return receipt to an affidavit you file with the court and then send copies of all documents to the Georgia Secretary of State, who acts as the nonresident driver’s “agent” for service.

It would help if you allowed enough time to meet these requirements before filing your lawsuit. Under Georgia law, you must file suit within two years of the accident. Therefore, you don’t want to wait too long; it can jeopardize your case. 

Questions We Receive About Out-of-State Driver Legal Claims

Can a Nonresident Have a Case if a Georgia Resident hits them?

Yes. However, the answer to this question can be complicated. You can file a claim or lawsuit in Georgia against the at-fault resident of Georgia. However, it will be peculiar to your case, and we recommend consulting with a Georgia attorney or a lawyer from your home area.
The majority of cases do not make it to trial. However, in a rare situation, if your case goes to trial, you must most likely come back and attend trial in Georgia.

Can an Out-of-State Insurance Company Act in Bad Faith?

Insurance companies in other states will sometimes use unfair tactics to save money. An insurance company can act in bad faith with a car accident claim in numerous ways. The payout can be substantially higher if found guilty of acting in bad faith. A Georgia resident can file a legal claim against an insurance company from another state if they believe the insurer acted in bad faith.

Can an Atlanta Car Accident Lawyer Be Hired to Handle a Nonresident Car Accident Case?

Yes. Whether you are an accident victim in Georgia or an out-of-state driver involved in a Georgia collision, it makes sense to hire a car accident lawyer in Atlanta. A local lawyer will know the local court systems and applicable insurance statutes better than an out-of-state lawyer. In addition, a local lawyer is in a better location to collect evidence.

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