(Contributed post for our North American readers)
An accident can happen anywhere at any time, and this sense of precariousness will leave you feeling anxious and insecure. Having legal assistance ready at the dial is incredibly handy, but what if something happens and you find yourself in a predicament beyond the borders of your home state? Perhaps you are on a business trip in California and got into a major car accident – but you actually reside in Illinois, where all those who can help you, including friends, family, and your lawyer are also based. It might seem very confusing and scary figuring out what to do at first, and with good reason. The laws in each state are different, and wrapping your head around what your rights are is not the easiest thing to do in the heat of the moment.
If you do get into trouble while traveling, you might want to keep in mind that there are specific laws that apply in different states. The following are a few tips to help illuminate the proper procedures for you.
What is the Jurisdiction?
Let’s start with the most basic issue: jurisdiction laws usually claim that from the state where the accident took place, you need to file a case. At the same time, plaintiffs do end up hiring the lawyer that they are familiar with from their state to help, and in this event, if this lawyer is going to represent you then they have to be recognized in the state. It doesn’t matter if you have gotten robbed or were involved in a car accident. It’s all the same, and so if you need an attorney to represent you in the state in which an accident occurred, they need to be licensed there. So if you’re from out of state and find yourself in California, for example, and your car gets wrecked, then action needs to be taken immediately. You may think that the first thing to do is call your lawyer, but it might be far more prudent to find a car accident lawyer in San Diego, CA, than to reach out to your lawyer back home in Illinois who is not certified to work in the other state. You could consult your lawyer to direct you to someone reliable in the current state to help you out.
As an alternative option your lawyer can apply for a limited law license if you really value your lawyer’s work and trust them wholeheartedly. However, bear in mind that the states follow through on this option only in very specific instances and usually reserve them for legal aid services or public defenders. This is also something that may take up time unnecessarily, but it’s important to know that it is an option if you are adamant on having your own lawyer from out of state take on your case.
In more extreme cases, the state makes exceptions and permit in-house counsel. This is when a company employs an attorney from out-of-state to plead their case. Again, this is a rarity, so it’s best not to bank on this being a solution since it depends on your own specific situation.
When the “writing is on the wall”
Hiring an in-state lawyer might be your best option, depending on the nature of your case. There are instances where you won’t have to be responsible for finding a lawyer. If, for example, you are involved in a car accident, then it’s important for you to know that often these kinds of cases are taken care of outside the court, and you’ll be provided with a lawyer, most likely by your insurance company. However, in some cases, it does go to court, and in the event that this happens, and you’re unable to work out a settlement, then it’s time to look for a lawyer yourself who is well versed with the laws of the state in question.
At the end of the day, getting into any kind of trouble when traveling is hugely taxing emotionally and psychologically. You will want to find the best person for the job, meaning the best match for you. It all comes down to sharing a mutual level of trust with your attorney – if you don’t trust the person tasked with protecting you, then it might be an uphill battle. Furthermore, you want to find someone able to work in the state in question. Hiring someone who works in an entirely different state from the scene of the crime might not be the best judgement call when all is considered.