Across State Lines

What happens if you live in one state, but are injured in a car crash in another state?  What if the other driver is from yet another state?  For example, here in La Crosse there are many people who live in Minnesota and travel to Wisconsin every day for work, school, or shopping.  Still others travel from Iowa, or vice versa.

For people that live in the Tri-State region near La Crosse, such as Northeast Iowa, Southeast Minnesota, and Western Wisconsin, it may be necessary to travel to La Crosse to get specialized medical care at either the Gundersen Health System or the Mayo Clinic Health System in La Crosse.

Perhaps you are from Minnesota and travel to La Crosse, and are involved in a car crash with a driver from Iowa.  You might also be traveling on the Interstate and be injured in an accident with a truck from another state.

In these situations, it is important to be aware of various, and sometimes significant, differences in the law between different states.  Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin have their own rules pertaining to auto insurance, including the amount of insurance you must have on your vehicle.  Minnesota, for example, has a No-Fault system, which includes guaranteed PIP (Personal Injury Protection) coverage for medical expenses and lost wages, regardless of who caused the accident.

If you live in Minnesota and have a Minnesota automobile policy, you likely have PIP coverage, even if you are injured in a car accident in Iowa or Wisconsin.  Likewise, if you live in Wisconsin, but get in an accident in Minnesota, you may also have PIP coverage, depending on the terms of your auto insurance policy.

The value of your claim can also vary from state to state.  For example, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin have different rules on the recoverability of medical bills, and whether the injured person can collect the full amount for the medical bills, or whether discounts or write offs can be used to reduce your recovery.

If the accident resulted in a death, there may also be a wrongful death claim, and the rules on who can make a wrongful death claim vary from state to state.  Some states, such as Wisconsin, have caps on the amount of wrongful death damages that can be recovered.  Iowa permits adult children to make a claim for wrongful death.  In Wisconsin, it may be limited to a surviving spouse.

Your time for taking legal action can also vary from state to state.  Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa have different deadlines, called statute of limitations, for starting a lawsuit.  In Iowa, you generally have two years to start a lawsuit for personal injuries.  In Wisconsin, it is generally three years.  In Minnesota, it may be as long as six years or as short as two years, depending on the circumstances.

You may have the right to bring your lawsuit in more than one state, and the decision of where to file can have a significant impact on your case and how much you might recover in damages.

It is important that you consult with an attorney as soon as possible that can help you determine which law(s) will apply to your case, so that you can get the maximum value for your claim from the responsible person or insurance company.  If your claim can’t be settled, you will need attorneys that can start a lawsuit in the state or federal court that is best for your case.

Hale Skemp is a general practice law firm located in La Crosse, Wisconsin, with attorneys that practice in a range of practice areas, including but not limited to personal injury, workers compensation, and insurance law.  Hale Skemp has attorneys licensed to practice in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa.

The information contained on this website is intended as an overview on subjects related to the practice of law. Each individual case is different, and laws do change, so please be aware that the circumstances and outcomes described may not apply to all cases and should not be interpreted as legal counsel. Please seek the advice of an attorney before making any decision related to legal issues.