Here's how auto insurance works if you have an accident while you're in another city or state.
It's a given that any time you get on the road and drive, there's a chance you could be involved in a car accident. If you're in another city or state, factor in unfamiliar streets, road signs, traffic and driving patterns, and your risk is even higher. Though they may not happen often, out-of-town accidents do occur. If you're involved in one, here are a few things to know.
First, if you're far from home, your auto insurance still covers you. Generally, auto policies limit coverage to areas within the United States or a territory or possession of the U.S., as well as a province or territory of Canada. So, if you're taking a cross-country road trip, your auto insurance extends across state — and likely even Canadian — lines. Be sure to check your policy to see what limitations exist, especially if you're driving to Mexico or other Central or South American countries.
Second, reporting out-of-town accidents to your insurance company should be just as easy as if you were at home. Most major insurance companies have 800 numbers to report claims, so when you call, your claim is routed to the most appropriate claims adjuster. In some cases, that means a claims adjuster based in your hometown may handle your claim; in others, someone located where your accident occurred will be assigned to the claim. Whether a local or remote adjuster handles your claim, your insurance company has your best interests in mind. In most situations, claims are handled with efficiency in mind: Your insurance company wants to get you back to normal as quickly as you do.
You may need a tow truck after an out-of-town accident. If so, your insurance company can help you, regardless of your location. Your company should be able to provide available towing options in the area where the accident occurred, and they often can arrange for your vehicle to be towed — a huge help in unfamiliar territory. Major insurance companies have networks of towing companies in most areas of the country, which helps alleviate the stress that comes with arranging for a tow in a faraway place.
In some cases, you may prefer to tow your vehicle back home rather than leave it where it is and repair it there. If your accident occurred hundreds of miles from your home and you're using your insurance to cover the damage, your insurance may pay for a portion of the tow, too. The entire towing cost may not be covered by insurance depending on your particular coverages and how your policy determines what reasonable towing costs are. Generally, "reasonable" means within a specified radius or dollar amount. Claims are considered on a case-by-case basis, so make sure you discuss your needs with your insurance company as they arise.
If you choose to repair your car at a facility near the location of your accident, your insurance company can still help. Similar to networks of towing companies, insurance companies often partner with or have a network of repair shops in most areas of the country, so your insurance company should be able to recommend a shop if you need one. Local adjusters will still estimate your damage and work with the body shop to repair your vehicle, even if it's hundreds of miles from home.
Bottom line: If you have auto insurance and your accident falls within the guidelines of your policy, you're most likely covered regardless of where your accident occurs or where you repair your car. Because most companies have centralized 800 numbers to report claims, resolving yours should be almost as easy as if it happened your home city or area. Knowing this, you can drive almost anywhere with more peace of mind.
The information in this blog may vary based on your particular state or situation. Always refer to your insurance policy for your specific coverages.