It is becoming increasingly common to see personal injury claims that cross state lines, meaning they involve more than one state’s laws. These issues are referred to as “jurisdictional issues” or “conflicts of laws” issues. This came up recently when a North Carolina couple was involved in a collision in Georgia that resulted in his death. (For that story, click here.)
For example, take the situation where a driver is out of town on business in another state and he is involved in an auto accident. Most states follow the “lex loci” rule, meaning the law of the location will apply. So a North Carolina driver involved in a collision while vacationing in Florida should expect that Florida’s law will control. Simple, right? Maybe not.
Now imagine our North Carolina driver goes to the emergency room in Florida. He offers the billing staff a copy of his BCBS card, but they tell him they want to file directly with his auto insurance, because in Florida, drivers are required to carry PIP insurance that acts similar to health insurance and can be billed directly. But our driver does not have PIP coverage, because that is not the way things work in N.C. And the other driver is not from Florida either, but from another state that does not have PIP insurance. That driver has standard liability insurance, just like we do here in North Carolina.
Taking our hypothetical further, imagine our driver then returns home after the collision and begins treating at a physical therapists office here in N.C. His doctors here insist on filing his BCBS coverage. Our driver then receives a letter from BCBS telling him they will be seeking “subrogation,” meaning they want to be reimbursed from any settlement for what they have paid out on his behalf. The driver calls the N.C. Insurance Commission and is told that under North Carolina insurance regulations, health insurers cannot seek subrogation, but that if his health insurance plan is through a multi-state employer or part of a risk pool, the N.C. regulations may not apply. While this is going on, he receives a call from the hospital in Florida telling him they are not going to wait any longer, they want to be paid now or they will report him to collections.
As soon as he gets of the phone, he receives another call from his employer’s HR department. they have realized he was in an accident on the job. He was not supposed to be using his company BCBS card; he should have filed a Worker’s Comp claim. Because the company is headquartered in Georgia, they will be sending him paperwork to file a W.C. claim under Georgia’s laws.
What is our hypothetical driver to do? Where can he even begin? With so many claims crossing state lines, it is important to consult with an attorney that has dealt with these issues before. Our attorneys are licensed in North Carolina, but we commonly associate and work with lawyers in other various states. We share our fees with these lawyers, meaning it does not cost our client anything extra to bring in a lawyer from another state (or two, or three). If you have a personal injury claim that crosses state lines, please consider the lawyers at Riddle and Brantley.