What Law Applies to Out-Of-State Car Accidents Involving Different States?

We commonly encounter situations where someone was in a car accident while driving in one state but they are a resident and have insurance in another state. With these out-of-state accidents, it can become increasingly complicated to determine which State’s laws apply? For example, we often see an accident happen in Michigan between an Ohio driver and a Michigan driver. Since the issue comes up so much, here’s an overview of how to determine which State’s laws apply after an out-of-state accident in a different state. 

What Law Applies to Out-of-State Accidents?

Choice of law analysis determines which state law will apply in a car crash. Once determined, the case can proceed into the appropriate court. Historically, courts held that the place where the wrongdoing occurred determined which state law would be applied. This application is important as laws vary from state to state and applying the incorrect law can result in limited compensation. Known as the “lex loci delicti” doctrine,  the Latin term means the law of the place. Under this strict rule, the state law where the accident occurred would apply. This isn’t, however, a hard and fast rule. 

Modern Conflict of Law Analysis

Over the years, however, the courts began to not only consider the rule but to also review the state’s interest in order to reach a more fair and equitable result. They would no longer automatically apply it to determine the state law. The analysis became more fact specific. For example, to determine the state with the most significant interests, the Ohio Supreme Court in Morgan v. Biro Manufacturing, 15 Ohio St.3d 339, 342, 474 N.E.2d 286 (1984) looked at the following factors under the Restatement (Second) Of Conflicts of Law, beginning with section 146.

  • The place where the injury occurred,
  • The place where the conduct causing the injury occurred,
  • The domicile, residence, nationality, place of incorporation, and place of business of the parties,
  • The place where the relationship between the parties occurred, if any is located, and
  • Any factors under Section 6 which the court deems relevant to the litigation.

Practical Analysis of Multi-State Accidents

Every case is going to introduce unique facts. Assuming an accident was in the State of Ohio, however, even if it involves Michigan drivers, Ohio law is likely to apply.  In these cases, applying the holding in Morgan, the Michigan interests are minimal as the defendant is from Michigan. Aside from that, the accident and injury both occurred in Ohio with an Ohio resident. The Ohio resident will get his medical care and treatment in Ohio and if any wage loss, would recover  from an Ohio employer. Ohio interests are substantially greater than Michigan’s interests. As such, Ohio law would apply.

About the Authors: Sawan & Sawan is a multi-generational, family owned law firm practicing law in the areas of car accidents, truck accidents, and other personal injury. Our firm practices law in Ohio and Michigan.

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