What if I Get into a Car Crash Across State Borders? Where Do I File My Lawsuit?

A car accident anywhere can be traumatic, but the aftermath can be even more challenging when it occurs while you are out of state, even if it is just across the border from where you live. For example, it’s not uncommon for people who live in Southern Illinois but work in Missouri, or the other way around, to get involved in a crash outside their “home” state during their commute.

However, because the accident happened in another state, you may be required to follow the laws in that state, including about where to file your lawsuit.

If the accident took place in another state, our firm can advise you on how best to proceed. If you’re involved in a car accident in Missouri or Illinois, the St. Louis car accident lawyers at Cofman Townsley can help you file your claim. 

After a Car Accident in a Different State, What Should I Do?

If you’re in a car accident out of state, follow the same steps you would take if the accident occurred in your state. Call 911 for the police to file a police report and ask for emergency services if someone is injured in the accident.

Like with any accident, take pictures and videos of the scene, and collect the witnesses’ contact information. Gather the insurance information of anyone else involved in the accident. You should also call your insurance company as soon as possible to report the damages and any injuries.

Suing Out-of-State for a Disputed Auto Accident Claim

There are a few reasons you may need an out-of-state lawyer to file an out-of-state lawsuit. For example, why you might want to hire a St. Louis law firm even if you live in Illinois.

These include:  

  • Multiple drivers are at fault: You can file cases in multiple states if many drivers are at fault. An investigation may reveal that one defendant had no insurance. If the defendant was uninsured or underinsured, you can claim compensation for your losses by filing a claim with your own uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
  • The car accident involved a commercial driver: A lawyer from out-of-state may file a case in that state if you are hit by a commercial driver like a semi-truck driver.
  • Different statute of limitations: The statute of limitations in other states may differ from your home state. A lawyer from another state can provide you with information and help you stay on top of the statute of limitations so you can file your claim within the required timeframe. 

Why Do I Need an Out-Of-State Lawyer?

Attorneys may only practice law in a state if they are licensed there. The unauthorized practice of law without a license is a serious offense that includes licensed attorneys who practice in states where they are not licensed.

A local lawyer who knows the state laws and has experience with car accidents is the best choice for anyone involved in an accident out of state. To help you find the best lawyer in another state, here are some factors you need to consider.

Local legal knowledge and experience

If you want a lawyer in another state with a successful track record, you need to look at their years of experience, the number of successfully settled automobile accident cases, and their understanding of the local and state laws.

From their experience, they provide insight into how to develop a legal strategy for your case. You should also evaluate if they appear confident in helping you through the legal process within the state.


If the accident occurred in a state that borders your home state, you can often find an attorney who is licensed in both places. If you get into a car accident in Illinois, the state court may hear your case. You can find a Missouri lawyer who also practices in Illinois.

If your car accident occurred in another state, hiring a lawyer who is licensed there can benefit your case. They can more easily pursue the case since they are local to the state. They do not have to travel to attend hearings and obtain accident police reports.

However, if you live in Missouri or Southern Illinois and are involved in a crash while traveling in another state, you may still want to hire a lawyer who is local to you. Our firm can handle most personal injury claims through the entire pre-suit phase, including auto accident claims, even when they occur out of state.

The vast majority of personal injury claims are resolved without needing to go to trial. However, if it is necessary to take your out-of-state auto accident claim to court, our firm can hire referral counsel we trust to represent you, or even petition the court to represent you ourselves. This is possible through a legal practice called “pro hac vice.” 

How Do I Hire an Out-Of-State Attorney?

Ideally, you should choose a lawyer who is licensed to practice in the state where the accident occurred. You can hire an out-of-state attorney in the same manner as an in-state lawyer. Some firms who operate near a state border may be licensed to practice in multiple states. For example, Cofman Townsley can legally litigate cases in both Missouri and Illinois.

Ask people you trust or have dealt with the lawyer for a referral. You can also read reviews about out-of-state lawyers online. Check the website of the state’s bar association to see if your out-of-state attorney is licensed in the state in which they practice.

Considering most lawyers provide free consultations, your lawyer should clarify their legal representation and knowledge of your accident in your initial meeting.

Get Help With Your Accident That Happened in a Different State Today

If you are injured in a car accident in Missouri or Southern Illinois, attorneys at Cofman Townsley can help you understand what to do next. You can explore all your legal options and move forward with your case. Contact our law offices today for a free consultation.