Canadians who head south for the winter are commonly referred to as “Snowbirds”. It is now synonymous with all Northern residents (both Canada and US) and their families, who migrate south every year and to avoid the cold winter weather. And who can blame them. The Sunny southern states provide fun, beaches, activities, and relaxation for an entire family.
So where do they go?
Florida is the most popular destination. States such as South and North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Arizona also experience an influx of winter travellers.
Travelling is not risk free.
Canadians involved in USA Accidents need to make sure they have extra medical & travel insurance when heading south. It is also a very good idea to purchase the optional car insurance coverages that increase your liability limits; Personal Insurance Protection; Accident Benefits; Underinsured/uninsured motorist protection; and your health coverages. They are relatively inexpensive. Speak to your insurance broker prior to heading south.
Snowbirds and car accidents!
If you are involved in a car accident, the law of the state decides whether you can sue for pain and suffering and economic losses suffered. In addition, each state has different procedural rules as to how and when a claim can be brought. For example you must bring a law suit within a prescribed time period. If you do not do so within the prescribed time, you will be precluded from doing so.
Nearly everyone involved in an accident has some form of private accident insurance. These private contractual claims must be brought in the state or province where the insurance was purchased. For example if a Canadian from Ontario is involved in a car accident in Florida, they would sue in Florida, but claim their private insurance benefits in Ontario.
Underinsured and Uninsured claims: Each state and province has different minimum third party car insurance liability requirements. For example in Florida you only need to have a minimum limit of $10,000. Comparatively, Ontario car drivers minimum third party limit is $200,000.
So how does it work? A Snowbird (not including Quebec) with a $1 million liability policy if involved in a car accident with an at fault driver, can claim the financial shortfall from their own insurer. This coverage protects you and your family in any instance involving an at fault driver who is underinsured or uninsured.
- Canadians (excluding Quebec residents) not at fault or partially at fault for the accident and injured by an uninsured or underinsured driver – can claim the financial shortfall from their own car policy. This protection extends to, motorcyclists, passengers, and pedestrians. The claim must be brought where the private policy was purchased. – ie Canada.
- A Canadian involved in any car accident in North America, regardless of fault, is immediately eligible for their Provincial Statutory (PIP) Accident Benefits. These contractual benefits help pay for medical, rehabilitation, attendant care expenses and provide partial income replacement.
Applying for (PIP) Statutory Accident Benefits. After reporting the accident to your insurer, they will send to you a Accident Claim Form. This form must be completed by everyone involved in the accident. You will need to provide to you insurer a description of the accident, an outline of the injuries sustained, the names of the treating doctors and hospitals, and, any medical and rehabilitation expenses incurred.
SPECIAL NOTICE FOR ONTARIO RESIDENTS. Ontario has one of the best Statutory Accident Benefit schemes in North America. If you are involved in a car accident, the SAB coverage assists in the immediate payment of hospital accounts, and medical and rehabilitative needs. These benefits allow Hospital Discharge Planners and Social Workers to immediately help facilitate you and your family’s return home.
As of January 1, 2020, the Province of Ontario will no longer provide OHIP coverage to anyone making a claim for medical expenses that arise while outside of the province. This has nothing to do with your car insurance. Regardless, Extra Medical coverage should be purchased for every family member prior to leaving the province. Make sure you speak to your insurance broker.
Canadians involved in USA Accidents need Legal Advice
Cross Border Accidents are exceptionally complicated. After a serious accident, injured travellers will need a lawyer in the State they were injured in, and quite probably in their home jurisdiction.
Contact the snowbird hotline 1-877-771-7006
At Howie, Sacks & Henry we only practise personal injury law. And it shows. With more than 40 years experience, our dedication to handle serious personal injury cases with compassion, professionalism, and expertise has made us one of Canada’s top personal injury law firms, as ranked by our peers in Canadian Lawyer Magazine.