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 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 how many Canadian Snowbirds are there and where do they go?
The present estimate is that approximately 1 million Canadians head south during the winter. Florida is the most popular destination with approximately 600,000 Canadians wintering there. States such as South and North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Arizona also experience an influx of winter Canadians.
Travelling is not risk free.
Before migrating south, Canadians need to make sure they have extra medical & travel insurance. It is also a very good idea to review you car insurance policy. There are certain optional car insurance coverages that should be purchased. In particular we recommend you increase your liability limits; Statutory Accident Benefits; and make sure you have Underinsured/uninsured motorist protection. These optional benefits are relatively inexpensive.
Snowbirds and car accidents!
If you are involved in a car accident, the law of the state dictates what rights and remedies you have (Tort rights). For example can you sue or be sued for pain and suffering and any economic losses suffered. In addition, each state has different procedural rules as to when and how a claim can be made. You will need a lawyer/attorney in that state to provide legal advice.
In addition nearly everyone involved in a car accident has their own car insurance policy. This is where you have contractual rights. These claims must be submitted to your insurer in the state or province where your purchased the insurance. For example Canadians involved in a car accident in Florida, can sue in Florida where the accident happened and submit their contractual claims (Statutory Accident Benefits), to their Canadian car insurer.
Canadian car insurers also provide Underinsured and Uninsured Benefits: Each state and province require car drivers to have certain minimum third party car insurance liability. For example in Florida the minimum limit is $10,000. If injured, a Snowbird (not including Quebec residents) with a $1 million liability policy can claim the financial shortfall from their own private car insurer up to the limit of their policy- ie., $990,000. This coverage dramatically protects you and your family.
Here are some more examples.
- 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 family members and whether you are in a car, motorcyclist, passenger, and even as a pedestrian or bicyclist. The claim must be brought in 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 (up to $1,000,000) help pay for medical, rehabilitation, attendant care expenses and will also provide a limited amount of Income replacement.
Applying for (PIP) Statutory Accident Benefits. After reporting the accident to your own car insurer, they will send to you a Accident Claim Form. This form must be completed by everyone involved in the accident and returned to you insurance company as soon as practicable. You will need to provide 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.
Property Damage Claims: All property damage claims should be reported to your car insurer. Most likely they are to be submitted directly to them for reimbursement. Contact your insurer and they will advise you what to do. It can be quite complicated if your vehicle needs to be towed or returned to Canada.
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.
The Province of Ontario Is again providing 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. OHIP coverage is ridiculously inadequate when compared to Hospital and Medical charges that will be incurred by you in an emergency.Regardless, Extra Medical coverage should still be purchased for every family member prior to leaving the province.
Make sure you speak to your insurance broker. There are now extra considerations that need to be made because of Covid claims and legal considerations surrounding insured persons who have pre-existing injuries, illnessess, or diseases. Most private health coverages do not extend coverage and if they do there are significant financial limitations.
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 where they normally reside.
Contact the snowbird hotline 1-647-896-4907
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.