Canadians who head south for the winter are commonly referred to as “Snowbirds”. It is now synonymous with all Northern residents (both Canada and USA), 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. States such as South and North Carolina, Georgia, Texas and Arizona also experience an influx of migrating Birds.
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 accidents!
Unfortunately accidents happens. The law of the state dictates what rights and remedies you have (Tort rights). For example in most states you can 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 accident or incident has some type of insurance to help them for immediate health care expenses. This is when your contractual rights kick in. These contractual claims must be remitted to your insurer in the state or province where your purchased the insurance. For example Ontario Canadians involved in a car accident in Florida, can sue in Florida where the accident happened, but they must submit their contractual claims to their Ontario insurer.
Canadian car insurers also provide Underinsured and Uninsured Benefits: What few people realize is that 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) can claim any financial shortfall arising from a Tort claim from their own private car insurer up to the limit of their policy. This coverage dramatically protects you and your family from an uninsured or underinsured car driver.
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. 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 in Ontario) pay for medical, rehabilitation, attendant care expenses and limited Income replacement benefits.
Applying for (PIP) Statutory Accident Benefits. Accidents and incidents need to be reported to your insurance companies. They in turn will send to you a Accident Claim Form. This form must be completed and returned to your insurance company as soon as practicable.
Property Damage Claims: Subject to the extent of the 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 especially 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 your medical and rehabilitative needs. These benefits allow Hospital Discharge Planners and Social Workers to immediately help facilitate your return home.
The Province of Ontario is again providing OHIP coverage for injuries, accidents and illnesses that arise while travelling outside of the province. This has nothing to do with car insurance other then the fact it is referred to as first loss coverage. OHIP though is ridiculously inadequate. It will barely cover any USA Hospital and Medical charges that you might incur in an emergency. Private Medical coverage should be purchased for every family member prior to leaving the province and/or Canada.
Covid-19: If your not vaccinated there is little chance you will be able to purchase private travel insurance let alone be able to enter most first world countries. Most Canadian travel policies exclude claims, or significantly reduce its financial responsibility, for claims that arise from pre-existing injuries, illnesses, or diseases.
Canadians (and USA residents) involved in USA Car Accidents need Legal Advice. Cross Border Car Accidents are exceptionally complicated. You might very well need advice in the jurisdiction the accident happened and where you normally reside.
Contact the snowbird hotline
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.