Car insurance Tips for Canadian and US Snowbirds: Navigating Cross-Border issues!

Auto insurance tips for Canadian and US Snowbirds


Understanding Canadian Car accidents in Sunshine States like Florida, Texas, California, Nevada, and Arizona

Canadians who spend their winters in sunny states such as Florida, Texas, California, Nevada, and Arizona often consider the USA as their ‘second home.’ However, it’s essential to recognize that there are significant differences in our two countries’ legal systems, especially when it comes to car accidents. Without the guidance of experienced injury lawyers on both sides of the border, snowbirds risk a legal quagmire, potentially losing  compensation and benefits that are rightfully theirs.

Motor Vehicle Accidents in USA Sunshine States

Typically, if you’re involved in an accident in a state such as Florida, you’ll be automatically covered by Personal Injury Protection (PIP). It is important to note that while this coverage is somewhat similar to Canadian Car insurance benefits, it falls short of the comprehensive benefits offered by Canadian Car Insurers. These benefits are available regardless of fault. The benefits include coverage for medical and rehabilitation costs, loss of income, and funeral expenses, all of which are regulated by legislation and in some instances affordability. 

Quick tips in Understanding – Personal Insurance Protection.

Almost every US car insurer offers a form of Statutory Accident Benefits or PIP.  It is a contract of benefits to help with the immediate payment of some (not all) of necessary medical expenses.  Unfortunately most US PIP benefits do not match the level of generosity offered by Canadian insurers.  As an example, Ontario individuals who suffer catastrophic injuries can claim up to $1 million in compensation. There are also differences in the scope of coverage. In Ontario, coverage extends to any eligible insured and unnamed insured such as a spouse or children.

Monetary Value of Insurance Coverage?

The car insurance rules and regulations in American states differ considerably, especially when it comes to car insurance limits.   For example, drivers in Florida are only mandated to carry a minimum of $10,000 (USD) in coverage.  In a serious car accident, these limits are grossly inadequate to cover even the most minuscule car accident expense.  In contrast, drivers in Ontario are required to have a minimum of $200,000 (CAD) in third-party liability coverage, with many opting for coverage worth $1 million (CAD) or more.

In an accident which Jurisdiction decides my rights? 

It is of utmost importance to carefully determine the appropriate jurisdiction for filing a Tort claim. In general the jurisdiction where the accident happened is where your rights and remedies are to be enforced.   You need to also be aware that each State has different rules that deal with fault; percentages of fault; individualized rights of passengers and pedestrians as compared to drivers; and issues surrounding joint and several negligence.  Even the most innocent mistake or error in the order of filing, could potentially provide an insurance company with grounds to deny your claim. 

Which Benefits are right for me?

Another consideration is the right of an injured party to chose the contractual benefits afforded to them in the state or province where the accident happened.  For example a US citizen from Florida, injured in Ontario, Canada, could receive Ontario SAB benefits from their own US insurer.  This election process must be carefully reviewed and it is important to determine which accident benefit scheme is of the most benefit to you and your family.

Time Limits:

Statute of Limitations and Contractual time limits: Each State and Province imposes a specific time limit in which a plaintiff must commence a lawsuit and/or contractual claim.   These time restrictions must be adhered to. This applies to private medical and travel policies.  If a time limit is missed you might very well find yourself precluded from protecting your rights and denied the compensation you are due.

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Protection?

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist protection is the most essential coverages Canadian and US citizens who travel around North America must have.  This is important when considering the number of uninsured and underinsured car drivers especially in the US.  In cases where the defendant driver’s car insurance policy limit is inadequate to pay all of the claims, car accident victims can look to their own car insurance policy to pay for the unpaid portion of their damages.  As a rule of thumb:  Don’t leave home without it.  It is invaluable and protects your entire family.


Why Consulting a Lawyer on Both Sides of the Border Matters specializes in assisting Canadian and US snowbirds in navigating the intricate landscape of motor vehicle accident Tort and contractual claims on both sides of the border.  Yes we do stress the particularity of the sunny states of Florida, Texas, California, Nevada, and Arizona, but in fairness accidents can happen anywhere and at the least expected time.  Our members have helped protect friends and family for over 35 years.  The Snowbird help line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


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