It’s nothing to be ashamed of. Some of the most interesting birds don’t fly: Ostriches and emus, the noble Emperor penguin, the heavy-footed moa. 

Unlike penguins, snowbirds have the advantage of being able to drive off and leave the frigid temperatures behind. However, all you snowbirds already packing up the car should not be heavy-footed like the moa (now extinct), and be sure you’re ready to navigate the American highways and their legal system. You may be leaving the slippery roads behind, but car accidents can still happen south of the border (speeding tickets, too).

With best wishes for a warm and happy winter (and to distract us from our envy), we have prepared a guide to help you prepare for your southern migration.

Understand Your Insurance Coverage Before You Go

Before your trip, it is essential to review your insurance policy to confirm you have sufficient coverage for your trip. Contact your provider to resolve any questions or concerns you may have. 

Length of Trip

Ensure the length of your time away doesn’t exceed any limitations on your health and automotive coverage. Many insurance companies allow you to keep your vehicle in the United States for up to six months – but not all! You should also be aware that some policies require you to notify your insurance provider when taking your vehicle to the United States. 

Liability Coverage Level

If you’re planning an extended stay south of the border, you may want to consider whether you require extra liability coverage. Damage awards in the United States can often be significantly higher than in Canada, and any damages or expenses you need to pay will be in US dollars.

No-Fault Insurance and Underinsured Drivers

Some but not all states have mandatory no-fault insurance schemes where drivers are expected to obtain compensation from their own insurance company even if the other driver is at fault. Different jurisdictions also have different rules about the amount and type of insurance required, which may limit the amount of damages you can recover. Your insurance agent should be able to explain how your policy will intersect with the insurance rules in the jurisdiction you’ll be staying in, and advise you on whether you require any extra insurance to cover potential shortfalls or gaps.

Bear in mind that even if you get into a car accident outside of Alberta, you may be eligible to file for Section B benefits to cover eligible expenses.

Extra Expenses

It’s important to understand what you’re covered for. If you do get into a car accident, are you covered for loss of use of your vehicle? Renting a car? What about emergency accommodations, roadside assistance and towing? If the accident results in litigation, you must consider legal expenses.

What To Do if You Get in a Car Accident

There are many similarities between the United States and Canada, and for many Canadians, it can feel like (or be) a “home away from home,” at least when things are going right. However, if confronted with the trauma of a car crash, snowbirds can quickly feel overwhelmed and isolated when dealing with different laws, a foreign medical system and critical questions or rules around health and auto insurance. 

Keep Calm and Call 911

A car accident is a significant shock – sudden and unexpected. There is a lot to process quickly, which is a real challenge even when you’re lucky not to have been injured. It’s easier said than done, but the most important thing is to remain calm. The priority is to ensure everyone’s health and safety and immediately call for emergency medical assistance if anyone is injured. 

Take Photos and Notes

It is essential to document the accident immediately. This will also help you understand what happened and improve your recall later. Take photos of vehicles, damages, license plates, driver’s licences and insurance papers. Also, take notes, including contact information for involved parties and witnesses. All these details will be much more difficult to obtain reliably later on and are very important for insurance and legal claims. 

Seek Medical Attention

Injuries such as concussions may not be immediately apparent, or symptoms may have delayed onset. Involved parties will also likely experience a surge of adrenaline, which may mask physical injuries. It is wise to be assessed by a medical professional as soon as possible after a car accident to safeguard your health and for evidentiary purposes if you later need to file a personal injury claim. 

Take Advantage of Local Services

Even if no one is injured, it is still a good idea to call local police or highway patrol. Don’t rely on other involved parties to find the correct local procedures to deal with an accident properly. Emergency responders can tell you exactly what steps to take and also help you access medical help, towing services and other necessary support services. 

Take Advantage Your Support Network at Home

Call family members or friends to inform them of the accident. They know you best and may be better able to recognize if you’re in shock or traumatized, and can help you process it and make good decisions on how to proceed. It’s also a good idea to tell your family doctor about the accident; she or he may be able to provide advice on any healthcare concerns, either directly caused by the accident or pre-existing care such as medications or other scheduled therapies, which may be impacted or interrupted by the repercussions of the accident.

Contact Your Insurance Providers As Soon As Possible

Report the accident to your automotive and health insurance providers immediately. They can assist you in obtaining and completing any necessary forms to ensure you can make necessary insurance claims and have related expenses covered or reimbursed. Be prepared to pay for emergency medical and automotive services, last-minute accommodations and other necessities after an accident.

Contact the Personal Injury Lawyers at Cuming & Gillespie LLP if You Have Been Involved in a Motor Vehicle Accident in the USA

At Cuming & Gillespie LLP, our personal injury lawyers provide trustworthy representation to individuals injured in an accident by someone else’s negligence. Knowing what steps to take to protect your rights after an accident can be challenging, especially when you are in an unfamiliar place. Our team is here to guide you through this process and ensure you obtain fair compensation to help move forward after the accident. Contact us online or by phone at 403-571-0555 to learn how we can assist you.