As the winter chill settles over Alberta, many Canadians prefer to migrate south, trading frost and snow for the sun and sea. Whether exploring the United States by RV or arranging a spring break shopping excursion, there are a few vehicle-related steps to ensure your trip goes smoothly. 

Before hitting the road, Canadian tourists should ensure that their vehicle and car insurance policies are prepared for the unexpected. This blog will examine the intricacies of cross-border travel regarding vehicle and insurance preparations. Even if an accident occurs, you can maintain peace of mind by planning meticulously and taking proactive steps.

Vehicle Preparation Checklist

Before heading out on your winter road trip, it is important to conduct a comprehensive check of your vehicle to ensure that you and your passengers are safe and can handle any unexpected conditions.

Before taking off, you must know your route and check the weather forecast conditions during your trip. It is also crucial to regularly check the area road conditions, weather advisories, and storm watches throughout your drive. Before you leave, you must check your vehicle’s lights, windshield wiper blades, and tire pressure to ensure your vehicle is ready for the road. You can also take your car to a mechanic for a general checkup to ensure that the steering, brakes and fluids are in good working order and that any replacements or adjustments are made beforehand. It is also critical to prepare an emergency car kit that contains basic first aid items, basic tools (such as a shovel and wrench), food and water, a blanket, spare clothes, important contact information, and any other important items that you may need. 

Snowbird Considerations and Misconceptions

Whether you are driving across the border for a week or touring across America over several months, it is important to know the rules of the road in the state(s) you are driving in and to be aware of the key differences between the two countries’ legal systems, particularly concerning motor vehicle accidents.

Review Your Existing Policy

Many Canadian snowbirds wrongly assume that their standard car insurance policy automatically provides them comprehensive coverage for seamless cross-border travel. However, this is not the case. Before heading out on the road, it is important to understand what your existing car insurance policy covers, the amount of coverage you have, and whether you have any additional endorsements on your policy, such as an SEF 44. For annual snowbirds, reviewing your insurance policy annually is important to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of your policy and protection. If you have questions about your existing coverage or want to ensure you are adequately protected before your next trip, it is important to contact your sales agent or insurance broker.

Existing Protection and Additional Coverage

If you are involved in an accident during your travels, your car insurance policy can be crucial to your claim. Your auto insurer will provide you with compensation and coverage for specific aspects of your claim following an accident with another vehicle. 

Your insurance policy may also include “Uninsured Motorist Protection” and/or “Underinsured Motorist Coverage,” which can help ensure sufficient coverage if you are involved in an accident with a driver who has insufficient or no coverage. In certain states, an individual injured in a car accident may be automatically covered by a standard insurance regime under certain statutory benefits.

Insurance Coverage Varies Between Jurisdictions

It is also essential for travellers to be mindful of the differences in insurance requirements between countries. In Canada, most provinces and territories require motor vehicle owners to have a minimum of $200,000 in coverage.

The United States, on the other hand, does not have consistent mandatory minimum coverage requirements, and automobile insurance coverage requirements can vary greatly between states. As a result, many American drivers only carry the basic minimum insurance coverage, which can be as low as $10,000, which is generally inadequate to cover the true costs associated with a serious injury. Therefore, Canadian travellers need to confirm whether their existing insurance policy will cover accidents in a different jurisdiction to avoid future financial issues.

Filing a Claim in the Appropriate Jurisdiction

If you have been involved in an accident in another jurisdiction, the nature of your injuries will determine what type of benefits and compensation you may be entitled to. Generally, a plaintiff can only seek particular benefits from one source and cannot “double dip” or obtain “double recovery.” While the rules of procedure and insurance policy details will often identify who will pay the claim and when a claim should be filed, a claimant and their lawyer should ensure they bring their claim in the correct jurisdiction to avoid a possible delay or denial.

Key Takeaways for Canadian Drivers in the United States

Motor vehicle accident claims can be complex regardless of where the accident occurred. However, when dealing with a cross-border claim, several additional factors and considerations must be considered. If you are involved in an accident in the United States, it is important to remember that the requirements and criteria for accident claims can vary between jurisdictions. Therefore, your rights to compensation may be restricted depending on where the accident occurred, despite adequate preparation and your purchased protection. 

For these reasons, it is important to seek legal advice from a knowledgeable personal injury lawyer who can guide you through the nuances of your cross-border legal claim and help you effectively navigate various legal challenges. An experienced injury lawyer will ensure you understand how the law applies to your circumstances, help you determine which jurisdiction to file a claim in, and ensure your claim is filed within the applicable limitation period.

At Cuming & Gillespie, our talented team of Calgary personal injury lawyers help Canadian snowbirds understand the unique legal considerations regarding cross-border accident injury claims. We help clients prepare and file their claims in the correct jurisdiction to ensure they are positioned to recover maximum compensation for their injuries. If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident in a different jurisdiction, contact us online or by phone at 403-571-0555 to speak to a team member.