Each day, countless Ontarians travel across the United States border for work, play, or travel – unfortunately, Ontarians often experience car accidents in the United States. So, what happens when an Ontario driver gets into a car accident in another country?
This blog post will provide a series of considerations for Ontarians travelling to the United States by car.
Check Your Insurance if You’re Travelling to the United States
Long before you cross the border, it’s critical to ensure that you have the appropriate car insurance – including coverage in the event of an accident.
In Ontario, every driver must have car insurance. Not only that but coverage matters – by law, you are required to carry at least $200,000 in third-party liability coverage with the option to increase your coverage
(As an aside, carrying the minimum in third-party liability coverage – regardless of where you’re driving – is not recommended. Drivers should ensure adequate third-party liability coverage in the event of an accident, and in many cases, $200,000 will not be sufficient.)
Third-party liability coverage protects you if you are involved in a car accident and are sued for damages suffered by another party. So, if you have $200,000 in third-party liability coverage, you are covered for claims up to $200,000. A claim above $200,000 would require you to pay the balance personally.
Likewise, drivers in the United States must carry car insurance – though the legal requirements can vary from state to state. And, in the event of an accident, you’ll need to ensure you have adequate coverage to deal with potential personal injury claims. For further information or to check your coverage, speak with a car insurance broker.
Medical Treatment in the United States – and Why You Should Get Travel Insurance
Unfortunately, injuries are common in car accidents, and if you’re involved in a car accident in the United States, you may be concerned about receiving appropriate treatment.
We always recommend that car accident victims seek medical attention immediately after an accident – even if they do not believe they have been injured or have “minor” injuries. For one, seeking medical attention will help confirm whether you have experienced any injury because of an accident. Another important reason to consult with a doctor is to create a record of your injuries and recovery. If you later require treatment for your injuries or wish to pursue a personal injury claim, these records give the parties a full picture of how the accident affected you.
Seeking treatment in the United States can be daunting for Canadians. Not only are you injured in another country, but paying for treatment is another (understandable) concern. That’s why it’s essential to consider travel insurance before you cross the border. Travel insurance helps protect you from the costs associated with unforeseen medical treatment outside of Canada and is essential for any cross-border trip. Be sure to check your existing policies, however – some policies, such as workplace benefits policies, also include travel coverage for Canadians.
If You’re in a Car Accident, Speak to Your Insurer Immediately
If you are involved in a motor vehicle accident in the United States, let your insurer know as soon as possible. While you may be preoccupied with other matters (like a holiday), contacting your insurer promptly will help you work with the other parties involved as soon as possible and ensure that important details are noticed.
Cooperate with Law Enforcement Following the Accident
While this should go without saying, cooperating with law enforcement following a car accident in the United States is crucial. Just like a Canadian car accident, provide all necessary information and documentation to law enforcement to ensure that the accident details are recorded, and an investigation (if appropriate) is conducted smoothly.
Document the Accident Yourself
It’s also important for car accident victims to document the accident themselves (when possible). If you can, take pictures of the accident scene, vehicle damage, and any injuries you’ve sustained. Obtaining contact information and insurance details from the other parties involved, and taking other relevant notes regarding what you see, think, and feel at the time of the accident is good practice if any disputes arise regarding the nature of the accident, vehicle damage, or injuries.
Retain a Lawyer
If a personal injury case arises following a car accident in the United States, you’ll need to retain a lawyer licensed to practice in the state where the accident occurred to represent you. Remember that personal injury laws can vary from state to state, so it’s essential to speak with a lawyer who understands the applicable law and can help you navigate the process.
Bonus: Car Accidents in the United States and Rental Cars
Canadian travellers often hire rental cars, which begs the question: what happens if I am involved in a car accident in the United States and was driving a rental car?
Whether you rented the vehicle in Canada or the United States, you must carry car insurance. Sometimes, your rental will come with liability coverage; in other cases, your insurance policy will provide coverage if you’re involved in an accident while driving a rental car. In many cases (particularly in the United States), the minimum liability coverage required for a rental vehicle is quite low.
Minimum liability coverage is exactly that: a minimum. As minimum liability coverage is often insufficient to cover you in the event of a car accident, the best thing you can do to protect yourself is to understand your insurance and, if appropriate, obtain additional coverage.
Final Thoughts on Car Accidents in the United States
Even a minor car accident in the United States can be extremely stressful for Canadians. That’s why it’s important not only to ensure you are prepared for your cross-border trip by obtaining an appropriate car and travel coverage but to understand the steps you should take following a car accident in the United States.
At the end of the day, your health is key – following any accident, be sure to seek medical attention and address your injuries as soon as possible. And, if legal consequences arise from a car accident in the United States, be sure to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer. They can advise you on your rights and obligations and, if the accident occurred in another jurisdiction, help connect you with a lawyer who can represent your interests in court.
Skilled Personal Injury Lawyers Serving Eastern Ontario and North Bay
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, our skilled personal injury lawyers have many years of experience going up against insurance companies to get full and fair settlements for our clients. We will advise you of the best course of action to obtain the maximum possible settlement so that you can recover financially and move on with your life.