Q&A: How to deal with an out-of-Province accident

Being far from home and getting into a car accident is more than a hassle. Not only do you have to deal with any repairs you need, but you may also need to engage with a labyrinthine legal system.

But did you know that there are things you can do right now that can ensure that you are prepared for any eventuality when you travel? Read on to learn what to do before you travel, what to do in the unlikely event you do get into an accident, and gain some peace of mind!

How do I know if I am covered by ICBC?

1) You are a resident of British Columbia

To be considered a B.C. resident, there are a number of factors that need to be considered.  One would be a permanent residence in British Columbia. Other things that can be considered in the residency question are immediate family in the area, a B.C. bank account, provincial taxes, or major assets registered in B.C., such as your vehicle.

If you work outside of B.C. temporarily, you can still be considered a B.C. resident, but there are limitations on how long you can be away, and many other factors that need to be considered.

2) Your driver’s license and insurance policy is in good standing

Of course, you cannot drive any motor vehicle without a valid driver’s licence, and you cannot drive a motor vehicle that does not carry at least the minimum of $200,000 third party liability coverage.  This seems pretty straightforward, but you would be surprised how many vehicles are on the road without valid insurance, or driven by people without a valid B.C. driver’s licence.  As personal injury lawyers, we see the consequences all the time.

3) You will be travelling in Canada or the United States

ICBC will cover most accidents that you might have in Canada or the United States. However, your insurance won’t apply if you’re travelling in Mexico or any other foreign country.

How can I prepare before a trip?

1) Review your accident coverage

Also review the local province’s regulations — some jurisdictions require you to register your license or your vehicle there if you are residing or visiting long-term.

2) Check to make sure your license or insurance won’t expire while you’re gone

You can renew your license up to six months before it expires. It’s easier to renew your license while you are still in British Columbia; if you have to stay away longer than you expect, however, you can still reapply from another province.  If your insurance is going to expire before you return, you will need to talk to your insurance broker before you leave, or authorize someone to deal with the insurance issues, perhaps with a limited Power of Attorney.  It is much simpler to just deal with it before you leave however, and you will have one less thing to worry about.

3) Apply for a refund if you’re going to be gone for 30 days or more

If you know that you won’t be using your ICBC coverage for 30+ days, you can apply for a refund for the premium over the months you are gone. Remember that this only applies if you are travelling outside of Canada or the United States.

4) Know who’s footing the bill

If you’re travelling for pleasure, your insurance with ICBC will typically be invoked.  However, if you’re travelling for business — or mixing business with pleasure — you should talk to your employer and your insurance broker before your trip to find out if you need extra insurance for your travels.  If your vehicle is rated for pleasure, and you cause an accident on a business trip, you may run into coverage issues.

What should I do if I get into an accident outside my province?

If you are in an accident, and you are not sure who to call, contact us.  We can provide you with guidance or refer you to someone in the jurisdiction where the accident happened that can answer your questions.  You may need to report to ICBC eventually, but you should now your options first.

What if it’s not my car?

If you will be renting a car, you can purchase specific rental vehicle coverage through ICBC.  Some ICBC plans, like Roadstar or Roadside Plus can also offer rental coverage, but check first.

What are some specific considerations if the accident occurs outside B.C.?

1) Consider local caps by jurisdiction

If you’re injured during an accident, there may be a cap on how much you’re entitled to in one jurisdiction versus another.  Also, some states, like New Hampshire and Virginia, don’t even require motorists to have insurance on a car, though the uninsured person remains liable for the damages.  If they have no assets, you will have no recourse.  Some other provinces will require that the insurer pay the British Columbia limits even when the accident occurs elsewhere.

2) No limits on pain and suffering in the United States.

While there are limits on non-pecuniary damages in Canada and in B.C. — that is, ‘pain and suffering’, and other damages that are tough to quantify — the United States have no such limits. It may be that you need to retain a lawyer in that state or city if you are not at fault and wish to pursue an injury claim.

3) Local laws may conflict

If local laws come into conflict with B.C. law, the law in effect where the accident occurred prevails.

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