Many motor vehicle accidents occur annually involving B.C. residents who are out of the province. ICBC covers qualifying residents who are anywhere in Canada or the United States, including in Alaska and Hawaii, but not outside of Canada or the U.S., including Mexico. It is important to review your accident insurance coverage prior to leaving B.C., however, as you may need additional insurance protections depending on where you are going, the reason for travelling and how long or how frequently you will be out of B.C.. If you have an accident while out of B.C., you will need to report it to ICBC’s Dial-A-Claim at 1-800-910-4222 anywhere in Canada or the U.S., including Alaska and Hawaii.
Residency, Licence and Insurance Requirements for Coverage
To qualify for accident coverage, ICBC requires that you be a B.C. resident and that your driver’s licence and insurance policy be current and in good standing. Some other conditions apply, such as limits on how long you are out of the province. To be considered a B.C. resident you must have a permanent B.C. residence, immediate family, a bank account, registered vehicles or assets and/or provincial taxes paid in B.C., even if you have never worked in B.C. and work outside the province. If you are away when your licence or insurance is up for renewal, you can renew up to six months in advance or while you are away. However, you do not have coverage from ICBC if an accident occurs after your insurance expires or is cancelled or if you are away for the entire length of the insurance policy.
Some jurisdictions may require you to register your licence or your vehicle there if you are residing or visiting, even if you are away during a period on vacation. If your vehicle is in the U.S. for the entire length of your insurance policy, you have to register, license and insure your vehicle there. If you are outside Canada and the U.S. for more than 30 continuous days, you may be able to obtain a refund of the ICBC Autoplan premium you are required to pay.
Coverage May Depend on the Reason for Travel
If your collision occurs while you are travelling for pleasure, then ICBC coverages will apply. If you had an accident while travelling for business, then regulatory rules where you are working may apply and the business may be responsible to provide insurance coverage. Special rules may apply if you are a regular commuter who works out of province or in the U.S. If you are mixing vacation travel with business, it is best to check with ICBC in advance to determine if additional insurance is required.
Coverage May Apply When Driving Another Vehicle
If you get into an accident with a rental vehicle, then ICBC pays accident benefits as part of Autoplan insurance to the extent that you are not covered by other insurance. Additional rental vehicle coverage applies if you bought Roadside Plus or Roadstar or additional insurance from a private auto insurer in B.C. or through the rental vehicle company. Where there are multiple policies, ICBC requires that you exhaust other insurance first before they will pay an accident claim.
ICBC accident benefits may apply if you have a collision with a personal vehicle you do not own and are not insured under (e.g., you borrow a friend’s car while visiting Florida) to the extent that insurance on the vehicle is insufficient to cover the claim. For example, if the Florida liability coverage is only $15,000 per motorist, while in B.C. the minimum liability coverage is $200,000, then you may be able to claim the difference through ICBC. You may be covered by your friend’s insurance, however, if permission was provided and the purpose was solely for pleasure. For travel protection insurance coverage under Roadside Plus or Roadstar (e.g., coverage to stay at a hotel while getting medical treatment), then the trip must be no longer than 30 days.
Differences Between Jurisdictions
If you have an out of province accident where you were injured, consideration needs to be given to whether there are legal advantages to proceeding with a tort claim in one jurisdiction or another. Outside B.C. there may be legislated caps on general damages for minor injuries, which do not apply in B.C.; this makes it more beneficial to proceed with the claim in B.C., though a challenge may or may not be successful in dismissing the claim on the grounds that court does not have jurisdiction.
Substantial differences can exist for coverage between jurisdictions respecting the amount of third party liability insurance a motor vehicle owner or driver is required to carry. The Basic ICBC Autoplan insurance provides up to $1,000,000 of Underinsured Motorist Protection (UMP) for injury or death caused by a motorist who has insufficient insurance to pay for claims. To obtain more coverage, excess UMP can be purchased through ICBC or private insurance to raise UMP coverage to $2,000,000. Some courts in jurisdictions outside B.C. will order an insurer to pay B.C. limits even when the suit is commenced outside the province (i.e., inverse liability protection). You may benefit if you purchased extra insurance, even if the accident was not your fault.
If you are at fault, it is also beneficial if you have excess insurance coverage as claim settlements in some jurisdictions tend to be higher than others. Specifically, claim settlements tend to be higher in the U.S. as there is no limit set for non-pecuniary damages in the U.S. like there is in Canada. If you are found at fault and are sued, the higher third party liability insurance provides protection.
If there is a conflict between the B.C. laws and the laws where your accident occurs, then the legal jurisdiction that applies is that of the location of the accident. With this in mind, time sensitivity needs to be considered where a shorter limitation period exists.
Contact Taylor and Blair Personal Injury Lawyers
Obtaining compensation for an auto accident through ICBC can be complicated if the accident occurred outside B.C. Your lawyer will have the expertise to decide how to proceed, knowing that the jurisdiction issue for the accident benefits claim and the tort claim is considered separately. At Taylor and Blair Personal Injury Lawyers in Vancouver we are ICBC accident lawyers who have experience out of province accidents. Call us for help at 604-737-6900.