Auto Insurance

What happens if you get into an accident outside your province?

By: Jessica Mach on September 5, 2019
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For Canadians, there’s one kind of story that can reliably provoke horror and despair: a Canadian travels abroad for vacation, sustains an injury that requires a hospital visit, then files an insurance claim that’s ultimately rejected and, as a result, gets stuck with unfathomably high medical bills. (In one of the few variations on this theme, the Canadian only narrowly dodges life-altering debt.)

The issue in those sorts of situations is always travel insurance — either a lack of it, or a policy with terms that don’t cover the exact situation at hand. But there are other types of insurance that can also be confusing to navigate when it comes to travel.

What happens if you decide to take a road trip and get into a car accident outside of your province? What if the accident occurs in Alberta, or even the U.S., but you hold an Ontario auto insurance policy? Will your insurance provider accept your claims?

Below, we explain what your auto insurance policy will and won’t cover if you get into an accident out-of-province.

Can you file a claim for an out-of-province accident?

Auto insurance is provincially regulated, which means that the rules regarding out-of-province claims will vary from province to province. As a general rule of thumb, you should check with your insurance provider before you go on a road trip to find out exactly what, and how much, you’re covered for, and whether you’ll need to buy extra coverage.

For Ontario residents, the news is good: even though the province has a private insurance market, the provincial government has minimum coverage requirements that all drivers are required to have. The Ontario Automobile Owner’s Policy, the insurance that the majority of Ontario drivers have, meets those legal requirements and provides coverage for “incidents occurring in Canada [and] the United States of America.”

Under Ontario law, all auto insurance policies have to provide:

  • Liability coverage: this covers the cost of settling a legal claim if someone else is injured or killed, or if their property is damaged).
  • Accident benefits: this provides benefits if you are injured in an accident, regardless of who’s at fault. These benefits include supplementary medical care, a tax-free income benefit, an allowance if you can’t work, an allowance if a caregiver is injured and funeral expenses.
  • Uninsured automobile coverage: this covers damage to your car if you’re hit by an uninsured driver; it also provides coverage if you’re injured or killed in a hit and run scenario.
  • Direct compensation — property damage: in Ontario, this will cover you for any damage to your car or property inside it if another driver is responsible for the accident.

B.C. drivers can also sleep easy when they decide to take a road trip out-of-province. ICBC’s Autoplan, which is the minimum auto insurance plan that is required of all B.C. drivers, provides coverage everywhere in Canada and the U.S., including Hawaii and Alaska.

In most cases, your insurance claim will be governed by the laws of the jurisdiction where your accident happened. This means that if your accident takes place in Vermont, any court proceedings would also have to happen in-state.

Do you need to buy additional coverage?

This depends on the circumstances of your travel. ICBC advises, for example, getting more coverage if you’re traveling for business.

If you’re driving in the U.S., it’s important to note that many states have lower minimum coverage thresholds than you’ll see in Canada. This means that if you get into an accident with an American driver, they may not have enough insurance coverage to pay you for damages.

This is where extra coverage will come in handy. To avoid unexpected expenses, talk to your broker or insurance provider about short-term add-on options before you leave for your trip.