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Legal Matters with Chris Richard – Insurance Issues While Travelling Abroad

Travelling abroad is thrilling! With it brings new adventures, natural wonders, sunshine, beaches, and relaxation. If you get injured abroad, however, a thrilling experience can quickly become a scary one, and an overwhelmingly expensive one at that!

Chris Richard, an expert personal injury lawyer in St Catherines, sat down with host Lee Sterry of Niagara’s 610 Newstalk Radio and discussed the insurance issues that arise when you are travelling abroad. Chris is a personal injury lawyer from the law firm Graves and Richard, a premier law firm in St Catharines. He discussed the restrictions on Statutory Accident Benefits coverage, the difficulties associated with suing abroad, the importance of obtaining adequate travel insurance, and how a personal injury lawyer can help.

Restrictions on Statutory Accident Benefits Coverage

There are no fault benefits available under your automobile insurance policy should you be injured in a car accident in St Catharines. Under this coverage, you can receive in most cases up to one million dollars for medical expenses, or up to two million dollars for medical coverage and attendant care if you have optional benefits. There are also income replacement benefits available under the no fault provisions of your policy, which will replace up to 70 percent of your gross income. These no fault benefits are available if you’re in a car accident in St Catharines, whether you’re driving your own car, or if you are in any other vehicle including a rental car or taxicab. They even apply if you are a pedestrian and you are hit by a vehicle.

There is, however, a significant exclusion that applies to your no fault benefits, and that it that this coverage only applies if you become injured in a car accident in Canada or the United States. If you are taking a vacation to Mexico, or the Caribbean, or Europe, and you are involved in a car accident, none of this coverage is available to you. Chris explained that he had a client who was involved in a motor vehicle accident in Australia and sustained a catastrophic brain injury. When he came back to Ontario, there was no compensation available to him. While he ultimately received compensation through the Australian system, he went for years without any financial assistance. If you’re injured in a car accident and need help obtaining an insurance settlement, contact a motor vehicle injury lawyer from a personal injury law firm.

Obtaining Adequate Travel Insurance

Because of this restriction on your no fault benefits coverage, you will want to ensure you purchase an adequate policy of travel insurance before you travel outside of Canada and the United States.

The first consideration before you travel abroad is whether you need to have a private disability insurance policy to cover your income loss in the case that you are injured and rendered unable to work. If you have a disability policy with your employer, you will need to become informed as to exactly what that coverage is. Chris recently had a client whose employer’s policy covered approximately 25 percent of his lost income when he was injured abroad and unable to work after. This under-insured client would have benefitted significantly from purchasing a private insurance policy.

The second consideration is whether you have adequate coverage for medical expenses that arise following an injury. This is where travel insurance comes into play. Most employer sponsored plans have a portion that contemplates out of province travel. However, you must be aware of what the policies include and exclude. Chris explained that he has seen coverage denied countless times to people who were unaware of the exclusions in their employer sponsored policies.

In some cases, the purchase of travel insurance will be necessary to cover any shortfalls. However, you must be very careful to ask questions about particular policies and to read the fine print to discover important exclusions that may apply to the policy before you purchase it.

Travel insurance policies can contain very surprising exclusions. Chris explained that he has read policies that exclude accidents involving cars. Imagine that you are purchasing travel insurance for the very reason that you don’t have coverage for injuries arising from a car accident under your no fault benefits, and the policy you just purchased excludes injuries arising from car accidents. Obviously this policy is not going to be helpful to you, even with the benefit of a motor vehicle injury lawyer. Other policies Chris has read exclude coverage for individuals when they are intoxicated. Imagine that you are staying on an all-inclusive resort, have enjoyed a couple of drinks by the pool, and trip and fall and break a bone. You will be facing an exclusion in your travel insurance policy. These vacations are marketed as a place to relax and enjoy cocktails in the sun. To have an exclusion related to drinking seems to be going against the very purpose of purchasing the insurance.

Disclose Pre-existing Conditions

Another consideration when purchasing travel insurance is coverage for pre-existing medical conditions. This simply needs to be an open conversation with your insurer. Disclose what your pre-existing conditions are, even if it costs you more. If you have difficulty purchasing a policy after disclosure of your pre-existing conditions and you decide to travel without coverage, at least you will be doing so adequately informed.

Restrictions of Credit Card Insurance Coverage

Many higher-end credit cards contain coverage for travel insurance. These can be good products. However, if you are relying on a credit card policy, ensure that you read the policy thoroughly as there can be important exclusions operating here as well. Chris explained that some policies cover only trips of certain scheduled duration. For example, some policies only cover travel for periods of ten days or less. So, if you have a vacation scheduled for 11 days, your credit card policy will not cover you. And it is not how long you are in the vacation sport that matters, but rather how long the vacation was scheduled for. Chris shared that he once had a case where his client was injured within a few days of arriving on vacation and was well within the limits of the policy provision, but because the vacation was scheduled for 21 days, the insurer denied coverage.

Taking Legal Action

If you are injured while you are travelling abroad, and you want to take legal action, special legal issues and practicalities arise that you will have to consider.

Generally speaking, the law that applies to your legal action, both in terms of the law of liability and valuing damages, is the law of the jurisdiction in which the accident occurred. What this means is that if you are injured in Mexico, you have to bring the action in Mexico. The law is different from country to country in terms of what constitutes negligence and what damages defendants are liable for. In fact, the law is even substantially different between Canada and the United States.

A practical difficulty in bringing an action in another country is finding a personal injury lawyer willing to take your case. Finding a local lawyer who specializes in the law of their country to help you commence an action and manage your case can be challenging, as local lawyers can be reluctant to take on a client who lives thousands of kilometers away. It is easier to find legal help in the United States because lawyers in Canada tend to have working relationships with lawyers in the United States. It is much more difficult, however, to find a lawyer to take your case in countries outside of the United States.

Because of these practical and legal challenges, it is often the case that someone injured in a foreign country, with the exception of the United States, is unsuccessful in an action to recover damages or receive compensation. It is often best to assume that you are likely to receive no compensation from the country you are visiting should you get injured there, and protect yourself with adequate travel insurance before you go.

Before you travel outside of Canada or the United States, inform yourself as to your existing coverage in case you experience injury. And before you purchase a policy for travel insurance, request a copy of the policy and read everything, including the fine print, to make sure you are aware of any exclusion. If the policy contains an exclusion that goes against the very reason you are seeking insurance, shop around. If you find yourself in the situation where you get a denial from an insurance company with respect to travel insurance, contact a personal injury lawyer. Chris explained that even in the case of exclusions, he is often able to get some sort of resolution with insurance companies for his clients. If you’ve been in an accident and need a personal injury lawyer in St Catherines, contact Graves and Richard. The Graves and Richard team will help you with your insurance company settlement, including slip and fall injuries settlements and car accident settlements. The expert personal injury lawyers and long term disability insurance lawyers have the experience, dedication, and compassion you need to help your case.