Cross-border day-tripping- Why extra insurance may be worth the few bucks

Most prudent travelers wouldn't dream of taking an international trip without purchasing at least some form of travel insurance. Yet scores of day-trippers cross the Canada-U.S. border without a thought that injury or illness might strike. Nothing could happen in the span of a single day, right?

In fact, traffic accidents are the number one killer among travellers 50 years old and under*. So, even if you're only planning to zip over from Vancouver to Seattle for a few hours of shopping, getting sufficiently covered with appropriate supplemental insurance could pay off big-time if the unforeseen happens.

Doesn't ICBC or MSP cover you already?

British Columbia's provincial health care plan covers some medical expenses when traveling into the U.S., but not all, and coverage is limited. Supplemental travel health insurance typically costs only dollars a day and is widely available through auto clubs, credit cards or private insurers.

Each policy is different. So, before purchasing, make sure that you clearly understand the applicable terms, conditions, limitations, restrictions and exclusions - especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition. Shelling out the few extra dollars for more coverage could save you and your loved ones a heavy financial burden if a one-day jaunt turns into an extended medical stay.

Your basic ICBC Autoplan also provides some coverage if you're involved in a car accident south of the border. But insurance laws work very differently in the two countries - and it's usually only when trying to make a claim that things start getting sticky.

Here's one key difference: B.C. law caps damages on pain and suffering, but Washington has no ceiling. So, if you're an at-fault B.C. driver who injures a Washington resident, you could find yourself facing a significantly heftier lawsuit than if the same accident took place back home. That's why many Vancouverites purchase extended third-party liability coverage when driving south.

What to do if you get injured across the border

Whether it's a slip-and-fall or fender bender, seek medical attention immediately after a cross-border accident. Contact the authorities to preserve a written record of the incident.

If you were injured while driving, your first instinct may be to call ICBC. But cross-border injury claims can get very complicated. Before you talk to ICBC, pull out your smartphone - many even do this on the roadside - search for a lawyer that thoroughly understands insurance and injury laws in both countries, and get yourself a legal opinion.

Even a few minutes' ad hoc phone consultation can set you on the right path immediately after an accident - and help you avoid giving ICBC unnecessary information that could potentially harm your claim later.

So, if you're sufficiently covered for illness and injury, packed up and ready to go, get out there and enjoy your cross-border day trip - peace of mind included.

*https://travel.gc.ca/travelling/documents/travel-insurance

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