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First Steps in a Cross-Border Personal Injury: A Guide for BC and Washington State Residents

If you or someone you care about has been injured across the border, you may be dealing with an additional layer of legal complexity when advancing a personal injury claim. Whether you are a Canadian who got into a car accident in Seattle or an American citizen who has been injured while travelling in Vancouver, navigating cross-border claims can be difficult because you may be dealing with two different legal jurisdictions.

Handling two different sets of laws, insurance practices, and administrative policies is not ideal, especially when you are injured. It might seem tough, but you don’t have to manage it by yourself. Our Vancouver cross-border personal injury lawyers can help you get the compensation you rightfully deserve.

Contact us to speak to us about your specific situation – and the best part is we offer a free initial consultation for cross-border injury inquiries.

What Is a Cross-Border Injury Claim?

A cross-border injury claim involves an incident that happens across international borders. This usually means that a resident of one country has sustained an injury while in the other, and wants to seek compensation for their injuries.

A claim is a legal action pursued by the injured party that requires navigating judicial processes such as filing for compensation or seeking remedies. These claims can stem from various types of accidents resulting in harm. In these situations, the injured party may seek compensation or remedies from across the border. You may be qualified for financial benefits to cover income you have lost as a result of your sustained injuries, medical bills, and rehabilitative care costs.

While personal injury laws are somewhat similar in Canada and the US, differences in insurance (i.e. coverages and how to access those coverages), damages, and legal procedures can be significantly complex. Seeking legal counsel that is familiar with handling cross-border claims may be necessary to successfully navigate these complexities.

After the Accident

When a cross-border injury occurs, your very first step may be to seek medical attention. Whether your injury is minor or severe, ensure that you receive proper medical treatment. It may also be useful to document your injuries and the resulting treatment in order to later complete your personal injury claim.

If possible, it may also be useful to capture photos, videos, or other recordings at the scene of the incident. For example, if you are in a motor vehicle accident, take photographs of the vehicles involved, the road, and anything else that may help document the situation as accurately as possible. It is also important to get the contact information of the other driver (or person at fault) and potential witnesses. If a police officer is present, record their badge number and ensure a police report is generated.

Please get in touch with us at Border Solutions Law Group as early in the process as you can. We are committed to offering prompt and dedicated assistance to our clients and are ready to support you at any stage of your claims process.

Filing Your Claims

If you are injured in a cross-border incident in Vancouver or Washington State, you will likely be filing two claims at once. In your country of residence, you will open a claim to access accident benefits from your insurer. In the country where the accident occurred, you may also file a tort claim against the at-fault party. This compensation might help cover costs that may not be covered by your own insurance.

For instance, if you’re a British Colombian in Washington State involved in a car accident, you may file a Summons and Complaint. This tort claim is created to seek compensation from the insurance provider of the at-fault driver. Then, you may also file a claim with the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) in your home province to cover the remaining costs.

It may be useful to seek legal assistance when managing multiple claims at once. Contact our dual-licensed lawyers at Border Solutions Law Group today for guidance throughout the entire process, from filing your initial claim in Washington to negotiating a settlement in British Columbia.

Differences in Damages and Legal Costs

In Canada, there is a cap on damages awarded for injuries sustained in a car accident of approximately $400,000. Even for severe injuries, the maximum compensation for pain and suffering would not exceed this amount. That being said, you are entitled to recover all your economic losses and tangible expenses caused by your injuries. This includes medical bills, rehabilitation costs, expenses for caregiver services, lost income from time off work, and other related financial impacts.

In Washington State, there are no limits on damages awarded for injuries sustained in a car accident. For instance, if someone is awarded $1 million, that is the amount they should receive.

Another frequent obstacle in cross-border injury claims is the management of legal expenses, as costs and disbursements vary between countries. While Washington State does not allow claimants to recover costs and disbursements, they are recoverable in British Columbia.

What to Know About Insurance in a Motor Vehicle Accident

Car accidents are a very common cause for cross-border injury claims, and the disparities between US and Canadian auto insurance can greatly impact the claims process. For instance, if you live in British Columbia and get into a car crash, your injury claim goes through ICBC.

The ICBC operates as a government-owned Crown corporation. Conversely, US insurance companies are typically private entities accountable to shareholders’ interests. A significant contrast between these models lies in their primary focus. Private companies may tend to prioritize the delivery of favorable results to shareholders. However, Crown corporations like ICBC may prioritize their public duty to offer insurance to policyholders. This difference in approach is worth noting when considering the discrepancies between US and Canadian auto insurance.

Plus, Washington State has a cap in the at-fault driver’s insurance, which may be an issue. Many policies there cap at $25,000 for collision insurance. If your damages exceed this amount, you might be able to make a second claim through ICBC’s British Columbia Underinsured Motorist Protection Claim (UMP). For Canadians injured in Washington State, this claim might cover the remaining damages, up to $1 million.

Our team of British Columbia cross-border personal injury lawyers is available to clarify any queries you might have regarding this procedure.

What About Travel Insurance?

If you end up needing hospital care during your stay in the United States, your travel insurance may cover the related expenses. Similarly, it might help with costs for any lost or damaged property from the accident. After you file a claim, your travel insurance provider may file a subrogation claim with the at-fault driver’s insurance company to seek reimbursement.

Although travel insurance may be a significant help with immediate costs after an accident, it usually doesn’t cover longer-term losses like lost income due to your injuries, future medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more. You might be entitled to compensation for these losses through your auto insurance.

Contact us today to go over the details of your situation, and find out how Border Solutions Law Group can assist you.

Schedule a Free Consultation

The emotional stress and financial toll of getting injured may be magnified if the incident occurs across the border. For British Colombians, it may be useful to know the first steps to take to protect yourself in the event of an accident in Washington State, and vice versa.

At Border Solutions Law Group, our team of cross-border injury lawyers focuses on clear communication to help you get the compensation you deserve. Feel free to reach out to us today to book a free consultation to find out more.