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If you plan to drive in Mexico get adequate coverage

I am writing this column from Mexico where I am vacationing with my family.

We are quite new to the destination vacation thing.  Our first trip to Mexico was last year.

I have a tip from today:  Perhaps wait until your kids are at least ten before taking them out on an ocean snorkeling tour.

Our six year old, Caden, the poor sputtering drowned rat, would have been “good to go” if there had been no waves and the water tasted like pool water.

Then there’s Morgan – age eight.  She took one look at the pretty fishies and got freaked out that one of them would come get her.  There was no way she was putting her face back in the water.

Ten year old Cassidy was the most freaked out of the three before getting out there.  She ended up having a fabulous time.  Go figure.

I’ve got a lot more tips, but I better get to a legal topic, preferably something to do with personal injury claims.  I do get distracted easily.

My wife brought a couple “One crash is too many” travel mugs along – to fill with cervezas at the bars in the all-inclusive resort where we are staying.  We had the mugs made up for the campaign I’ve mentioned in previous columns.

The bartender pointed to the inscription on the mug and gave me a thumbs up.   The carnage of car crashes clearly knows no borders.

And that brings me, finally, to this week’s column topic – car crashes in Mexico.

This is where insurance can get confusing.

In British Columbia, a negligent driver is accountable to you for causing you injury in a crash.  The accountability extends to fair compensation for the losses you suffer, such as income loss, medical expense, and pain and suffering.

In most cases, though, your claim is pursued against ICBC.  We require all British Columbia vehicles to be insured through ICBC.  That insurance includes liability insurance.  ICBC steps in to negotiate and pay compensation for your losses on behalf of the negligent driver.

Sometimes, such as when the driver is impaired or forgot to renew insurance, an offending driver might not have insurance.

Other times, the offending driver might have inadequate insurance.  A visiting driver from the State of Washington, for example, might have their minimum liability insurance of only $25,000.00.

There are no worries in either scenario, because you are likely to have access to Underinsured Motorist Protection (UMP), which allows you to pursue compensation for your losses against ICBC up to $1,000,000.00 if the offending driver is underinsured or not insured at all.

I will interject here to advise each and every one of you to go to an insurance broker and make sure you have UMP protection.  You likely have it already, but if you don’t it’s very inexpensive and very worth it.  Ask about purchasing excess UMP coverage up to $2,000,000.00.

Here’s a stark reality that even I, as a personal injury lawyer, didn’t know until recently.  UMP protection does not apply to crashes that occur in Mexico.

If you are injured in a crash in Mexico and the offending driver has little or no insurance, you may have zero compensation for your income loss, medical expenses, pain and suffering and other losses.

How do you protect yourself?

Regardless of whether you are in Mexico or Canada, make safe driving choices.  The safest driving choice is to avoid driving as much as possible.

To protect yourself financially against the serious financial losses that can result from crash injuries, get lots of your own insurance.  Talk to an insurance broker and protect your family by purchasing disability, extended medical, and yes, life insurance.

I hope the weather is cooperating in Kelowna – gotta run, my family is waiting for me at the pool.

Published March 15, 2012 in the Kelowna Capital News