Common Injuries Experienced by Canadians Vacationing (or Living) in Florida
Vacations are meant to be a stress-free break from your normal, fast-paced life that allow you to rest, recuperate, and recharge. However, they do not always turn out this way; unfortunately, you are more likely to get injured while on vacation out of province than in your daily life. Around 15-37% of vacationers experience some kind of injury or illness during an international trip. Getting injured will not only ruin your trip, but also could negatively impact your life once you return home.
Florida is a favourite vacation spot for many Canadians, including habitual ‘snowbirds’ and those who want a break from our long harsh winters. In the first three months of 2023 alone, nearly one and a half million Canadians visited Florida. This number will rise as the year goes on; before the COVID-19 pandemic, over 4 million Canadians visited Florida in 2019. If you plan on visiting the Sunshine State, it is important to be aware of the risks you may face so that you can avoid them or know what to do if a situation arises.
Just like in Ontario, motor vehicle accidents are an ever present risk in Florida. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2021, there were over 400,000 automotive accidents. This represents a 17% increase from approximately 340,000 accidents in 2020.
As foreigners, Canadians in Florida are at an increased risk for being involved in a car accident. Many visitors are unfamiliar with the roads, traffic laws, and even the vehicle they are driving if they are using a rental car. Drivers may also face added distractions when checking their GPS, looking for road signs, and sightseeing. Moreover, unlike in Canada, many Floridians are uninsured. As of 2019, Florida was among the worst US states for uninsured drivers, with approximately 20% of motorists lacking any insurance coverage.
Slip and Falls and Trip and Falls
Another common source of injuries for Canadians in Florida are slip and falls, and trip and falls. According to the US Center for Disease Control, one in five hospital visits in the United States are caused by falls. There are several hazards in Florida which may injure Canadians, including:
- Wet and slippery surfaces around pools;
- Unfamiliar surroundings;
- Distractions – including looking at your phone, a map, and taking pictures;
- Uneven ground or poorly maintained flooring; and
- Walking on foot more than usual.
Many visitors also indulge, or over-indulge, on alcohol while on vacation. Approximately 36% of American adults on vacation report having three or more drinks per day. Being intoxicated often affects your judgement and coordination, heightening your risk for injuries.
Common injuries from trips, slips, and falls include fractures and dislocated joints, sprains, bruises, lacerations, burns, brain injuries, and spinal cord damage.
While on vacation, many people tend to do things that are unusual and out of their comfort zone, particularly if they are not able to do these activities at home. In Florida, this can include parasailing, watersports, bungee jumping, scuba diving, boating, and more. Unfortunately, while these activities seem fun and exciting, they carry significant risks if any of the equipment malfunctions, you are not given proper training and instructions, and if the industry lacks regulation and formal oversight.
If something goes wrong, participants can suffer from a number of serious injuries, including spinal cord injuries, blunt force trauma, and even drowning or death. In Pompano Beach, Florida in 2007, two teenage sisters were involved in a parasailing accident when the parachute’s tow line snapped and they crashed into the roof of a two-storey villa. Unfortunately, the accident resulted in a tragic outcome.
Sickness and Medical Emergencies
Another major cause of injuries for Canadians in Florida are medical illnesses and emergencies. While you don’t have to worry about most medical expenses while in Canada, coverage does not necessary extend beyond Canadians borders.
The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (“OHIP”) only covers a part of the cost if you receive emergency medical care while travelling outside of Canada. For instance, they may cover physician services, emergency outpatient services, and emergency inpatient services, but not any ambulance or transportation expenses. Regardless, what, if anything, that is covered by OHIP will be completely inadequate. The Government of Canada provides some basic advice on what you can do if you are injured or fall ill while out of the country. However, you will still be responsible for the costs associated with your treatment.
This is a major problem in Florida, which ranks amongst the highest states in terms of healthcare costs and out-of-pocket expenses for patients. US hospital bills can go well into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
As with other injuries, you face an increased risk for the following illnesses while on vacation:
- Food poisoning. While on vacation, you will likely be dining out at restaurants and hotels more than usual. This increases the risk of consuming contaminated ingredients, which can be infected with bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli, and
- Many Canadians flock to Florida during the winter months due to their warm weather. However, that warm weather carries the risk of heatstroke, which can result in serious organ damage or even death.
- Viral illnesses. When staying at a resort or frequenting tourist stops, you will be exposed to a lot of new people from all over the world who may carry novel viruses and diseases.
Canadians in Florida are also in danger from criminal acts, such as assaults and robberies. Poorly lit areas, unfamiliarity with the environment, intoxication, and lack of security in their accommodations all leave Canadians vulnerable to crime.
On the other side of things, you also must follow the laws of the country you are in. Being Canadian is no excuse for breaking the law and does not protect you from being charged. Although our countries appear very similar, our criminal justice systems are very different.
The Government of Canada has consular services for Canadians detained abroad, including in the United States. You can review A Guide for Canadians Detained Abroad for more information about what to do if you are detained in the United States. To retain the services of a criminal defence lawyer in Florida, you can contact the Florida Bar Lawyer Referral Service.
While Canada is no stranger to blizzards, floods, tornadoes, and, more recently, forest fires, Florida faces a different looming threat: hurricanes. Florida has the most hurricanes in the United States, with an average of 125 hurricanes annually, with 40 of those being categorized as major. In September 2022, Hurricane Ian, a Category 5 storm, became the costliest storm in Florida history and the third-most expensive in US history, causing $109 billion in damage.
Canadians were not immune; several reported injuries and property damage following the hurricane. You may also encounter difficulty with an insurance claim for damage to your vehicle or be forced to change your flight or extend a hotel stay. While everyone wants to extend their vacation, being stuck somewhere because of a natural disaster is no one’s idea of fun.
Regardless of the cause of your injury or insurance claim dispute, contact David Derfel, the Lawyer for Canadians, to discuss your options and the remedies that may be available to you. David can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, by phone at 416-847-3580 or toll free at 1-844-2-DERFEL (1-844-233-7335). It is best to contact David as soon as possible after your injury or dispute to avoid missing a limitation period.
This blog was written by David Derfel and law student, Leslie Haddock.