Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Personal Injury

Auto insurance upgrades worth the cost: Mahabir

Ontarians shouldn’t think twice about upgrading their auto insurance after cuts to coverage levels, says Toronto personal injury lawyer Jessica B. Mahabir.

Mahabir, a lawyer with Derfel Injury Lawyers, says she understands why people tend to opt for the cheapest policy, since Ontario is widely regarded as Canada’s most expensive jurisdiction for coverage.

“Auto insurance is one of those things that is not tangible. It’s something you must have, and nobody likes to pay more than you have to. Plus, they never think they’re going to need it,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com. “They think: ‘I’m a great driver, I won’t be in an accident. If they cut benefits, it’s not going to affect me.'

“But no matter how good a driver you are there are other people out there who aren’t as good. I think there’s a need for broader education of the general public,” Mahabir adds.

The provincial government has been on a crusade to cut insurance rates by 15 per cent since 2013. Although they promised to hit that target within two years, that deadline has come and gone. In January, they announced the latest rates were just over halfway to their target, down an average of eight per cent from the 2013 benchmark.

However, Mahabir says the effort has come at the expense of accident victims, particularly those who are most seriously injured. In June last year, amendments to the Statutory Accident Benefits Schedule — resulting in a series of cuts — were enacted, including one that halved the combined limit for attendant care and medical rehabilitation services available for catastrophically injured victims to $1 million from the previous $2-million limit.

However, insureds can boost their entitlements back to the previous levels by upgrading their premium. Mahabir has taken that step, and encourages anyone she meets to do the same, adding that in some cases, it can cost as little as an extra $50 per year.

“In the grand scheme of things, it isn’t too much, considering what you get in return should you be injured. I sometimes sound like an insurance salesperson,” she laughs. “But I find it odd when I see people so willing to upgrade their warranties on their phone or laptop, but they’re reluctant to pay a little extra for vital car insurance coverage,” she adds

As someone who spends her days working with accident victims, Mahabir sees many clients who wished they had opted for the more expensive option.

“We’re not talking about people who suffered whiplash or minor damage. These are people who are paralyzed, or have lost limbs. They’ve had something horrible happen and they need 24-hour care, but their benefits have been cut in half,” she says. “I only see them after the accident and, at that point, it’s too late.”

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