Car-free lifestyle may create insurance gap

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By Kirsten McMahon, Managing Editor

As more urban dwellers ditch car ownership in favour of more convenient and affordable modes of transportation, it’s imperative to know how and if you’re financially covered in the event of an accident, says Easy Legal Finance Inc. president and CEO Larry Herscu.

“If you look at the pace of condo development — at least in most major Canadian cities — there’s a growing demographic who live and work downtown,” he says. “And with the proliferation of ride- and car-sharing apps, there’s less of a need to drive let alone own a car.”

In fact, a recent survey found that 20 per cent of Torontonians would consider getting rid of their household vehicle and using a car-sharing service as a replacement.

Living car-free also avoids the added expenses of parking, gas, maintenance and auto insurance. However, without that insurance coverage, Herscu says there may be a financial gap in the event of a pedestrian accident.

CBC News reports pedestrians accounted for more than half of all the deaths in Toronto on city-controlled roads in 2018, according to police statistics — and those numbers do not count the 10 people killed in last year’s van attack on Yonge Street.

“The increased number of pedestrian injuries and deaths and the horrific incident on Yonge Street should force everyone to pause and think about what happens in the aftermath of such a tragedy. The physical, psychological, emotional and financial toll could be devastating to you and your family members,” Herscu says.

“It may be worth talking with a broker to review whether you need insurance — maybe you don’t,” he says. “But you should understand how uninsured motor vehicle coverage works in Ontario and the peril you might find yourself in should you be unable to work due to injury.”

Easy Legal offers financial support to those who have been hurt in an accident to help them pay the bills while their lawyer fights for a fair settlement.

“If you can’t go to work and you can’t make money, you can’t pay your rent or mortgage. Also, if the driver who hit you is uninsured, you may have nowhere to go but the Motor Vehicle Accident Claims Fund, which has a $200,000 cap,” he says.

If the at-fault driver is insured, for example, you might be able to avoid that route, but Herscu says there have been significant changes to non-catastrophic accident benefits coverage.

“Those benefits have been eroding since 2016 and in some cases, are half the amount they used to be,” Herscu says. “Medical and rehabilitation expenses can quickly add up — $200 here, $500 there — and a big part of what we do is help people make those payments so they can focus on getting better.”

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