Financial stress exacerbated post-accident: Herscu

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By Kirsten McMahon, Managing Editor

As people struggle with debt and finance-related anxiety it’s not surprising that Canadians ranked money as their greatest stressor, says Easy Legal Finance Inc. president and CEO Larry Herscu.

Benefits Canada reported on a survey which shows “one in five respondents are struggling to cover monthly expenses, one in four said their levels of debt are ruining their quality of life and 42 per cent are failing to save for health-care expenses not covered by insurance.

“Indeed, 56 per cent of survey participants said most of their stress comes from their finances,” the article notes.

Herscu tells us these statistics, and others like them, are alarming but not surprising. That stress, he says, is only exacerbated if someone gets into an accident.

“When you’re living paycheque to paycheque — as more than 40 per cent of Canadians are — and your income is reduced, delayed or stopped due to an accident, the impact that has on a person is life-changing,” he says. “You hope ultimately that your insurer is going to take care of you, but it’s a lengthy process. And if your benefits get exhausted or denied, it’s devastating.”

Even if a person receives insurance benefits, Herscu says the amounts have been drastically reduced since 2016, although the province plans to restore the default benefit limit for catastrophic injuries to $2 million.

Herscu says a big part of what Easy Legal does is offer financial support to those who have been hurt in an accident to help them pay bills while their lawyer fights for a fair settlement.

“It can feel embarrassing or scary to discuss your financial stress with your personal injury lawyer, but they need to know what you’re dealing with,” he says.

“One lawyer asked a client why she wasn’t going to her medical appointments, and it turned out she was staying home to take care of her children because she couldn’t afford to send them to school in winter coats and boots,” Herscu says.

“When you probe, you can get to the heart of the situation,” he says. “Sometimes it’s more a situation of embarrassment and discomfort because they can’t provide a basic need for their family, but at the same time, they could be unintentionally sabotaging their claim.”

Herscu says some lawyers go the extra mile and are willing to ask the right questions and have the listening skills to understand the additional financial burdens that accident victims may be reticent to share.

“As we’ve seen in our business, these struggles are invisible to most because many of our clients are scared to have that conversation,” he says, noting Easy Legal’s intake staff and case managers will ask questions about a person’s basic living necessities and monthly bills.

“There’s often an overwhelming feeling of anxiety because sometimes they don’t know what those numbers are,” Herscu says.

“When we talk to people, we ask those difficult questions to figure out what their living requirements are and what they need to be able to get through this challenging time. Where possible, we want to provide a monthly stipend to help bridge that gap,” he says.

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