January 23, 2017 7:58 pm
Updated: January 24, 2017 10:53 am

Montreal motorist takes on SAAQ over increased premiums tied to traffic tickets

WATCH ABOVE: Montrealer Steve Abihsira is filing a class action lawsuit against the Quebec Automobile Insurance Corporation (SAAQ) for what he calls “double jeopardy” - people being fined twice for infractions. Global's Anne Leclair explains.

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When Quebec drivers are convicted of a traffic offence with demerit points, their licence premiums are automatically increased by the Quebec automobile insurance board (SAAQ).

One Montreal motorist is on a mission to put a stop to that practice by seeking a class-action lawsuit against the government.

“I think it’s unfair to pay double like double jeopardy,” Steve Abihsira said.

The Cote-St-Luc resident is the first to admit he was at fault when he reached for his cellphone while driving in December 2015.

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“I was coming back from a hockey game from the Bell Centre. I got the ticket at the red light around 11:15 p.m. The cop was in the middle of the street,” Abihsira said.

He didn’t contest the ticket and willingly paid the $126 fine.

But what he can’t accept is the extra $70 charged by the SAAQ when he renewed his driver’s licence a few months later. His SAAQ annual insurance contribution fees jumped from $55 to $124.

“I just want justice to be made for all the taxpayers,” Abihsira said.

Last year alone, the Quebec government raked in $65 million in added payments tied to demerit points lost by 1.3 million motorists . The Montreal lawyer behind Ticket Legal Inc. is now gearing up for a fight.

“You’re looking at, I would say hundreds, if not half a billion dollars here at play,” Joey Zukran said.

The class-action lawsuit can include motorists who were ticketed up to three years ago, which means the number of motorists eligible for compensation could add up to five million.

But there’s still a long road ahead before the case gets to court. First, a judge has to give the green light at an authorization hearing and then the same judge will decide what kind of compensation is warranted.

“We looked at the Canadian Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, we consulted with a constitutionalist, an expert in the field, who confirmed that article 11H of our constitution provides that one cannot be charged twice for the same infraction which is exactly what happened here,” Zukran said.

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