South African Insurance Association

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Insurance consequences in the case of drunk driving

When one has the unfortunate experience to land up in a motor vehicle accident, many bad consequences could be suffered. The least of all may be the worry about who is going to pay for the damage to the vehicles involved.

That is what insurance is for though, isn’t it?

“That is certainly true,” says Viviene Pearson, Image and Reputation Manager for the South African Insurance Association (SAIA).

However, an insurance contract is just that, a contract. And most insurance contracts will exclude claims that resulted from an accident that happened while the driver was under the influence of alcohol. Contracts will differ from insurance company to insurance company but most will state quite clearly that the insurer will not be liable for any accident, injury, loss, damage or liability in the case of drunken driving, or driving under the influence of alcohol, or even driving while having a higher concentration of alcohol in your blood or breath that is allowed by law. So, not only could the damage to your car not be covered, but any personal injury or liability claims from passengers or others may also become the problem of the individual involved.

Insurance policies will have different clauses. Some will only exclude claims when driving under the influence is proven, others will exclude claims where it can be proven that a person had a concentration of alcohol in his bloodstream or breath at the time of the incident or was driving under the influence of alcohol. In some instances, even claims where the driver of the vehicle was under the influence of alcohol without the knowledge and/or consent of the policyholder could be excluded.

“Driving under the influence of alcohol is illegal, as is drunken driving. Insurance contracts cannot go beyond the law of the country,” added Ms Pearson.

Apart from quite possibly not having your insurance claim paid, and having to carry the cost of the damage yourself, one can experience even more problems with regards to insurance. Your insurer could quite possibly decide that you are too high a risk for its appetite and decide not to continue to insure you. In this case, this cancellation of insurance will be noted and shared and you might even find it difficult to get insurance from any other insurer.

“This could have quite far reaching consequences. It is, for instance, impossible to buy a car on higher purchase without insurance,” Ms Pearson added.

“It seems as if it should be quite simple. No-one should endanger themselves, or their loved ones, or even complete strangers by drinking and driving. And no one should jeapordise his or her insurance and/or insurability by doing so either. The potential consequences are just not worth it,” Ms Pearson concluded.