Can your vehicle insurance claim be rejected if your vehicle is not in a roadworthy condition? If we carefully consider this question we would have to agree that roadworthiness is indeed a fair expectation from the side of the insurer.
The insurer insures a roadworthy vehicle and provides cover for such a vehicle and the risks to the reasonable operation of such a vehicle. If the damage is caused by an unlicensed driver or a drunk driver – the insurer may reject the claim. It only seems reasonable that the insurer could expect the car to be driven in a roadworthy condition and with tyres that provide safe protection on the road!
The answer to this question is however not as simple. There have been differing decisions by the Ombudsman on this matter. It is important to consider the facts in each scenario and establish whether the condition of the tyres was in fact a direct cause of the accident and the damage to the car.
We would like to consider one example where the tread on tyres were considered an important contributing factor to the accident:
Example: Rear tyres did not have a proper tread situation.
Facts: The insured was travelling from Cavendish Square in Claremont, Cape Town, to his home in Fish Hoek, along the M3 freeway.
Just before the Tokai turnoff, a drunken pedestrian was illegally on the freeway and stumbled and ran into the road just missing a 4 x 4 Toyota. The insured swerved, applied the brakes heavily to try and avoid the pedestrian, but he ultimately collided with the pedestrian who survived the collision. The insurer rejected liability because both rear tyres had tread below the legal limit, and it was a condition of the policy that a vehicle had to be in roadworthy condition. The insured did not accept the aforesaid allegation, and the insurer then requested the AA to supply it with a report, which confirmed that both rear tyres were found to be unroadworthy.
The policy issued to the insured contained a specific condition that the vehicle be kept in a road worthy condition at all times in terms of the Road Traffic Ordinance. The tyre tread depth did not meet the requirements. The insurer’s decision was not based entirely on the policy condition, but also on the fact that the collision may have been avoided and the damages lessened had the vehicle tyres been in a good condition. Based on the facts, the Ombudsman concluded that the insurer was entitled to maintain the rejection.
[Source: Ombudsman Annual Report 2003]
We would like to urge all vehicle owners and policyholders to attend to the roadworthiness of their vehicles and to view the Arrive Alive website for more info on “Tyres and Road Safety”