We recently added a blog post titled “Will car insurance cover damages if my unlicensed child causes an accident?” It is only prudent that we provide a more detailed analysis of this scenario. We need to focus not only on the risk of having a car insurance claim rejected but also on the road safety threat to the lives of other road users.
On the Arrive Alive website we find reports of 2 fatal joyrides:
-23 December 2008: A joyride for a group of 14 teenagers in a bakkie turned to tragedy when the under-age driver lost control and crashed, killing two and injuring several of his friends. The driver, aged 16, was returning home with 13 of his friends from a carnival in King William’s Town at about 2am when he lost control of the bakkie and drove into the back of a broken-down taxi.
– 12 September 2009: A teenage joy-rider ploughed into a group of schoolchildren, killing one of them and injuring 17 others in Nkomene, Nelspruit. The children were walking on the side of the road, when a boy driving his uncle’s car came speeding down the right-hand lane. He then lost control of the car and hit all 18 pupils. The 16-year-old joy-rider, who was not injured in the incident, was arrested at the scene and is in custody.
It is important to remember that, in the earlier blog post, we only focused on the Decision of the Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance with reference to the claim from the father who had his car taken without authorization in the early hours of the night [3h30].
The decision by the Ombudsman most definitely does not condone underage driving or the payment of accident claims from reckless behaviour by unlicensed drivers. This also does not exclude possible prosecution of both parent and child.
Each claim will be investigated and decisions made on the specific facts of that scenario. There is general consensus that the car insurer has a legitimate and fair expectation that the insured vehicle is to be driven by the driver nominated in the car insurance policy.
No allegation of unauthorised use is to be merely accepted without investigation. Investigators from the insurer will investigate possible prior instances of authorized use and will talk to friends, family members and colleagues of the insured vehicle owner and the driver. The time of day and factors pertaining to the specific incident will be closely monitored.
The police have confirmed that they will also establish whether permission is granted by the vehicle owner to a under aged driver to drive a vehicle. It’s a serious offence if permission is granted to an unlicensed driver to operate a vehicle. It is also only fair to the insurer that damage caused by the unlicensed driver – which the insurer might have to indemnify – should be followed up with a thorough criminal investigation!!