This matter was raised with the Ombudsman for Short Term Insurance, and we would like to quote from the example provided:
Exceeding the speed limit – reasonable precautions to avoid / minimise a loss.
The Insured’s 19 year old son was travelling along the N3 from Durban. At a point where the road dips down into a circle sweeping right-hand bend, the driver lost control of the vehicle and it was severely damaged. The Insurer rejected the claim on the “Reasonable Precautions” condition as the driver had admitted that he was driving in excess of the speed limit. The particular road has the speed limit at 100 kph reducing to 80 kph and then to 60 kph. It was between the 80 kph and 60 kph stretch that the accident occurred.
The Ombudsman referred to the well-known decision of Santam versus CC Designing CC, which clarified the onus which rests on the Insurer when relying on the “Reasonable Precautions” condition. The Court held that for an Insurer to succeed it must prove that the Insured / Driver realizes the danger of loss, but disregards the danger because of existence of an Insurance Policy: in fact that the accident was caused by an intentional act. A large number of accidents occur in the circumstances where the Insured / Driver is guilty of being negligent (even gross negligence). The cover afforded by the Motor Policy is virtually on an All Risks basis including the negligent acts of the Insured / Driver.
To uphold the declinature of a claim in the above circumstances, would largely negate the cover with the Insured / Driver constantly being challenged to demonstrate that he / she has in each case, taken “Reasonable Precautions” to avoid / minimize the loss. This would create an untenable situation. The Insurer agreed to settle the claim following amicable negotiations.
It is comforting to know that a reasonable error would not refute indemnification under the claim. We could conclude from this that the occasional failure to monitor the speedometer will not add additional financial risk – we would however risk far more by not pointing to the dangers of speeding to life and limb of drivers and passengers! Speeding is a contributing factor to accidents and we would like to urge all vehicle owners to read more about this on the Arrive Alive website!