Motorists have been paying -Lalor
Insurance companies in Jamaica have been paying for damage to road furniture over the years, but the State seems to have dropped the ball in terms of making claims.
In yesterday's Gleaner lead story, Dr Morais Guy, minister without portfolio in the works ministry, said the Government was looking into having motorists pay for damage to road furniture, the cost of which has been a burden on successive administrations. He added that the Attorney General's Department had been asked to provide a legal opinion.
However, members of the insurance industry said this has already been covered under the law and companies have been honouring such claims, where clients are at fault, even though these claims are few and far between.
"It is part of the law already, and as an industry, if we can identify that a driver who is insured hit down the road furnishings, we pay for it, but you have to be able to identify it. I mean, that's the problem," Paul Lalor, president of the Insurance Company of the West Indies, told The Gleaner yesterday.
"I think that's one of the issues everyone is having without cameras on the road which would pick up all of the accidents. It's also about whether a particular piece of road furniture can be shown to have been damaged by this one accident or whether it's the impact of a series of eight or nine accidents," Lalor added.
He went on to explain that the process of getting an accurate account of the circumstances of the crash is often compromised, since insurance companies hardly get a first-hand look at crash scenes.
"What we get is a report that the car had an accident at Old Hope Road, and when we see the car, we might be able to see some telltale signs of the accident - if we get an investigator out there early enough. But sometimes we don't get told about it for a few days and, by then, it has rained [or] the street has been swept."
Meanwhile, Orville Johnson, executive director of the Insurance Association of Jamaica, endorsed Lalor's view that even in some cases where a motorist was at fault, proving the extent of liability might be difficult.
"Is not a new thing; it's just that a lot of people are not aware," he said. "Suppose you have a bridge and there have been a lot of crashes in the past and it is when your car hit the bridge that it collapses. Who is responsible for the $50-million bridge? The technical argument is: Is it really my car mash up the guard rail? Or is it the sixth time that the guard rail has been hit and it bend up and bruk off? This is where the thing can get technical."
Johnson is recommending an improvement in the reporting system, whereby, when traffic cops indicate in crash reports any damage to guard rails, traffic lights, road signs, or such State-owned fixtures, this should be followed up by investigations in the transport ministry to determine the level of liability.