Wed | Dec 7, 2016

Bogus driver's licence derails claim

Published:Sunday | November 30, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Cedric Stephens, Contributor

QUESTION: On June 28, 2014, I was driving my Subaru Impreza in bumper-to-bumper traffic in a westerly direction along East Street in Old Harbour. It was about 9 p.m. I stopped to allow a young man with a baby to cross the road. As I began to move off, an International truck that was parked on the left side of the road drove off the sidewalk and damaged the left side of my car. The damage was later estimated at $278,000. Both vehicles are insured with the same company. The insurer advised me in November that they found out that the truck driver's licence, which was allegedly issued in March 2010, was bogus. They refused to pay my claim as a result. Can you help me get the money to repair my car?

- O.M., Old Harbour, St Catherine.

INSURANCE HELPLINE: The information you supplied about the truck driver's licence and the facts in the police report are dissimilar. You stated that the driver's licence was issued on March 13, 2010. Driving permits are normally issued for periods of five years.

This means that the licence you saw - you have the number - would expire on the driver's birth date, sometime in 2015. The police report, which has the same number that you recorded signed by someone on behalf of the Senior Superintendent in charge of The St Catherine South Division, states an expiry date of March 10, 2018. What is the reason for the difference in the expiry date between the licence you presumably saw and the information recorded in the police document?

The police report does not say what the issue date of the licence was even though there is space on the form to record that information. Something fishy appears to be going on!

I am very suspicious about government databases. Do you recall the confusion, panic, and running around that occurred during the latter part of 2012 when the Ministry of National Security declared an amnesty on unpaid traffic tickets? The information in the unpaid ticket database was not accurate.

I know absolutely nothing about the credibility or otherwise of the Island Traffic Authority's database of drivers' licences.

Given my experience with the errors in the unpaid traffic ticket database, I would not trust the words of someone I do not know (over the telephone) about not finding any details of the truck driver's licence on an official database.

Given the $278,000 that is at stake and the level of corruption in this country, I would insist on getting that information on an official letterhead in black and white.

Does the insurer have a duty to pay your claim in the event that the truck driver has a valid licence? What is the situation if the truck driver has a bogus licence? Answers to these questions will help you to better understand the insurance issues.

Motor insurance was created by law. The statute moj.gov.jm/sites/default/files/laws/ - says in Section 4 that "it shall not be lawful for any person to use, or to cause or to permit any other person to use a motor vehicle on a road, unless there is in force in relation to the user of the vehicle by that person or that other person ... such a policy of insurance" in respect of third-party risks that comply with the requirements of the act.

The key points here are: motor vehicle insurance is compulsory for vehicles that operate on any 'main or parochial road' and 'any roadway to which the public is granted access'; and the 'policy of insurance' must comply with the requirements of the act. This means that the contract - otherwise known as the policy of insurance - should cover what the law says as minimum.

Section 5 describes the protection that contracts of motor insurance should offer. They should cover "any liability incurred ... in respect of: (i) the death of, or bodily injury to, any person; and (ii) any damage to property, caused by or arising out of the use of the motor vehicle".

The truck driver's insurance
should, as a minimum, therefore, offer you protection under sub-section
(1)(b)(ii) of Section 5 of the act, that is, compensation for the damage
that was done to your Subaru by the truck.

If the
truck driver is the holder of a valid driver's licence, the insurer
would, therefore, be under a legal obligation to pay your claim - all
other things being equal.

The insurer is under no
legal obligation to pay you if the truck driver is the holder of a bogus
licence. There are two reasons why the insurer could refuse to pay your
claim. The first is that insurance transactions are founded on honesty
and truthfulness on the part of persons who apply for coverage and the
insurer.

Lying about the origins of a driver's licence
or leading an insurer to believe that the licence was genuine when it
was in fact bogus, in order to obtain insurance, would be a breach of
this principle and would give the insurer the right to avoid the
contract.

If the truck driver's licence was not issued
by the licensing authority referred to in Section 16(3) of the Road
Traffic Act, insurers could argue that the driver was operating in
breach of the law at the time of the
collision.

Because of that, plus the fact that the
contract requires the person driving to be "permitted in accordance with
the licensing or other laws or regulations to drive", the truck
driver's insurance was not in force.

If it turns out
that the truck driver's insurance company does not compensate you for
the damage to your car, consult an attorney to seek
redress.

The truck owner/driver is clearly not a man
of straw.

Cedric E. Stephens provides independent
information and advice about the management of risks and insurance. For
free information or counsel, write to:
aegis@flowja.com.