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Drunk driver cited in denial of accident victim's claim

Published:Sunday | April 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Insurance Helpline - With Cedric Stephens

My brother lives in the United States (US). He visits two times each year for a month at a time. His pickup here has been insured with the same company for the past three years. During his current visit the parked vehicle was hit. The driver, who had been warned by the police not to drive due to being intoxicated, was arrested after the incident.

The same company insures both vehicles. My brother was told that his claim might not be honoured for two reasons: He does not hold a Jamaican driver's licence and the intoxication of the driver of the second vehicle is the other reason. Why are they trying to avoid paying my brother's claim? Why wasn't he told three years ago that he needed a Jamaican licence in order to buy insurance? Does any of this make sense to you?

- sjonnette@yahoo.com

I blasted a young, male pharmacy assistant in a popular mart located in Barbican a few days ago. His crime had to do with poor work attitude plus a failure to understand the ABCs of good customer service. He displayed absolutely no interest in me.

While he was not overtly rude, the non-verbal message that he signalled to me by his behaviour was unfriendliness. He seemed to be far more interested in hearing his own voice than listening to what I had to say. If I had a problem, it was not his job to help me to find a solution - I was on my own.

The problems that you and your brother are facing appear to be similar to my pharmacy experience. They are both rooted in ignorance, and poor work attitude.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

The insurer's representative is ignorant about our Road Traffic Act and is clearly not a reader of this newspaper. Here is what I wrote on the subject of foreign drivers' permits on September 11, 2002: "Holders of foreign drivers' permits are allowed to operate motor vehicles on Jamaican roads. The regulations that deal with this were enacted nearly 50 years ago. They are called The Road Traffic (International Circulation of Motor Vehicles) Order, 1958. Section 4 says: "it shall be lawful for a person making only a temporary stay in Jamaica who holds - (b) a domestic driving permit issued in a country outside Jamaica - during a period of 12 months from the date of his last entry - to drive a motor vehicle of any class or description which he is authorised by that permit to drive, notwithstanding that he is not a holder of a driver's licence under Part II of the Act, provided that person is at least 18 years of age."

The article 'Globalisation already on our Roads!' also said that there were only two exceptions to those provisions: "Holders of foreign drivers' permits that have been disqualified by orders of overseas courts will be considered to be similarly disqualified if they were to drive locally. The regulations apply only in cases where the foreign licences are in force. In other words, if a permit was invalid because the holder had omitted to renew it, he (or she) would not be authorised to drive under our regulations."

The head of the Island Traffic Authority, Paul Clemetson, has confirmed the veracity of those comments for this article.

It would seem reasonable to conclude, in the absence of other details, that provided your brother's licence does not fall within the exceptions stated in the law cited above, he is permitted to use his US driver's licence to legally drive a motor vehicle while temporarily residing in Jamaica.

It would, therefore, be wrong for your brother's insurers to use the fact that he does not hold a Jamaican driver's licence as a reason not to pay his claim.

Driving under the influence of alcohol by the other driver could be more problematic. The outcome will depend on what the policy says. If, for example, it has a clause that says 'the policy is void if the person driving was under the influence of alcohol or drugs, the company will not pay', the company could legitimately refuse to pay to repair your brother's pickup. On the other hand, if such a provision is absent it would be difficult to see how the company could avoid paying your brother.

Ask the insurer to make up its mind about how it plans to handle your brother's claim. Tell the rep to communicate that decision in writing. Ask them to give you the 'chapter and verse' of the policy that gives them the right not to pay the claim.

Seek an appointment to argue your case with a top official after you have examined your brother's policy contract to see what it says.

Do not forget to take along a copy of this article to the meeting if you believe that it will help.

Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and free advice about the management of risks and insurance. Send feedback to aegis@cwjamaica.com or SMS/text message to 812-7233.