Handing over your car keys could be costly

Personal Lines

Handing over your car keys could be costly

Published: 20 September 2016

Many South Africans rely on their own transport to get from point A to B and as a result, there are more than 10 million vehicles on South African roads according to recent statistics by the electronic national administration traffic information system (eNaTIS). In many cases, people share vehicles or pass them on to family members as they upgrade, thereby changing the profile of the regular driver of the insured vehicle.

“Completing the driver section of a vehicle insurance policy is obligatory because it affects the way a client’s risk profile is rated, but sometimes claims get repudiated as a result of misrepresentation of the regular driver on the policyholder’s part,” says Attie Blaauw, head of personal lines underwriting at Santam. Santam insures more than 400 000 personal vehicles and paid out R849 million in personal vehicle claims in the six months to June 2016.

“When someone other than the policyholder drives the insured vehicle regularly, you should be aware that this affects your vehicle’s insurance cover.  If the regular driver is not correctly or truthfully declared in your insurance policy and a different individual who drives the vehicle regularly is involved in an accident, your claim may be rejected or not paid in full,” says Blaauw.

Having dealt with a number of such cases in the past, the Ombudsman for short-term insurance, Deanne Wood, warns that vehicle policyholders should fully understand and appreciate the basis upon which motor vehicle insurance is taken out and the category of people who are insured while driving the vehicle belonging to an insured.  Wood says consumers should take heed of the fact that if a vehicle is incorrectly insured, or if incorrect information is furnished to an insurer concerning either a regular driver or a nominated driver, the insurance policy could be declared void from inception.

“Listing the regular driver incorrectly on your insurance policy can have far-reaching implications,” says Blaauw.

What is a regular driver?

A person is considered to be a regular driver of a vehicle if they drive the vehicle more often than any other person in a 12-month period.

Why does this matter?

Insurance companies calculate your premium based on the risk profile of the regular driver. If anyone other than the regular driver operates the car frequently, the risk profile of insuring that vehicle changes as there is likely to be different risk associated with that driver. An example of this would be when a father is the policyholder but hands his car over to his student son. The son then becomes the regular driver, changing the risk profile on the insured vehicle.  

An individual’s age, gender, job and history are all factors that determine a risk profile. Any undisclosed information means that the risk was unaccounted for and not factored into the premium. This could result in the insurer electing not to pay the claim, or they may only pay a portion of it, due to the vehicle not being properly insured.

What happens if the non-regular driver is involved in an accident?

If somebody else uses the vehicle on a once-off basis or on an infrequent basis and they are involved in an incident with your vehicle, you as the policyholder will be covered.  This cover also includes any “drive-assist” taxi services that drive your car home on your behalf after a night out on the town.

Are you able to add multiple drivers to an existing vehicle policy?

This depends on your insurer.  “Santam does not limit the number of irregular drivers that can operate the vehicle, so there is no need to disclose this information, unless one of them becomes the regular driver,” says Blaauw.

What is best practice?

The rule of thumb is to understand the conditions of your policy and cover and ask for clarification at the outset when taking out cover.  Insurance contracts require you to disclose all details affecting the risk associated with insuring the vehicle, including the details of the regular driver. You should inform your broker immediately should the regular driver on your vehicle change. If you fail to inform your insurer of the correct details of the regular driver, at any stage over the life of the policy, this would be viewed as a breach of contract. In such instances and depending on the facts, the insurer could reject your claim or declare your policy invalid.

“Should the driver of a private vehicle change from time to time – or over an extended period, the policyholder should inform their insurer or broker as soon as possible so as to avoid any complications that could arise in the event of an untimely accident,” concludes Blaauw.