Johannesburg - With the grace period for driving licence renewals ending on 31 March, thousands of otherwise law-abiding motorists will find themselves without a valid licence card.
But what are the insurance implications of driving with an expired card? If you got into an accident, would you still be covered? We reached out to a few industry experts for clarity on the matter and it would appear that as long as you have made sufficient effort to renew your licence, your insurance cover should theoretically be unaffected, and contacting your insurer to inform them of these efforts should keep you on safe ground.
The South African Insurance Association (SAIA) says that insurers shouldn’t automatically reject a claim where a licence has expired.
“Insurers follow the guidance provided by the Ombudsman for Short-term Insurance (OSTI) who has from as far back as May 2007 ruled that insurers should not refuse to entertain the claim if the driver’s licence or licence disc has expired,” the SAIA said. “To determine an equitable outcome, the insurer would need to demonstrate prejudice because of the failure to be in possession of a valid licence, therefore materiality is a critical factor for consideration.”
Auto & General Insurance head Ricardo Coetzee explained how the risk factors are added up when assessing a claim:
“If the customer does not have a valid driver’s licence at the time of the loss, but this was as a result of a purely administrative process that is beyond the control of the customer, as now experienced by many members of the public, then the expired licence will not impact a claim,” Coetzee said.
“We do however urge customers to continue in their efforts to renew these licences as soon as possible as legally they are still unlicensed to be on the roads. We look at risk when assessing a claim and an administrative delay does not increase or decrease your risk in operating a vehicle.”
The OSTI recommends that insurers should consider the full merits of each claim before making a decision and not reject claims solely because a driver’s license has expired.
Why it pays to contact your insurer
However, the industry association warns that in some instances, after examining the particulars of a claim, the insurer might determine that not having a valid licence was ‘material’ and therefore directly relevant to the claim. In a case such as this, the claim could be denied. However, it did not elaborate on what these circumstances could be.
“SAIA advises the policyholder to proactively contact their respective insurer or broker to make them aware of difficulties being experienced in getting a licence renewed, as well as provide evidence that the renewal application has been made or at least that attempts have been made in this regard. Insurers would make the necessary concession(s) for valid claims in consideration of this.”
Motorists should also be sure to read the wording of their policy very carefully.