Over the past few days, talk of the town belonged to the horrific car crash at Tanjong Pagar, in which 5 men were dead and 1 woman suffering serious burns across her body.
Besides the deaths and bodily harm done, there was also considerable damage done to property – the BMW coupe was burnt to a crisp and the surrounding shophouses also were damaged as they caught fire.
As the aftermath of the accident clears up, one pertinent question remains.
What exactly are the liabilities of insurers in this case?
This might be a bit messy but we’ve done our best to try and simplify what might be payable and what might be repudiated by the insurers.
Grab your caffeinated drink of choice and let’s begin.
Motor Insurance Policy
The insurer of this motor policy is probably gonna have one hell of a headache, but such is the nature of this industry. Let’s look at the claims in descending order of seriousness. We assume there was valid motor insurance in force when the accident occurred.
Driver’s Death: Payable, maybe
This is assuming the driver was only speeding and not drink driving, or having illegal modifications done to his car that might have led to the crash. A typical death claim under a motor insurance ranges from 20 – 50 k SGD.
Passengers’ Deaths: Payable for sure
The estate of the passengers can claim against the motor insurer for their legal rights (loss of income coupled with several factors like – did the passengers have financial dependents, and how much did the passengers provide for these dependents)
This payout is likely to be certain, but the amount will be subject to interpretation by the courts.
Car replacement: Payable, maybe
If the driver was only speeding, then the motor insurer has to pay for the replacement of the car (since it was totaled). But again, if it can be proven that there was drink driving or illegal modifications involved, then the contract can be repudiated. (Drink driving / illegal modifications are technically called Policy Breaches in insurance jargon)
Damage to surroundings (the shophouses for instance): Payable, maybe
Same scenario as the car
Life Insurance Policies (Specifically Death)
For all parties: Yes, payable
The crash is unlikely going to be ruled as a suicide, so all deceased persons’ estate can claim death benefits from any existing life insurance policies they might own.
Personal Accident Policies (Specifically Death)
For the driver: Accidental Death claim payable, maybe
This is a bit tricky because it was very likely the cause of the death was due to speeding, which is a wilfully negligent act (he did not take reasonable efforts to avoid injury). The insurer of the Personal Accident policy (if any) might have grounds to repudiate the claim.
For the passengers: Accidental Death claim payable
All passengers can claim accidental death payouts (if they bought any). By all passengers, we mean their estate can claim on their behalf.
What about the poor girl with all the burns?
It is very likely that she qualifies for hospitalization benefits under her integrated shield plan, and also under her personal accident policy if she bought any.
Epilogue and disclaimer
From such a tragic incident we can once again be reminded of the fragility of life, and also how unexpectedly misfortune can strike. It might be a small measure of mercy that there were no other pedestrians nearby that could have been hit by the car.
Once again this also serves as a stark reminder about the importance of having proper coverage and not having the mentality of “Nah, it won’t happen to me”. 5 young men didn’t think that this would happen to them either.
And finally, we are providing our opinion on what the payouts and liabilities might be, and we could well be wrong. But we could also be right lah, based on our experience. Just leaving this out here.
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