It’s an unfortunate reality that many South Africans consume alcohol and then attempt to drive home, doing their utmost to avoid police detection. This type of behaviour firmly places the country as one of the worst offenders in the world for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

While these actions are unlawful and reckless, what most drivers may not realise is that apart from putting themselves and other road users at risk, in the event of an accident their insurance company may reject their claims. This is because the majority of insurance companies will not cover for loss or damage if the insured driver, at the time of the accident, was under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or if their blood alcohol level was above the legal limit.

For an insurer to repudiate a claim they need only to prove civil standards, where they can show that the insured was, on a balance of probability, driving under the influence. They do not need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the insured driver consumed alcohol above the legal limits, as is required in a criminal case.

This means that an insurer does not have to rely on blood or breathalyser test results to confirm the level of alcohol of an insured driver at the time of an accident, they can instead use circumstantial evidence. This can be witness interviews, CCTV footage, restaurant and bar bills, and police statements. An insurer will often conduct their own investigation and they can use this evidence to create the most likely scenario leading up to and including when the accident occurred. If it is established that on a balance of probability, the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when they had the accident, the insurer can reject the claim.

There are two other ways that a claim can be repudiated: incorrect or dishonest information – where an insured driver has lied about the events of the incident – or if the driver unlawfully leaves the accident scene.

If an insurance company refuses to pay out a claim on suspicion that the insured was drinking and driving, this means the insured driver could face huge financial bills for loss or damage to their own vehicle, along with that of a third party’s vehicle or property.

In addition, this driver is now regarded as a high-risk individual and their insurance company may increase their monthly premiums or refuse to provide further car insurance cover. If the driver wants to change insurance companies, the reason for the rejected claim will have to be revealed and this could impact their decision to provide cover to the driver.

Any person getting behind the wheel of their vehicle after drinking is putting their life at risk, along with the lives of other road users. There are many alternative transport solutions available to get a driver home safely, in the event that they have been drinking.

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