Thursday, November 5, 2009

Car insurance: Two strikes and you're out?

car insurance

CAR insurers have insisted that it is within their rights to reject policy applications from motorists if they have one too many accident claims within a year.

In most cases, insurers adopt a 'two-strike' rule - they would typically turn away a motorist who has made two or more claims in that period.

Businessman Ong Choon Kee, 53, found this out the hard way.

After making three insurance claims amounting to $27,000 within a year, he was told by insurer American International Group (AIG) that it was dropping him.

His efforts to find another insurer have proven futile, and since drivers need to have motor insurance before they can take to the roads, he is now in a bind.

Driving without proper insurance can result in a fine of up to $1,000 or a jail term of up to three months, or both. Convicted drivers will also be disqualified from driving for at least a year.

When contacted by The Straits Times, General Insurance Association (GIA) president Derek Teo said the two-strike rule is general industry practice.

AIG, one of the biggest of the more than 20 motor insurers here, had not replied by press time, but other firms told The Straits Times that a driver's accident record plays an important part in their decision as to whether to renew a policy.

An NTUC Income spokesman said that while drivers with a history of multiple accidents within a short period are generally a concern, it also takes into account the driver's profile and claim records.

Allianz Insurance Company of Singapore said it assesses the renewal of car insurance policies 'on a case-by-case basis by checking the client's claims history in the previous year'.

A spokesman for the company said there is no hard and fast rule about those with two or more claims, 'as liability within each claim is considered'.

"A commercial decision is then made on renewal terms, based on an assessment of the facts," he added.

Ms Irene Wee, a senior manager for corporate communications at AXA Asia Regional Centre, said reviewing a client's record applies to all types of claims, not just those for road accidents or car repairs. They include those for homes and fire safety.

The insurers said Mr Ong could appeal to the GIA, which would circulate his details to all members, one of which might be willing to take him on.

GIA's Mr Teo said there is no blacklist among companies, so there is a chance drivers like Mr Ong might find an insurer.

But he warned that a company willing to insure Mr Ong would probably demand that he accept different terms, usually higher premiums or higher excess.

The businessman, meanwhile, feels he has been hard done by, saying: "AIG said it would not renew policies with two or more claims made within the period insured. They should have made that clear in the first place when I signed up."

He said since he did not receive demerit points from the Traffic Police for any of the three incidents he was involved in, there was no question of whether he had broken the law or was negligent.

In the meantime, he said, he would continue to shop around for an insurer.