News

Always read the fine print

THE LEGAL VIEW

Motor insurance policies clearly state that it is up to the insurers whether a claimant who had drunk alcohol before driving should be allowed to make a claim, say lawyers.

However, they feel that such a blanket exclusion does not make sense as the legal limit for drink driving is already of the strictest standard.

Mr Satwant Singh, who has handled many motor accident claims, said it was "very unfair to impose such standards that basically conflict with the laws of Singapore".

Another lawyer, Mr Sunil Sudheesan, said: "Insurance companies only want to cover those who don't drink alcohol. The message that they want to send is, don't drink and drive."

The lawyers said those who buy insurance should read the terms and conditions in the policy carefully.

Mr Goh E Pei of law firm Ang & Partners - which specialises in shipping and insurance - said that customers should "always be aware of the fine print" before buying any policy.

"When buying insurance, they should also look at what circumstances the insurance company can repudiate or reject their claims. It's important that the buyers know what they can or cannot do in order to have their claims honoured."

THE MEDICAL VIEW

The effects of alcohol on a person's body can vary widely, depending on factors such as the person's gender and size.

Peak alcohol level occurs between 30 and 60 minutes after ingestion, said Dr Desmond Wai, a liver and gastrointestinal diseases expert who has a clinic in Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre.

He said that studies have shown that even after drinking one can of beer, a person's driving ability could be impaired.

"There is, however, a range of impairment among different individuals with the same alcohol dosage, so it can be hard to predict," he said.

Dr Wai added that his advice is to not drive at all if one intends to drink - even if in small amounts.

"A person will not know his or her limit," he said.

The doctor added that if a person is detected to have alcohol in his blood and is involved in an accident, the accident may be assumed to have been caused by his alcohol drinking.

THE MOTORING VIEW

Mr David Ting, editor of motoring magazine Torque, said that he is aware of the no-alcohol fine print in insurance clauses.

"The police can still press charges if your blood alcohol content is below the limit but you are found to be unable to control your vehicle. Likewise, I think it is fair that the insurance companies have the right to refuse payout to anyone who has drunk any alcohol."