3 types of intent that affect your car insurance claim

accreditation

When deciding on whether someone should be covered in the event of a motor vehicle accident, an insurer may decide that a seemingly negligent driver actually acted with intent and should therefore not be covered, and such insurer may apply criminal court judgments to do so.

Johannes du Plessis, legal advisor at RBS (Risk Benefit Solutions), a financial services broker, says consumers could find their vehicle claims rejected by insurers if it can be argued that they acted with intent instead of negligence during a motor vehicle collision.

“Insurance companies do not cover damages caused with intent, but they do cover damages caused by negligence...The Civil Court often uses Criminal Court judgments when it comes to determining negligence or intent.”

He adds that it is important to understand that the law differentiates between different kinds of intent. For example, one of the kinds of intent is intent-by-possibility, the definition of which is very close to that of negligence.

This means that deciding whether you deliberately caused an accident, may be open for debate. If any form of intent is present during an accident, an insurer has the right to deny the resulting claim.

Du Plessis adds that having an understanding of the three kinds of intent can help to make drivers more mindful of their actions and possible liabilities.

Direct intent

“Direct intent and indirect intent are the forms that are familiar to most people. When a person directly intends to cause damage and succeeds, an insurance policy will not respond. If, for instance, it can be proven that a driver deliberately collided into another vehicle to cause damage to the other vehicle, then direct intent is established.”

Indirect intent

Du Plessis explains that indirect intent applies to the secondary consequences in addition to those desired by a perpetrator. This is when a driver directly intends one consequence of his conduct, but at the same time has knowledge that another consequence will unavoidably or inevitably also occur.

An example would be if it can be proven that a driver deliberately collided into another vehicle to cause damage but knew that the other vehicle would be pushed into a third vehicle, indirect intent is established with regards to the damage to the third vehicle.

Intent-by-possibility

Du Plessis notes that drivers need to be especially cognisant of the third type of intent identified by the court.

“Intent-by-possibility is not always well understood by most drivers, but it is just as important in determining whether you acted intentionally or negligently, and whether you should be covered. Intent-by-possibility is present when you do not desire to cause damage but foresee the possibility that your actions or inaction may result in damage, and reconcile yourself to this fact.”

He explains that is why drivers may not be covered for seemingly negligent accidents.

“If, for instance, you see another driver speeding towards a red light, and you foresee that such other driver is not going to stop, but you do not stop and wait at the green light to avoid a collision, then your inaction constitutes an act of intent-by-possibility.”

Du Plessis says that drivers can better manage their risks by better understanding their legal obligations.

* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Rand - Dollar
15.83
+0.1%
Rand - Pound
20.98
+0.0%
Rand - Euro
17.87
-0.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
11.28
+0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.14
+0.1%
Gold
1,789.73
+0.3%
Silver
22.50
-0.0%
Palladium
1,874.50
+1.1%
Platinum
966.28
+0.9%
Brent Crude
75.44
+3.2%
Top 40
66,514
0.0%
All Share
72,939
0.0%
Resource 10
70,120
0.0%
Industrial 25
96,001
0.0%
Financial 15
14,195
0.0%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Company Snapshot