Will your insurance pay out if you're in a car accident with an expired vehicle or driver's licence?

Car crash
Car crash

• South Africans continue to battle to renew vehicle and driver's licences.
• More licencing centres are closing due to positive Covid-19 cases.
• Expired licences could impact your insurance claim when in a motor vehicle accident. 
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za

Expired vehicle and driver licences are causing a bigger problem than we realise, and it's having a knock-on effect on many other aspects.

For one, learner licence holders are being hit the hardest, and many unfortunate citizens are being told to merely restart the process as lockdown expired licences hold priority as organisations try to work through the backlog.

Earlier in July, the Automobile Association has requested that the Minister of Transport Fikile Mbalula would consider extending the licence renewal period to the end of January 2021.

On Friday (17 July) the Department of Transport announced that licence renewals will now be extended to the end of November 2020.

While licence renewals have been extended, it still has a domino affect on other matters.

One Wheels24 reader has mentioned: "I often go abroad to engage with our stakeholders, and I suspect when international travel is allowed, the likes of Avis et al. will not accept an expired license, so even if the minister allows a blanket exemption until next year December, for us who go abroad a printed date on the card is all that counts."

READ | Driving with J9: Mr Mbalula, the 90-day grace period for expired licences is coming up fast

And since we have not yet crossed that bridge of international travel, there is a more pressing issue at hand. What happens when you're involved in a car crash?

Wheels24 reader Lefkia Swart writes: Do you know what is the stand of insurance companies on this? What would happen if you have an accident and your driving licence has expired? Can they repudiate your claim?

license disc

Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond

Justice Project South Africa's Howard Dembovsky says: "It depends on the policy wording. Some vehicle insurance policies make the specific exclusion: "a vehicle involved in an accident where at the time of the accident, the vehicle does not have a valid motor vehicle licence" (or similar). Some do not.

"As with every kind of agreement, motorists should thoroughly read and understand the policy wording BEFORE entering into an agreement. If this clause is included in your policy wording, your insurer will be entitled to repudiate your claim, regardless of the reasons surrounding your expired licence disc.

"I do not understand why it is that insurers think it is their right or responsibility to enforce road traffic legislation. Except for vehicles where an operator card is required, an expired licence disc does not necessarily mean that the vehicle is unroadworthy. This is because, with light motor vehicles, a roadworthy test is only required when the ownership of the vehicle changes, or where a road traffic official orders it."

Dembovsky also notes: "There are insurers who have forgotten why they exist. If one's policy has a clause referring to a currently valid driving licence CARD, one should be careful to always ensure that one's driving licence card is always valid. I have not seen any policy wording that makes such reference, but there is a first time for everything."

We also reached out to an insurance company and hear what their stance is on the matter.

Bianca de Beer from Dialdirect says: "Each claim is evaluated on its individual merit. We acknowledge that Covid-19 has placed a significant strain on licensing offices' capacity. So, if someone can show that they have taken all necessary steps to renew their driving or vehicle license and that administrative backlog or service unavailability is the only reason that their license expired, it will not influence the decision on the claim."

KEEP UPDATED on the latest Wheels news by subscribing to our FREE newsletter.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can 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. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24