You've been in a car crash with an expired licence card - will your insurance payout?

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• South Africans continue to battle to renew vehicle and driving licences.
• Licencing centres continue to close due to positive Covid-19 cases.
• Expired vehicle or driving licence cards could impact your insurance claim when in a motor vehicle accident. 
• For more motoring stories, go to www.Wheels24.co.za


The Department of Transport has announced earlier in November that learner's and driving licences which have expired from 26 March to 31 December are deemed valid until 30 August 20201. However, expired licences are causing a greater problem than we realise, and it's having a knock-on effect on many other aspects.

On 17 July 2020, the Department of Transport announced the first renewal for licences which were  extended to the end of November 2020.Vehicle licences were also extended to 22 September and many motorists believe the driving licence extension also applies to vehicles - it does not.

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

One Wheels24 reader had mentioned a few months ago : "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 licence, 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

A big question which has been asked repeatedly in the past few weeks is 'what happens when you're involved in a car crash with an expired vehicle or driving licence?'

Wheels24 reader Lefkia Swart asked: "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."

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