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    Jul 11, 2014

    'A drop is all it takes' to sink a claim

    IT WAS the eve of Chinese New Year and Wayne Poh drank three glasses of beer in his office. Three hours later, at around 8.45pm on Jan 29, his Mitsubishi Lancer was involved in a collision with another vehicle at the junction of Grange Road and Tanglin Road.

    Police took him to the Traffic Police headquarters in Ubi for a breathalyser test.

    It showed that he was under the legal limit, so Mr Poh was released, much to his relief. The police told him that he would not face any drink-driving charges.

    But, when the 29-year-old finance manager filed a claim over the accident with his motor insurer, DirectAsia Insurance, it refused to pay. Mr Poh said that DirectAsia's claim officer told him that he was not covered under his policy because he had consumed alcohol before the accident.

    "The exact language from them was along the lines of, 'Even if you drink just a drop, we will reject (the claim),' " he said, adding that he was "utterly amazed and disappointed" that the insurer did not even bother investigating his case.

    He sent The New Paper (TNP) a copy of his breathalyser test result, which showed that he had 32mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath - just below the legal limit of 35mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath.

    Mr Poh has filed a complaint with the Financial Industry Disputes Resolution Centre, which deals with disputes between financial institutions and consumers, saying the insurer had rejected his claim without even conducting an investigation.

    He is also seeking legal recourse.

    According to DirectAsia's policy details, the company does not cover loss or damage to vehicles or claims against drivers if they "had a percentage of alcohol in their breath, blood or urine which, in our sole opinion, impaired their ability to control or drive a car".

    A DirectAsia spokesman said: "We wish to state that the policy exclusion on driving under the influence of alcohol is a common exclusion in motor policies, and is also an exclusion in DirectAsia's policy wording."

    She declined to comment further as it could become a legal matter.

    Two insurance agents contacted by TNP said such clauses are common in motor insurance, and insurers had the sole discretion to decide whether or not to honour a claim.

    When contacted, the General Insurance Association of Singapore (GIA) declined to comment, apart from advising all motorists to be familiar with the terms and conditions of their motor insurance policies and the exclusions.

    In a letter to The Straits Times Forum in 2005, the then executive director of the GIA, Wu Siong Yen, wrote: "In Singapore, the motor insurance policy does not cover the driver while he is driving under the influence of alcohol.

    "Furthermore, all motor insurance policies carry policy exclusions for driving under the influence of alcohol."