43% of insurance complaints handled in 2021 related to car accidents - ombudsman

The ombudsman for short-term insurance finalised a total of 10,871 formal complaints, with 43% of these related to motor vehicle disputes.

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JOHANNESBURG - The short-term insurance ombudsman said that although motor vehicle accident-related complaints declined by 8% in 2021 as compared to 2020, they still represented the highest type of disputes handled by the entity.

The ombudsman for short-term insurance finalised a total of 10,871 formal complaints, with 43% of these related to motor vehicle disputes.

In 2020, the office recorded the lowest number of complaints in the category at 12% compared to 2019, as South Africans stayed home during the hard COVID-19 lockdowns.

The ombudsman’s annual reports for 2019 and 2020 showed that there was an upward trend in the number of complaints relating to accident claims rejected because drivers failed to exercise reasonable precautions and due care, with the cases increasing by 48%.

The complaints went up by 26% last year. The claims were rejected based on allegations that drivers were speeding.

However, in cases where formal rulings were made against insurers, the ombudsman cautioned against a misunderstanding of the role played by experts and expert reports in dispute resolutions.

"Some of the authors of the report may have skimmed on the detail in the report that ought to assist in making a decision as to whether indeed the driver may have been driving at a higher speed than reasonable for the circumstances and so you end up questioning the context of the report," said the Short Term Insurance Ombudsman’s Peter Nkhuna.

The second-highest type of motor vehicle insurance disputes was related to warranty and mechanical breakdowns which increased by three percent from 11% in 2020 to 14% in 2021.

This was followed by theft and hijack claims which comprised of 7%.