Kaieteur News – You are driving down the road in your car, exercising as much care and caution as you can. Then suddenly, another car recklessly jumps the junction and slams into your vehicle, causing extensive damage.
You call the police and measurements and statements are taken. At the station, you request details of the offender’s insurance so that you can file a claim because your vehicle is damaged.
When you turn up to the other party’s insurance company, you are told that the person only has basic insurance coverage. It is then you realise that the amount that you will be compensated cannot even replace one of the rear lights on your vehicle. You are advised that you should file civil proceedings for compensation.
The last person you knew who did so, ended up spending years in the courts. And by the time the judgment was ready he passed away. If the person who was wrong had adequate insurance, there would have been no need for him to spend so long seeking compensation.
A lot of accident victims have lost limbs and were incapacitated and had to live out the rest of their lives without any proper compensation because of inadequate insurance coverage.
But that is how the system works. There are tens of thousands of vehicles that are being driven around our country. And you can bet that the majority of these vehicles have only the basic insurance which is mandated by the law. If these vehicles are in the wrong in an accident, the innocent party will find problems recouping his/her losses from the insurance companies.
Every now and then you read also about the tragedy of persons losing their homes to fire. And when the owners are asked if they had insurance, the majority of them would say no. So they have to start back life from scratch. This too is the tragedy of life in Guyana.
Recently, the Senior Minister within the Office of the President, Dr. Ashni Singh, turned the sod for the headquarters of an insurance company. In his remarks, Dr. Singh gave some sound advice.
The Minister made an impassioned appeal for citizens to consider taking out insurance since he said it is a vital part of managing business and household risks. He correctly noted that many Guyanese fail to recognise the importance of insurance and believe they can do without it. But he said that it was necessary in the event of a calamity occurring. Dr. Singh called on the insurance companies to educate the public about the benefits of insurance.
Dr. Singh however should not leave this matter solely to the discretion of citizens. The law makes it mandatory for motor vehicle drivers to have, in force, a policy of insurance which covers third parties. The law demands compulsory third party insurance because it recognises that when it comes to protecting others on our roads, this cannot be left to the discretion of drivers. It has to be backed by law.
The problem is that insurance laws are dated and the minimum coverage which they are required to take out cannot compensate for the injuries, property loss and property damage which is occasioned during accidents. There is need for the limited coverage under these mandatory policies to be increased so as to ensure adequate protection for third parties. It is not simply about trying to educate people about the benefits of insurance; if people are to be protected then adequate insurance coverage has to become mandatory.
The same thing applies with COVID. It is not enough for the President to continue to impress upon citizens the need for them to wear masks in public and to practice social distancing. As we have seen, such appeals are not having the desired effect. They need to be backed by legal measures which in turn are backed by the law and rigorously enforced.
A recent report pointed to the fact that the countries which have done well in combating the virus were those which were more disciplined. The report referred to those countries which have stronger institutions, exercised cultural restraints and had strong institutions to enforce the social restrictions necessary.
Guyana’s health system is ill-suited for preventative care. Guyana should have long moved towards a more community-minded model of health care. But that is not going to happen because the political elite is tied to interested parties in the private health care system for which the present system is suited.
Asking people to only go out if it is necessary, to wear masks and to practice social distancing has generally not had the desired results. And the reason for this is that it has been backed by poor enforcement.
The COVID-19 Task Force last week began raids on entertainment places which are violating the curfew. A number of persons were arrested. Unless, however, enforcement is devolved to the Regions and communities; unless the people of the communities are mobilised and organised to enforce the regulations; and unless these regulations are backed by the stronger institutions and laws, then nothing much will come of it.
Asking people to take action is not enough. This appeal has to be backed by the law and the law must not aim at the lowest common denominator, as is presently the case with vehicular insurance.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.)
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