By Chukwu Oteh
Frequent accident induced fight on our roads is one question that has defied reasons? Why would two enterprising adults, young and old, engage in fisticuff because one of them was careless and hit the other’s vehicle? Could it be the nature of the vehicles involved in such accident? Economic situation? Convergence of factors? Why a man will consider a fight an option after an accident defies reasoning. In most cases, these fights are carried out in the presence of their family members, colleagues and friends. There are even instances of free-for-all, in a bid to help father or spouse, the wife and/or children or friends of one of the men partake in the fight. Part of the thrust of this article is to identify reasons for such fights and ways to mitigate it.
Experience has shown that drivers go physical during accident because the driver whose car run into another car often adopts an “attack as a form of defence” approach, probably to run away from liability. Eyewitness reports lend credence to “you hit a man’s vehicle and immediately start accusing him of negligence, carelessness and inexperience.” Others believe fights ensue often because someone must take liability for the damage and nobody is willing to take liability.
Again, why do they engage in a fight after a road accident? Is it because the damaged car is very expensive? Or could it be due to cost of repair?
No doubt, these reasons may seem cogent particularly in present day Nigeria. Then it means drivers must avoid accident at all cost. Avoid road accident? Really! You’ve never driven on a Lagos road before. Don’t you understand that the vehicle owner/driver is not the only road user on the road? Perhaps, it is important to remind you that your carefulness in driving does not guarantee you will not be involved in road accident. The reason is simple; you are not the only road user. When you are driving at 40KM/h, another road user might be at 100KM/h.
It has, therefore, become imperative to think of ways of transfering liability to another person when you are involved in road accident without going physical with anybody. In developed countries, drivers of vehicles involved in road accidents come out of their vehicles and exchange papers without unnecessary confrontations. In most cases, this peaceful exchange of papers and cards, turn supposedly would-be enemies to friends, while in Nigeria, we inadvertently create more enemies for ourselves and others after an accident.
Perhaps, you have wondered the kind of papers they exchange, which creates peaceful atmosphere for perfect settlement. It is Motor Insurance papers. They understand that risk is inevitable and given their positive perception of insurance, make adequate provisions to accommodate such emergencies than we do. If anyone buys a car, he proceeds to the Insurance Sales Agent and get his insurance even before driving the car out of the Auto Sales Shop.
When you buy Comprehensive Motor Insurance for your vehicle, you have simply transferred all liability related to road accident on the vehicle, theft and third party liability to the insurer. Thus, you can go to sleep. This does not, in any way, mean that you should be negligent. However, insurance guarantees peace of mind to the vehicle owner and it is a smart thing to do. Besides, you have also fulfilled your statutory obligation. Remember, the road traffic law mandates every vehicle to be insured. Specifically, Section 3 (1), Motor Vehicles (Third Party Insurance) Act 1945 states “subject to the provisions of this Act no person shall use, or cause or permit any other person to use a motor vehicle unless there is in force in relation to the user of that motor vehicle by such person or such other person as the case may be such policy of insurance or such a security in respect of third party risks as complies with the provisions of this Act.”
What do you think a man who is ready to kill another man because of minor accident that left dirt on his vehicle, will do when the vehicle is stolen? Your guess is as good as mine. When you buy a comprehensive motor insurance policy, you are covered against risk of theft of the vehicle, fire, accident and liability to third parties. The liability to third party is in two folds. It could be Third Party Property damage and Third Party liability. It could also be extended to cover damage resulting from Strike, Riot and Civil Commotion (SRCC) and flood, etc.
If you have knowledge of the above covers under a Comprehensive Insurance Policy and yet you are not convinced of the benefits of buying insurance policy, then purchase at least a Third-Party Motor Insurance cover. In this case, you would have fulfilled your obligation as a vehicle owner and made provision for other road users in the event of an accident. Many Nigerians argue that Nigerian insurance companies will never accept their liability or honor their obligation at the point of claim. If the above is asked as a question, it is valid but when you make it a statement of fact, you have committed a blunder. Though, it is not surprising to hear such given our level of insurance exposure and perception to risk. Nigerian insurance companies will honour their obligation at the point of claim if the claim is valid. Evidences abound to prove that insurance companies pay claims. You only need to take a look at your policy documents to understand the features of your policy and what constitutes a claim. You may also wish to place your insurance using an insurance broker. Mind you, an insurance broker is a professional that brokers a business between the insuring public and the insurance company. The good thing about using a licensed broker is; you are not directly paying for his services. The insurance company pays him a commission from the premium you paid.
Given the above, I will say that genuine insurance for all vehicles on Nigeria roads must be encouraged. Government had good intention for both vehicle owners and the pubic given the passage of the Motor Vehicle (Third Parties) Act 1945. However, poor implementation of the Act is the bane of road traffic security in Nigeria. Government should, therefore, muster the political will to enforce all enabling laws to institute order in our society. As part of its effort to partner with government for effective policing of insurance policy on our roads, the insurance industry trade organization, Nigeria Insurers Association, recently introduced Nigeria insurance industry database. This database makes it easy to know a vehicle that has valid insurance cover. To confirm the validity of a motor insurance certificate, you simply visitwww.askniid.org and type the insurance policy number or registration number of the vehicle.
The public should understand that the realisation of the Act’s objective is a step towards living in the society of our dream. It is possible to reduce to the barest minimum the incessant quarrels among motorists. This will reduce frequent road “mini” courts, which automatically spring up whenever there is an accident on the road to judge who is at fault thereby eliminating the attendant traffic and loss of man-hour. On a lighter note, we could make more friends rather than enemies when there is an accident.
Let me conclude this article by emphasising that, part of our growth indices is seeing a vehicle owner walk into an insurance firm to buy insurance not because of the fear of Law Enforcement Agents but because of the benefit he is aware is embedded in insurance.
• Oteh is a chartered insurance practitioner based in Lagos. He could be reached on 08078388333 and [email protected]