By Stephen V. Lansana
As a means of fulfilling its corporate social responsibility, the Sierra Leone Insurance Association (SLIA) has on Tuesday March 10, 2020, collaborated with the Sierra Leone Insurance Commission (SLICOM) to launch a Le 1 billion “Motor Compensation Fund”, at the Atlantic Hall in Freetown.
The deputy Minister of Finance launched the Compensation Fund in a programme which was also attended by the deputy Minister of Transport and Aviation, officials of SLICOM, other Insurance Companies and Civil Society Activists, among others.
The Deputy Minister of Finance Dr. Patricia Laverley said, “Today marks a significant day in the insurance industry. She said that a motorist is regarded as an uninsured when the vehicle owner failed to produce an insurance policy. She said that this initiative is in line with the government initiative for the insurance companies.
The President of SLIA, Raymond Macauley, said that the Motor Insurance Victims Compensation Fund is a new phenomenon in Sierra Leone, but its existence goes back to the 1970s. He furthered that the object of the Road Traffic Acts is to ensure that an innocent victim of negligent driving be compensated for injuries, and that is why motor third party insurance is a compulsory requirement under the law in most national jurisdictions.
“Sadly, there are loopholes in such Acts which might frustrate the main object of ensuring that compensation is available to those affected by road accidents. It is a bid to bridge the gap in the legislations, insurance companies have set up Compensation Funds that provide for victims who might not be able to claim under the law,” President Macauley said, adding “As an industry, we are delighted to have established the Compensation Fund which will not only keep us up to speed with other markets, but will also positively impact the image of our industry.”
According to the Commissioner of SLICOM, Arthur Yaskey, “in other jurisdictions, the fund provides for the payment of compensation to victims of hit and run road traffic accidents involving uninsured vehicles. It will only benefit people who are injured or the surviving relatives of those killed in road traffic accidents but unable to obtain compensation from an insurance company because of the following: Uninsured motorist, that is, the vehicle owner failed to take a motor insurance policy or the policy had expired at the time of the accident; hit and run vehicle , that is, the vehicle which injured or killed the victim cannot be traced or identified; and Bankrupt insurer, that is, the insurer of the vehicle has gone bankrupt or has gone into liquidation.”
He explained that the fund is not meant to relieve insurance companies from their liabilities under policies they had issued, adding that the fund is also not meant to encourage motorists from neglecting their obligations to victims.
“The fund is for compensation of last resort, so the claimant must prove that he or she tried without success to make a claim from the insurer or the driver or vehicle owner. The Fund is purely voluntary and is not the result of any contractual obligation,” the Commissioner said. He added that once an award is made to the victim, the Fund has a right of recovery against the negligent motorist.
He stated that the Fund would have a claim procedure and a management committee which would include a senior member of the Commission. He stated that most times when people die or are injured in road accidents and there is no compensation, it increases the rate of poverty in society.
The Executive Director of Sierra Leone Road Safety Authority (SLRSA), David Panda-Noah, said that the country is on the way to alleviating poverty because road crash is one of the major causes of poverty. He said that road crashes cause about three million people to die globally and more than 50, 000 to sustain injuries. “In Sierra Leone, about 1000 people died and over 50, 000 are injured annually in the country,” he said. He commended the scheme and said that it would help alleviate poverty in Sierra Leone. He promised that SLRSA would support the process by enforcing insurance for every vehicle, motorbike and tricycle. He called on everyone to insure their vehicles and bikes, stating “having the insurance badge doesn’t mean that you have insured your vehicle, but you should have the insurance policy.”
The President of Motor Drivers Union, Alpha Amadu called on the insurance companies to sensitize them on the insurance policy so that they would trust the process.