By Ross Lee
14 January 2009
While the law understands that anyone drink driving is not physically able to control a vehicle properly – an insurance policy may be equally void because the driver was not the holder of a current licence.
Even though it is legal to purchase a chainsaw (a potentially lethal power tool) and operate it unlicensed, in this country the law requires motorists to hold a drivers licence. Many of us have heard of a motor vehicle insurance policy being voided due to drink driving. However, by operation of the contract of insurance, a perfectly fine driver, driving unlicensed may also disqualify an insurance claim.
Terms and Conditions
There are different conditions for when it is the insured themselves driving, compared with someone else – if another person is driving and the insured did not and could not reasonably have known the driver was unlicensed, there may not be a problem.
However, presuming it is you the insured driving, there are still various circumstances which may arise. Were you unlicensed due to: being an unaccompanied learner, accumulation of demerit points, prior drink driving / dangerous driving / driving in connection with another criminal offence, or did you just let your licence expire? Any circumstance of driving unlicensed is an offence and may incur a penalty of imprisonment and/or a fine.
Forgetting to Renew
There is a fairly common view that if you are not licensed because you forgot to renew your drivers licence, then there should still be car insurance cover. However, that distinction is often not made when referring to exclusion clauses in the insurance policy in a typical Product Disclosure Statement.
Indeed there is no such distinction made in the “prescribed cover” standard under the Insurance Contracts Act. So even if such an exclusion is not brought to your attention before taking out the policy, there still may be no claim.
At the end of the day, it may fall upon yourself to ask for special discretion with your claims manager for an ex gratia (“out of grace”) payment if you are a particularly good customer. However, whether any such discretion would be applied, is not for us to say!
On the topic of licensing, also watch out for new medical conditions which may affect your ability to control a vehicle – in your state it may now be law for motorists to report such facts to government agencies (Queensland Transport, RTA, VicRoads and so on) immediately, rather than at licence renewal. So if you are avoiding renewal because you’re dreading an eyesight test, you won’t be doing yourself any favours!
This article was written by Ross Lee, insurance lawyer and General Manager of the Insurance Hub - a leading insurance information website for buying, claiming and dispute resolution on car insurance, home insurance, and small business insurance.