Let us consider 2 instances of drunken driving.
Situation 1: You are driving your scooter in an inebriated condition. You are not able to focus, your vision is blurred. You do not see a speedbump on the road and drive over it at high speed. You lose control of the vehicle and fall off. Your scooter falls apart in several places and you are severely hurt. The hospital you are taken to confirms that you were driving while drunk. Would you be able to claim insurance on the scooter damage and use the accident rider for your own medical expenses?
Situation 2: You are driving a bike while under the influence of alcohol. You are pretty buzzed and can’t clearly see where you are going. At a steep bend on the road, you suddenly you come face to face with another bike – you realise you had been driving on the wrong side of the road, but it is too late to do anything. You slam into the bike and both of you are thrown off the vehicle, and suffer grave injuries. Your bikes are in a bad shape too. The other party’s family files a case against you for damage and you are liable to pay her Rs.8 lakh as damages for both her and her bike. You yourself are hoping to claim a big sum from your insurance provider. Will your insurer cover both of these claims?
The answer to the above questions is not straightforward. To understand the intricacies of the insurance provider’s onus in a drunken driving incident, let us take a look at some important facets of the issue.
- Drunken driving is a criminal offence in India. Drunken driving is defined as driving under the influence of alcohol where your blood alcohol content is 0.03% or more. If you are driving after having drunk alcohol and cause an accident, you are responsible for it and may be involved in a police case, depending on how badly injured the other party is and how much damage they have suffered. If someone dies because of your drunken driving accident, you are criminally implicated as the cause of death, and apart from compensation to the family of the deceased, you may also be imprisoned.
- A two wheeler insurance or car insurance comes primarily in two types. Third party insurance and comprehensive insurance. A third party insurance covers the damage caused to the person/s and vehicles that are injured/damaged by your vehicle in in an accident. Comprehensive insurance covers not only the third party damage, but also damage caused to your own person and vehicle. If you are driving under the influence of alcohol, the insurance provider is not legally bound to meet your own damage claims, because the damage was caused entirely due to your fault, when you did something that is illegal.
- In a recent case in Hyderabad where a car driven by a drunk person killed a police constable in an accident, the High Court ruled that an insurance company cannot be exonerated from paying third-party damages to the person who died/suffered losses due to a drunken driver, where the victim is in no way party to the fact that the driver was drunk. The family of the deceased constable was given a compensation of Rs. 32.6 lakh, part of which was payable by the insurance company as far as the insurance policy allowed.
Many companies reject the claims outright, while some may consider paying out the entire claim amount or a part of it in case your blood alcohol content was not high enough to be considered drunk. The result may be different for each person depending on the situation of the accident and the severity of damage.