POSTSCRIPT / October 11, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Review ‘acts of God’ clause in car insurance

BLAMING GOD: If you happened to park under a coconut tree by the beach while unloading some picnic gear and a falling coconut smashed your windshield, was that an act of God?

Usually, a car insurance company will pay for the replacement of the windshield if you have comprehensive coverage, even minus an “acts of God” clause in your policy.

But if, as you have been doing all these years, you parked in front of your house and flash floods swamped your car during the night because debris had clogged the drains in the neighborhood, suddenly the same insurer may refuse to pay for the repairs.

In the falling coconut scenario, there was no human intervention, with only the mass of the matured nut responding to the pull of gravity. But no “act of God” exclusion is likely to be invoked by the insurance firm.

Now in the flooding where human negligence and the inadequacies of the man-made sewerage system contributed greatly to the flooding that submerged your car, your not having an “acts of God” provision is suddenly an excuse for the insurer not to pay.

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NO HUMAN HAND: An “act of God” is generally understood as an event caused solely by the effect of nature or natural causes and without any interference by humans whatsoever.

Unless liability is written into the contact, insurance firms often disown any liability for damage caused by such natural phenomena as lightning, typhoons, floods, earthquakes and objects falling from the sky, which they classify as “acts of God.”

As the Ondoy floods have brought to the fore, according to Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, there is clear need to revisit the law and correct the ambiguity and apparent unfairness.

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COSTLY REPAIR: Scores of mud-caked cars are now camped in front of auto service shops waiting for overhaul and repairs. Some owners complain that their vehicles have to line up for weeks or months because of the staggering number of damaged vehicles.

Sometime ago an insurance company on a promo wrote policies with “acts of God” thrown in. Owners of luxury cars (e.g. BMW, Lexus) availed themselves of the easy terms. Then storm Ondoy struck. Now the firm, flooded with claims, is finding it hard surviving the tsunami.

Vehicles already covered by comprehensive insurance can still insert “acts of God” clauses. Some insurers do a careful case-to-case screening and add a surcharge amounting to about .35 percent of the vehicle’s market value.

But we advise owners to read the fine print with the help of a lawyer. Some clients with “acts of God” clauses complain that they are slapped with exclusions not mentioned earlier and are made to pay for storage while their cars await service and repair

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ON SQUATTERS: The online discussion whipped up by our Oct. 8 Postscript (“Don’t allow squatters’ return to old locations”) drew a consensus for barring squatters from their old lairs near waterways and relocating them. Early feedback:

Pete Medina – With elections coming, I don’t think those tasked to implement that (preventing squatters’ return) will have the political will to do so.

Mariz Cubelo – Everyone, from squatters to local officials, syndicated squatters/landgrabbers, politicos, down to Malacanang, is to blame for disasters traceable to corruption. Nagsisipunta sa Metro Manila ang taga-provinsiya because of the wrong ‘assistance’ given squatters.

Imnotcool — The best na gawin eh alisan ng karapatan bumoto ang squatters. If gusto nila bumoto, lumipat sila sa legal. Kawawa ang lumalaban ng parehas, ang taxes na binabayad nila, naaallocate lang sa liabilities ng bansa natin. Ibigay ang karapatang bumoto sa taong may contribution sa bansa.

Einsteinalbert — There are still many new locations for them kung di sila pababalikin. If they could just be given employment in the countryside, kaso wala trabaho. In Metro Manila there are many ‘strategies’ for them to earn a living.

HKboy — Here in Hong Kong, anumang urban planning at land use palaging may public consultations. Their plan for the next 30 years is already in place. Sana katulad ng public servants dito ang pulitiko natin dyan sa Pilipinas.

Jandsam_voy – Singapore’s population density is more than 6,000 per sq km whereas Philippines has only 300+ per sq km. They are able to maintain a balance between environment and population, because residential development is more on a vertical construction, not horizontal.

Kr150 — Dapat magpasa na lang ng bill under the local gov’t code. All elected local officials shall not be eligible for reelection if more than 1 percent of their population consists of informal settlers.

Zerimar1329 — It is high time we prevented these informal/illegal settlers from rebuilding their illegally-situated/built houses. Like what Mayor SB is doing, he is clearing squatter areas affected by typhoons. Samantalahin na ang panahon para mapilitan sila at ng gobyerno para i-relocate. — In some barangays in Metro Manila, positions are occupied by squatters themselves! How can you then order them to vacate illegally acquired properties when the leaders themselves are illegal residents?

Ejflores — An adjustment to the Bill of Rights must ensure that those who could vote for local positions are those with legitimate addresses. Squatters could be allowed to vote only for the President, Vice President and senators, but not for governors, congressmen, mayors, vice mayors and councilors.

Rene nucum – Utility companies should not install electrical and water connections to any property without the written consent of the legitimate owner. This will lessen the problem of squatting.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 11, 2009)

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