Degrees of wear

The Insured submitted a claim against his Insurer for damage to his motor vehicle arising out of an incident which occurred on the 3rd June 2007. The Insured was travelling on his way home from his place of employment in Johannesburg when he encountered a truck in the middle of the road with no lights. The Insured braked severely in an endeavor to avoid a collision, but was not able to avoid hitting the truck.

The Insurer rejected liability for the Insured’s claim on the grounds that the vehicle was in an unroadworthy condition at the time of the incident. The Insurer stated in its response to the Ombudsman that its investigations into the matter had established that the truck with which the Insured had collided had slowed down as there was another accident ahead of the truck. The Insured had skidded for approximately three vehicle lengths before colliding with the truck and had been unable to bring the vehicle he was driving to a stop. An inspection of the insured vehicle had revealed that the left front tyre was 100% smooth together with flat spots on the surface whilst the right front tyre was 25% smooth on the outside aspect of the tyre.

Based upon photographs supplied by the Insurer of the condition of the tyres and the circumstances in which the accident occurred, the Ombudsman agreed with the Insurer’s contention that the vehicle had not been in a roadworthy condition at the time of the loss and rejected the Insured’s contention that the tyres “got worn off” due to the severe braking he had applied in an endeavor to avoid colliding with the truck. The Ombudsman held that the condition of the tyres on the Insured’s vehicle was clearly material in relation to the loss and that independent tests carried out in the United Kingdom had established that the tread depth on the tyre could considerably influence the distance taken to bring a vehicle to a standstill and could also affect the handling characteristics of a vehicle.

The Insurer’s rejection of the claim was accordingly upheld.

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