46 years later, this taxi insurance loophole remains

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This is an open letter to Colm Imbert, especially after his comments in a recent newspaper article ‘Imbert: Lots of quack doctors, fake lawyers’.

While he may be correct, I also observed carefully that neither the Insurance Act (Amendment) Bill nor the Insurance Act 2018 has addressed a 46-year-old problem in the insurance industry in Trinidad and Tobago.

This problem was identified in 1974 by (as he was then) Justice Edoo.

Since then, 46 years on, despite several Privy Council (JCPC) judgments, nothing has been done to correct the identified anomaly in the law.

I refer to the common and prevalent custom of a vehicle for hire (think maxi-taxis, taxis and buses) where the owner is one person and the driver another, who is not named on the insurance of the owner.

It’s common for this to occur in Trinidad and Tobago, with owners having fleets of vehicles in some cases, and the drivers are hired on a day-wage basis to bring an income to the owner.

In the The Presidential Insurance Company Ltd (Appellant) v Mohammed and others (Respondents) given on February 3, 2015, the JCPC once more pointed out that victims in accidents are not insured under the Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third – Party Risk) Act (Ch 48:51; Act 39 of 1933) (MVIA). In The Presidential Insurance Company Ltd v Resha St Hill from 2012 the same situation was pointed out, regardless of s7 of the MVIA. Both judgments ruled that the MVIA cannot forcibly indemnify a driver, regardless that he has the permission of the owner to drive the vehicle.

‘The Board recognises that there remains a serious problem about innocent victims suffering bodily injury or property damage as a result of the negligence of uninsured drivers. Parliament has attempted to address this social evil but loopholes remain…/… The problem, which Edoo J pointed out in Eligon v NEM (West Indies) Insurance Ltd Case No 686 of 1974, 23 April 1982, remains.’

It is not the remit of the JCPC to rewrite the laws of T&T.

It is the duty of Parliament.

It seems to me that despite the thousands or even tens of thousands of persons travelling on a daily basis in maxi-taxis, taxis and buses having no insurance coverage and remedy in law for injuries caused by accidents through no fault of their own, the various governments since 1974 have not seen this as important enough to fix in Parliament.

Mohan Ramcharan
Birmingham, England