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Health Minister, John Junor has signaled the Ministry’s intent to lobby for a provision in future legislation to ensure that the issue of the payment for services rendered in public hospitals as a result of motor vehicle accidents, is duly addressed.
Minister Junor, who was speaking in support of yesterday’s (October 11) debate by the Lower House of the Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third Party Risks) Act, said this had to be done, as the costs to the sector were “escalating on a daily basis”.
“We feel very strongly that motorists have to be able to understand that there should be a recoverable amount from the insurance which they have, payable to those hospitals,” he pointed out.
Meanwhile, the amended legislation which was introduced in the Upper House on Friday, September 16 during a Private Member’s motion by Opposition Senator Arthur Williams, aims to correct the former injustice to insured parties by making it possible for an injured third party to collect from an insurance company the full amount of the actual coverage of the insurance policy or the full amount of the damages awarded by the Courts.
National Security Minister, Dr. Peter Phillips who piloted the Bill in the House, commended Senator Williams for having the matter placed before the Parliament, as well as Attorney General, Senator A.J. Nicholson for his co-operation in allowing passage in the manner in which the Bill was brought.
Noting that the Bill has commanded the agreement of both sides of the House, he pointed out that it corrected “an injustice and will bring benefit to many thousands of Jamaicans who are not able to recover the full extent of the damages that may be due to them in the present circumstances”.
The Bill seeks to amend the provisions of the Motor Vehicles Insurance (Third Party Risks) Act, based on the recommendation of the Jamaican Court of Appeal to correct injustice to third parties.
Senator Williams, addressing the Senate at the time, said the Jamaican Court of Appeal has on more than one occasion, in judgments of the Court, pointed out that the interpretation of section 18 (1) of the Motor Vehicle Insurance (Third Party Risks) Act has resulted in an injustice to injured parties and has recommended that the statute be amended to avoid this injustice.
This, he said, gave impetus to their call on “more than one occasion for the legislature to amend, without delay, the provisions of the Motor Vehicle Insurance (Third Party Risks) Act”.
The effect of the amendment, according to the Appeal Court, is that “if insurance companies agree to insure a party to the extent of a sum in excess of the statutory minimum and collect premiums based on that sum, it is unjust to require the companies to pay over to the injured party only the minimum coverage required by the statute”.
Mr. Nicholson had said in the Senate, that the amendment was supported fully, because the “injustice of the situation” was seen.
“You can’t have insurance companies charging premiums and saying that you are insured for $10 million and when a judgment is given against a person who is injured by the person who that company insures, and the law says you cannot go above a statutory minimum of one million dollars, the company that has taken from the insured person all of this money over the years says we will put that windfall in our pockets and will go no more than what the statutory limit says,” he added.
“It is an injustice.it is good that we are doing something about it,” he pointed out. Furthermore he noted that while it might be said that insurance companies might increase their premiums because of the changes to the law, “we intend to watch, as legislators”.
“This has to do with the smaller persons in society and we can’t have persons who, because we seek to regularize the law, seek thereafter to come to make further windfall,” the Attorney General said.The Bill was passed with one amendment.