Insurance may have to pay if accident driver is drunk enough

Insurance may have to pay if accident driver is drunk enough
Photo: DPA
Drivers who crash their own cars when drunk cannot expect their insurers to pay up, the German Federal Court has ruled – but a loophole still remains which means that a driver who is drunk out of their minds could rightfully make a claim.

A reduction of insurance payment is, according to the current law, only possible in the case of gross negligence – but not when the insured person is so drunk they can be classified as non compos mentis.

The Federal Court this week ruled on a case in which a 22-year-old man smashed his own car into a lamppost on the way home from a rock concert. More than an hour after the crash he was measured as having 0.27 percent alcohol in his blood, enabling his insurer to refuse to pay the €6,400 damage to his car.

The ruling was that when a driver is said to be absolutely incapable of driving – after 0.11 percent blood alcohol account, an insurer can decide to pay nothing at all – anyone who drives in that condition can be said to grossly negligent.

But the legal definition of gross negligence requires that the person concerned is capable of telling the difference between right and wrong.

This does not apply if the person is non compos mentis – or drunk out of their minds. In the case considered by the court in Karlsruhe, the 22-year-old was said to have been possibly over 0.3 percent blood alcohol content, after which point people are generally considered incapacitated.

The Federal Court acknowledged that there may have been a point earlier in the evening when the driver should have made a decision about whether to continue drinking and then drive. Because this had not been considered in the previous hearings, the Federal Court referred the case back to the Higher Regional Court in Dresden.


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