Payouts need rethinking
Last week, the Office of the Insurance Commission (OIC), the state regulator overseeing the insurance industry, made a rare yet correct move in ordering an insurance company to pay 2.5 million baht in compensation to a family whose daughter died in a vehicle accident in Buriram province on May 1.
The victim, 21-year-old Patcharapa Kayram, a senior law school student at Rajabhat Buriram University, died when her motorcycle collided with a Mercedes-Benz.
Her parents went to the media and the courts, with accusations The Southeast Insurance were dragging their feet in providing compensation. The company reportedly denied the accusations, saying they needed to follow certain rules while adding that official evidence showed that the young motorbike driver was negligent in her driving until the Supreme Court said otherwise when it ruled in August that she was not at fault.
The OIC's secretary-general Suthipol Taweechaikarn reportedly ordered the company to quickly pay compensation or risk being fined with a penalty fee of up to 500,000 baht and a daily fine of up to 20,000 baht. In doing so the IOC has set a precedent that other insurance companies should heed. The industry has been subjected to its fair share of criticism recently, especially some notorious cases of flip-flopping over Covid-19 related insurance.
But to be fair, insurance companies have played a role in making compensation available to more people in society. Yet much goodwill has been drowned out by complaints about insurance companies dwelling rigidly on rules and laws, giving the perception they disregard human loss. The harsh reality is that it has become a pattern that most traffic accident victims or their families have to struggle in order to receive compensation that they are not only entitled to but which they should have been paid promptly.
Indeed, the Kayram family's case for compensation should not be considered typical as their lawsuit for compensation only took several months to conclude. Other families have experienced otherwise. According to the non-profit legal service Foundation for Consumers, another family spent up to nine years in the Supreme Court fighting to get compensation over the death of their son who was killed when a public van crashed into a truck a decade ago. Under that case, the civil court found the public van driver -- who could not afford to pay compensation -- guilty while it acquitted the public bus van company. In another case, the family of Rossukol Kulnim, who suffered from a skull fracture after a public bus she boarded was hit by a truck, needed to ask the foundation to help on compensation because the bus operator refused to pay for her medical bills. The family was told to use the Universal Healthcare card instead.
There has been a recommendation from civic groups that a special state body needs to be formed to handle the problem of compensation, one that is outside of the OIC and more acutely focused on the problem of compensation. Such a body could act as a focal point to handle paperwork and legal issues for victims claiming compensation instead of having them pursue compensation with an insurance company through the courts. In addition, the government needs to increase penalties for culprits and insurance companies that delay compensation payments.
Being injured or killed in a car accident is a tragedy enough, and only made worse if there is a struggle to get any compensation deserved. Government must not let this type of predicament continue and be the norm.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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