By Lauren Squier, Associate Designate and Alisha Naik and Candidate Attorney
The period of lockdown presently being experienced by South Africans – in response to the COVID-19 pandemic – has resulted in confusion and uncertainty relating to insurance policies, as well as the extent of the cover awarded thereunder. Both individuals and businesses are growing concerned as to whether or not their insurance policies cover losses as a result of this pandemic.
South African Special Risks Association (“SASRIA”) cover is not an element of cover directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it is becoming increasingly important due to the implementation of the Regulations to the to the Disaster Management Act 57 of 2002 (“the Regulations”) and the impact that they will have on our society.
In this article, we will address SASRIA cover insofar as it relates to COVID-19 by outlining why it is essential that this cover be expressly included in your insurance policy.
SASRIA is a state-owned enterprise and is an element of Short-Term insurance that caters to individuals; businesses and government entities (on both domestic and commercial policies) who own assets within South Africa. It insures against special risks (risks not being covered by insurers) such as civil commotion, public disorder, strikes, riots and / or terrorism and is specifically designed as an enhancement to add to regular insurance cover offered by insurers.
SASRIA is excluded from regular insurance cover on the basis of it being caused by extraordinary or unusual circumstances for which insurance companies are not prepared to assume risk.
SASRIA cover is not a legal requirement and is not automatically included in all insurance policies. The SASRIA premium amount consists of a small percentage of the premium paid over to the original insurance entity (through which you have your main policy).
SASRIA COVER AND COVID-19
As mentioned above, SASRIA cover is not directly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, however, the indirect impact may be dire if adequate insurance cover is not in place from inception.
The Regulations imposed in South Africa with the aim of flattening the curve to halt the spread of COVID-19, while completely necessary and unavoidable, have had a large and severe impact on the livelihoods of South Africans, their families, businesses and on the economy as a whole.
Many countries around the world have experienced resistance to their own Regulations imposed to address the COVID-19 pandemic, for example:
- In Thailand, rumours surrounding the pandemic have caused mass prison riots; and
- In Zimbabwe, anti-riot tanks have had to be deployed.
Locally, many have expressed their concerns that South Africa will follow suit and be subjected to similar riots and looting. In the event that this does become a reality and your property has been damaged as a result of any civil commotion, public disorder, strikes, riots and / or terrorism (whether on a domestic or commercial policy), it is important to understand that generic insurance policies will not cover this damage and if you do not have a SASRIA extension on the policy, your claim will be rejected.
It is therefore essential during this time that individuals and businesses ensure that they are sufficiently insured to cover any unforeseen impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Most people are unaware of what SASRIA cover is, or why it would ever become relevant to their lives. However, in this current climate of uncertainty and volatility, it is essential that this insurance cover be effectively and expressly instituted so as to defensively insure entities and limit the potential damage to estates or businesses, which may arise as a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The above is only a summary of a complex area of the law. Should you have any disputes with your insurer or questions relating to your insurance cover, we suggest that you approach a lawyer with the requite expertise in insurance law, as as a misunderstanding of the law could result in you not obtaining the results you desire.
Schindlers Attorneys remains open to the public and will be working remotely throughout the lockdown period. We are available and committed to providing sound, reliable legal advice and assistance to address any of your questions or concerns.