In Summary
  • Excess is applied to quell frivolity and inculcate a sense of responsibility in the client, an approach I fully agree with.
  • The concept for the Comesa insurance cover is fairly straightforward: it is more for legal reasons than actual need for insurance cover.

There has been a whole lot of talk surrounding insurance in my circles these past few days.

It started off with my everlasting curiosity over what "excess" is, before being followed by the need for Comesa insurance once one drives across an international boundary in the lesser East African region (I am not sure what the drill is as far as the greater East African region and beyond are concerned, but let's deal with these one at a time).

The need for this Comesa knowledge stemmed from our latest Great Run adventure, the 15th installment, from which we have just returned, craftily named "Great Run XV: My Accent Changed".

The name should be a dead giveaway - our second three-day event saw us cross the boundary at Namanga and drive South into the union of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, commonly referred to as Tanzania, as far down as Moshi, round Mt Kilimanjaro via a lovely twisty road between Himo and Tarakea and back into Kenya through Oloitoktok.

This is a story for another day, but the long and short of it is that one needs Comesa insurance over and above whatever homegrown cover you already have for your car.

ARSON

And then there was Malik Heights. It would have been dismissed as just another building fire in this metaphorically heated city of ours had it not been for the presence of a car dealer forecourt close to the ground level of that high-rise building, an outlet that dabbled in the sales of transport solutions to high net worth individuals.

Those cars immediately caught the attention of observers, attention that may have been unwanted because immediately thereafter arose speculation as to the genesis of the fire: arson.

Please note this is purely speculation* and is by no means authoritative; I'm just going by what is doing the rounds on news channels and social media as of the time of writing.

The car dealer may have run afoul of one or more governmental institutions that deal with taxation and registration of motor vehicles, and these institutions intended to make their presence felt in two shakes of a lamb's tail.

Not so fast, hombres, someone enterprising listened to Marshall Mathers and decided to rock up with a can full of gas and a hand full of matches (and he was found out) to destroy what I presume is evidence (the exact details of how this was done, if it was done, remain murky, but flow with me here for a minute); the evidence being the inventory at the yard.

Such a shame that they had to set a building on fire along with it. This promptly throws a spanner into the speculative works.

LOSSES

Dodging taxes and registration fees is one thing, setting a high-rise building while at it is another.

Not just that, another fantastic fact is the value of the now-crispy inventory: estimates of $6 million dollars are being bandied about.

That's not chump change, it translates to 600 million Kenya shillings, or 600,000 of our soon-to-be-defunct 1,000-shilling notes.

That is a lot of bread, and if it is what needs to be destroyed, what kind of cheese are we looking at in play here? Good lord, I haven't been working hard enough.

(News developments indicated that a suspect had been caught by Big Brother's unsleeping, unblinking eye; and there is CCTV footage of a man deliberately setting the place ablaze.)

That said, deep discourse on the matter brought forth the aspect of insurance, which is in keeping with today's theme.

I naturally had to hit up some of the people I know in insurance to answer the questions I may have had, while deftly sidestepping controversial material in the process - and this right here is the result: a demystifier.

1. Unabeba "Excess"

Well, it may sound a bit off-key, but this an exact quote from my contact: "It is assumed by many people that once they (get comprehensive cover for their car) and pay premiums religiously, they will never have to part with any money in case something happens to the vehicle and they have to make a claim.

"However, this is not usually the case because you will still have to settle a percentage of the claim while the insurer pays the rest. The amount that you will pay out of your pocket towards the claim is what is referred to as excess"

The emphasis is his. Two things immediately stand out: the word "assumed" in the first part of the treatise and the word "usually" in the second part.

There is a famous quote about assuming making "asses" out of "umes" or something along those lines, but the gist of it is this: always read the fine print before signing on the dot.

You had better know exactly what you are getting into to prevent awkward and potentially heated (pun intended) moments come claims-time; which then leads us to "usually".

EXCESS

The use of that descriptor implies that there are exceptions to this, and there are. We will get to them shortly. First, we need to define what this excess is and why it exists.

"Excess is an amount/cost borne by the insured in the event of a loss and is the uninsured portion of your loss."

Thus spake my contact. He is kind of stating the obvious here, plus I thought insurance cover is "full". What is this about an "uninsured portion"?

This is why one needs to read the fine print. It turns out the cover is not 100 per cent, it only activates beyond a certain amount below which you are on your own.

Excess is applied to quell frivolity and inculcate a sense of responsibility in the client, an approach I fully agree with.

Insurance companies cannot be fronting for every scratched bumper or minor fender bender when they have total write-offs to work on as well.

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