Imagine this: your car was involved in an accident and you claimed Rs 1 lakh as total loss under your motor insurance. More often than not, the insurance company would say that you are eligible for only Rs 75,000 due to some deductibles. Instead of wasting time over arguing over the amount, you decide to accept Rs 75,000 and sign the 'discharge voucher' or 'settlement intimation voucher' hoping to lodge a complaint later or go to court, if required.
However, when the matter reaches court, the insurance company says that since you have signed the voucher, the claim has been settled in full and you have agreed to it, thereby giving up your right to contest the claim.
All this may change now. Recently, the Insurance Regulatory Authority of India (Irdai) has said that the execution of such vouchers does not foreclose the rights of policy holder to seek higher compensation before any judicial fora or any other fora established by law''.ALSO READ: Pay minimum annuity of Rs 1,000 monthly: IRDAI to insurers
This is good for policyholders, says Arvind Laddha CEO, Vantage Insurance brokers. "At the time of settling claims, policyholders have to sign the voucher. In many cases, insurance companies refuse to pay any claim if policyholders do not sign the voucher. So, often policyholders sign thinking that they can get at least some money. Due to this policyholders used to find it difficult to go to court once they signed the voucher. But now following Irdai's clarification, they can pursue the case if they are not happy with the claim amount,'' he explains. He cites the example of a contractor who had filed a claim of Rs 3 crore for a road that was washed away.
But the insurance company agreed to pay only Rs 1.5 crore, that too after four years of filing for claim, saying that the contractor had not followed some rules.
A discharge voucher or settlement intimation voucher is a signed form the insurer takes from the insured. Such a voucher is taken at the time of claim settlement. The form states the amount that will be payable to the customer and he/she has to acknowledge the amount by signing the form. If this form is not taken by the insurer, though the claim would be paid, it would remain open in the books of the insurer.
If customers feels something is wrong or if they are not satisfied with the claim amount, they can raise a complaint even if they have signed the voucher, says Sanjay Datta, chief of underwriting and claims, ICICI Lombard General Insurance. "In most cases, once customers sign the discharge voucher, they don't come back for additional claims. But that has to be done within three years of settling the claim. After three years, the policyholder cannot ask for additional claims,'' he says.
While technically, vouchers have to be issued in all kinds of policies, usually complaints arise more in fire and motor policies, especially in third party claims, because there is scope for negotiation in such cases, says V Jagannathan, Chairman-Managing Director, Star Health and Allied Insurance. "It is a good move to protect policyholders. But how it will affect customer complaints in future needs to be seen,'' he says.