A death in Bali

A tragic accident

Katie and her husband, Michael, travelled to Bali for an impromptu holiday. They hired a scooter for transport on arrival. A few days into the trip they went for a mid-afternoon ride. The sun was out; the road was dry; traffic was light. Michael drove and Katie rode pillion.


There was a slight curve in the road, and for some reason Michael did not follow the road. The scooter went down a bank with Michael and Katie on it. It was a bad accident, but Michael and Katie managed to walk back up the bank. When they got back up to the road, Michael turned pale and collapsed. He died on the way to the local hospital.


A quick response from Katie’s travel insurer

Katie’s travel insurer immediately flew Michael’s brother to Bali to be with Katie. When Katie returned to New Zealand, she claimed for her expenses from the travel insurer. The expenses included repatriation of Michael’s body back to New Zealand, medical costs, repair costs to the scooter, Katie’s telephone bill and a lump sum payment for Michael’s death.


The travel insurer declined Katie’s claim for her remaining expenses. Michael did not have a licence to drive a scooter in Bali, and the travel insurer had an exclusion from cover written in its policy wording for accidents that happen while riding ”without a licence that is valid in the relevant country.” Katie complained to FSCL.


FSCL’s investigation

FSCL investigated and found:

  • Michael was an experienced motorbike rider, although he had never held a New Zealand motorbike licence.
  • Michael drove professionally, as a heavy vehicle and passenger vehicle driver for an adventure tour operator in New Zealand.
  • There appeared to be no official drivers’ licensing system for scooters in Bali. There were no documented laws, rules, policies or procedures. Travel information suggested that travellers could visit a local police station to fill out a form and pay the officials a nondescript sum of money. A Balinese licence was not a realistic means of vetting Michael’s competence to ride a scooter.
  • The facts did not suggest any kind of aggravating circumstances, such as heavy traffic or poor conditions, which would test Michael’s abilities as a rider.


FSCL’s view was that Katie had a valid argument under section 11 of the Insurance Law Reform Act 1977, that Michael and Katie’s accident was not caused or contributed to by Michael’s failure to obtain a Balinese licence.


The circumstances of Michael’s accident did not suggest a lack of competence on his part. Michael may have been inattentive towards the road and his surroundings, but he was not negligent or reckless. Michael was not speeding or driving dangerously. While Michael should not have been driving without a licence, obtaining a licence in Bali would not have been a realistic check on his driving abilities.



After detailed discussions with the travel insurer and Katie, the travel insurer offered to settle Katie’s claim in part. Katie accepted this offer. The complaint was resolved amicably and confidentially.