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Driving in the winter with summer tyres – will insurance pay?

If you drive on summer tyres in winter, you are very likely to skid. This can quickly become expensive, for example, if a driver skids on a snow-covered road and causes an accident. Will the insurance company pay out in this case?

26 December 2019, text: Esin Ezer, photo: istock

Driving with summer tyres in the winter can have unintended consequences – that goes for insurance, too.
Driving with summer tyres in the winter can have unintended consequences – that goes for insurance, too.

The rule of thumb in our latitudes is to use winter tyres from October to Easter. Winter tyres protect drivers from skidding on snow-covered or icy roads and reduce collisions with other vehicles. However, this rule should be interpreted flexibly.

Change tyres when it drops below 8°C

Summer tyres contain less natural rubber and become stiffer in colder conditions, which means they lose grip. It is therefore advisable to switch to winter tyres when temperatures drop below 8°C – even if there is no snow. On snow-covered roads, the shallow tread pattern of summer tyres compacts the snow, making roads more dangerous. The deep grooves in the tread of winter tyres, on the other hand, pick up snow and slush and give better traction.

Insurance company may reduce benefits

The big question is: will the insurance company pay for damage in the event of an accident while using summer tyres on icy or snow-covered roads, or does the driver have to pay for part of it? As a general rule, comprehensive insurance covers damage to your own vehicle in the event of an accident. However, depending on the circumstances of the accident and the condition of the vehicle – including which type of tyres you are using – your conduct may be considered grossly negligent. In this case, you will be required to pay for part of the damage, unless you have concluded supplementary insurance for gross negligence as part of your motor vehicle insurance.

If you do not have this supplement, the insurance company may reduce or reject your benefits from the comprehensive insurance after assessing the concrete facts. Motor vehicle liability insurance covers the costs of any damage to a third-party vehicle. However, in the event of gross negligence, the insurance company will take recourse against you and charge you for some of the costs.

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