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Does this phrase mean that damages to the undercarriage caused by water is not covered, OR does it mean damage to the undercarriage is not covered regardless of the cause, and that damage to the undercarriage is ALSO not covered if it is damaged by water?

This is the source of the text:

THE FOLLOWING ARE SPECIFICALLY EXCLUDED FROM THE OPERATION OF SUPER WAIVERS:

  • Damage to the undercarriage; damage caused by water
  • Damage due to driver negligence, where the vehicle was driven by an unauthorized driver or where the driver’s license was invalid or endorsed & where the rental agreement was not properly extended or the standard terms and conditions of rental were breached.
  • Damage or loss where incidents/accidents are not properly reported.
  • Damage or loss where the incident/accident happened outside South African borders where the vehicle was taken outside the borders of South Africa without the suppliers’ prior written consent.
  • Damage or loss where the vehicle was driven on unsuitable roads for the type of vehicle (When we refer to “unsuitable roads”, we define this as roads where for example only 4x4s can drive so that customers don't deliberately abuse vehicles)
  • Loss of Keys
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  • If you're referring to the 'sentence' Damage to the undercarriage; damage caused by water, it isn't one. Jul 8, 2014 at 11:51
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    We're going to need all of the context. I guess this is from an insurance policy, but there's not really any information about where it is which might help with what it means. Please edit the question to provide enough information to provide an answer. Also: we're not lawyers! Whatever the answer, don't rely on a bunch of random guys on the internet to validate your insurance cover.
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 8, 2014 at 11:55
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    It appears that you are quoting a bit of a legal document (probably an insurance policy) out of context. While we may make guesses, we cannot answer your question without more context.
    – Colin Fine
    Jul 8, 2014 at 11:56
  • thanks guys, yes insurance jargon or shall I say car hire jargon and it is not to get a claim paid, but simply to negotiate cover with car hire companies, or to at least get them to change their wording to say exactly what they mean. Jul 9, 2014 at 12:22
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    Well, as just a random guy on the internet, I reckon that means that any damage to the "undercarriage" is excluded (however caused), and any damage caused by water (whichever part of the vehicle gets waterlogged). What did the hire company say?
    – Andrew Leach
    Jul 9, 2014 at 12:30

1 Answer 1

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The true mystery here is why the author of these conditions didn't break out "Damage caused by water" as a separate bullet point:

  • Damage to the undercarriage
  • Damage caused by water

I can't think of any rationale for having joined the two parts of "Damage to the undercarriage; damage caused by water" with a semicolon and run them as a single item—unless it was to give the visual appearance of there being fewer exclusions in the policy than there actually are (which would be pretty sneaky of the author).

If the author had intended "damage caused by water" to specify the particular kind of damage to the undercarriage that was excluded from coverage, the simple way to have done it would have been to combine the two provisions in the first bullet point into a single phrase:

  • Water-related damage to the undercarriage

But it seems clear to me that the actual provisions intend to exclude both damage to the undercarriage from any source and damage to any part caused by water.

A good rule of thumb in interpreting legal contracts is to assume that the company you are doing business with intends the contract terms to be read as expansively as possible in relation to its own advantages and benefits, and as restrictively as possible in relation to yours.

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