Although the motor vehicle has enhanced the life of people but the benefits have come with a price. The number of fatal and disabling road accidents increases with the rise of numbers of vehicle on the road. As a developing nation, India is no exception. Thus the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 was implemented with the purpose of enhancing road safety and providing compensation to victim in case of loss of life or limb because of the accidents by motor vehicle.
In the Judgment of Manjusri Raha v/s B.L. Gupta [1977 SCR (2) 944], the Hon’ble Justice Fazal Ali observed that at a time when we are on the way to progress and prosperity, our country can ill-afford to lose so many precious lives every year for though the percentage of deaths caused by motor accidents in other countries is high, in our own country the same is not by any means negligible, but is a factor to be reckoned with.
Factors Contributing Motor Vehicle Accidents
Most of the people are aware of the general traffic and safety rules while using the roads but it is only carelessness or error on the part of the human which cause the fatal and damaging accidents. The following are the factors which contributes majorly in the road accidents-
- Over speeding- Faster the vehicle, more prone to accident.
- Drink & Drive- Alcohol reduces concentration and also hampers vision due to dizziness. It reduces fear and incite individual to take risks. Therefore, consumption of alcohol when mixed with driving, it may result in misfortune.
- Distraction-Though distraction while driving could be minor but it can cause major accidents. Distraction to the driver could be outside or inside the vehicle. The act of division of brain hampers reaction time and ability of judgment. Some of the distractions while driving on the road are:
- Talking on mobile phone
- Adjusting mirrors, stereo in vehicle
- Smoking cigarette
- Animals on the road
- Banners and Billboards
- Breaking of traffic rules-Individuals who do not follow the traffic rules while driving for instance safety gears such as helmet and seat belts and jumps red light lead themselves into a dangerous situation which mostly results into casualty. It is very common that vehicles cross without caring for the light, which puts them in danger of clashing with other vehicle. The idea behind red light jumping is saving time and fuel. A person who jumps the red light not only jeopardizes his life and property but also the safety of the public at road.
- Condition of the road-Roads should be well maintained and defects such as potholes or damaged roads are one of the causes due to which chances of accidents increases.
- Weather Conditions- Such as fog, mist, rain also increases the chances of the clashes between the two vehicles.
- Overcapacity- Sometimes people ignore the capacity of the vehicle and overload it which unfortunately results in clashing of vehicles only due to unbalance of the overloaded vehicle.
Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal
Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal has been constituted under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988. It deals with claims relating to loss of life or property and injury cases resulting from motor accidents. It has been constituted to provide speedier remedy to the victims of accidents. The tribunal takes away the jurisdiction of the civil courts in the matter relating to motor accidents.
Who can claim compensation?
- The person who has sustained the injury.
- The Owner of the damaged vehicle or property.
- All or any legal representative of the deceased who died in the accident.
- Any agent duly authorized by the injured person or by his legal representatives.
Which Court has Jurisdiction for the compensation claim?
A claim petition can be filed before a judicial officer who is not below the rank of a District Judge or who is qualified to be a Judge of the Hon’ble High Court. The tribunal must have the jurisdiction over the area in which the accident occurred or within the local limits of whose jurisdiction the claimant resides or carries on business or within the local limits of whose jurisdiction respondent resides.
Application of Limitation
There is no time limitation prescribed for filing claim petition under Motor Vehicle Act. However, unusual delay will require an explanation by the Tribunal.
Right to Appeal
Any person aggrieved by the decision of the Motor Accidents Claim tribunal can appeal before the Hon’ble High Court of the respective state. The appeal can be made within period of 90 days from the date of award of the tribunal. If the Hon’ble High Court is satisfied that the appellant was prevented by sufficient cause it may condone appeal after the expiry of the 90 days period.
What are the principles applicable for claiming the compensation?
- Principle of no fault liability- Section 140 of the Motor Vehicles Act provides that if any accidents results in death or permanent disablement of any person then the owner of vehicle are liable to pay compensation to such person. The owner of the vehicle liable to give compensation cannot refuse to do so by reason of wrongful act, neglect or default of the person whose death or permanent disablement has occurred. Even the quantum of compensation recoverable cannot be reduced on the basis of the share of such person in the responsibility for such death or permanent disablement.
- Compensation on Structured Formula Basis-Section 163 A of the Motor Vehicles Act that if any accidents results in death or permanent disablement of any person then the owner of the motor vehicle or the authorized insurer is liable to pay compensation as per the Second Schedule of the said Act to the victim or the legal representation of the person whose death or permanent disablement has occurred.
- Compensation in case of hit and run motor accident
- Section 161 of the Motor Vehicles Act provides the meaning of Hit and run motor accident as an accident arising out of the use of a motor vehicle or motor vehicles the identity whereof cannot be ascertained in spite of reasonable efforts for the purpose.
- As the identity of the owner or vehicle is not traceable in such circumstances a fixed amount of compensation is provided to the victim or his legal representatives from the funds created by the government.
Factors for assessment of compensation-
In the State of Haryana v/s Jasbir Kaur[(2003) 7 SCC 484], the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that the tribunal is required to determine the amount of compensation which should be ‘just and reasonable’ according to the damage or injuries sustained by the victim of the motor accident. The factors consider by the tribunal while calculating compensation are following-
- Age of the deceased
- Period of active career
- Annual contribution to the family
- Dependents in the family
- Medical treatment and funeral Cost if any
In the recent judgment of Erudhaya Priya v/s State Express Transport on July 2020 the Hon’ble Supreme Court held that it is necessary to take note of the factors like career prospects and future advancement in life while applying the multiplier method for compensation to the victim or legal representative of the victim.
The need of the hour is to reduce the increasing numbers of the accidents which need to be tackled by a multi-disciplinary approach. The approach to implement the rules and regulations should be effective and strictly implemented. Individuals should have awareness regarding the consequences of the after effects of such incidents mentally and physically. Mere celebration of the annual Road safety week does not serve the purpose. People should learn to show consideration and respect to other people driving and walking so that our roads become safer.
Associate at Aggarwals & Associates, SAS Nagar, Mohali