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Motor Accident Claims Tribunal: Rights Of The Victim, Evolution of the Procedure

The present study is intended to focus on the rights of victims of motor accidents in India. The purpose of this study is to understand a better aspect regarding the rights of those victims who have suffered due to motor accidents. The present study attempts to study the functioning of the Motor Vehicle Act 1988 and its effect on the one who has suffered. Besides, the study also endeavoured to find the key problems that the victim faces during the whole process.

The objective of this study:
  1. To study the rights of the victims
  2. To find the responsibility of the accused
  3. To find the responsibility of the State
  4. To find the responsibility of the third party
To understand victims & accused in a motor vehicle accident, one must know the definition of a few terms as per the law.
  1. Driver: As per MVA1988 (Motor Vehicle Accident Act) 2(9) "driver" includes, in relation to a motor vehicle which is drawn by another motor vehicle, the person who acts as a steersman of the drawn vehicle.
  2. Driving License: As per MVA1988 (Motor Vehicle Accident Act) 2(10), "driving license" means the license issued by a competent authority under Chapter II authorizing the person specified therein to drive, otherwise than as a learner, a motor vehicle or a motor vehicle of any specified class or description.
  3. Motor Vehicle: As per MVA1988 (Motor Vehicle Accident Act) 2(28), "motor vehicle" or "vehicle" means any mechanically propelled vehicle adapted for use upon roads whether the power of propulsion is transmitted thereto from an external or internal source and includes a chassis to which a body has not been attached and a trailer; but does not include a vehicle running upon fixed rails or a vehicle of a special type adapted for use only in a factory or in any other enclosed premises or a vehicle having less than four wheels fitted with an engine capacity of not exceeding twenty-five cubic centimeters.
  4. Owner: As per MVA1988 (Motor Vehicle Accident Act) 2(30), "owner" means a person in whose name a motor vehicle stands registered, and where such person is a minor, the guardian of such minor, and in relation to a motor vehicle which is the subject of a hire-purchase agreement, or an agreement of lease or an agreement of hypothecation, the person in possession of the vehicle under that agreement.

What Does The Statistics States

The Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has recently published the annual report 'ROAD ACCIDENTS IN INDIA - 2021' The report provides information on various facets of road accidents in the country during the calendar year 2021. As per the report, there were a total of 4,12,432 incidences of road accidents which claimed 1,53,972 lives and caused injuries to 3,84,448 persons in the year 2021.

During 2020, the road accidents dropped drastically due to the outbreak of COVID-19 in the whole nation, but eventually the number rose again by 1.9 percent as comparison to year 2019 in the case of fatal injuries caused due to road accidents.

As per another survey done by the WHO (world health organization) every hour, 40 people under the age of 25 die in road accidents around the globe. Trucks and two Wheeler are responsible for for over 40 per cent of death, it is the pedestrians or the cyclists in most of the cases, who are daily involved in the accidents caused by the motor vehicles.

Causes For Road Accidents

  1. Over speeding
  2. Driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol
  3. Dangerous or negligent driving
  4. Weather conditions
  5. Breaking traffic rules
  6. Potholes and bad road conditions

Case Studies

Sakshi Jolly V.State

This is an ongoing case in the Hon'ble District Court of Rohini. In this case, the plaintiff is the victim who was severely injured by the road accident. The applicant was riding as a pillion driver and her colleague was driving the two-wheeler. The plaintiff is a school teacher and is the major source of income for her family.

The applicant and her colleague were waiting for the green light signal to go after the red light signal, when the two-wheeler vehicle was hit by a four-wheel vehicle Tata Nexon (DL9CAX5062). The accused vehicle hit the victim's vehicle forcefully due to which the applicant fell and grievously injured her spine.

The victim was later hospitalised on 14.10.2022. On 16.10.2022, an FIR ( first investigation report ) was filed by the plaintiff against the accused. The applicant was hospitalised in the Indian Spinal Injuries Centre under the team of Dr. Ankur. The IO( Investigating Officer) recorded the victim's statement on 16.10.2022 in the ward of the hospital.

The victim had to go for a complete rest routine for 6 months straight due to the injuries inflicted upon her by the accident. The victim was also on leave from her school for 6 months straight and also suffered financial loss. Later on, due to the negligence of the Investigating Officer, the investigation was not done in a proper manner.

The issue of the case is that the DAR( Detailed analysis report) has not been filled by the investigating officer till now. This ongoing case does not only deal with the rights of the victims and the liability of the accused, but also the liability of the Investigating Officer regarding the Detailed Analysis Report(DAR).

Case Reference:
  1. In the case of 'Rajesh Tyagi & Ors. vs Jaibir Singh & Ors', the court formulated the claims tribunal agreed procedure for time-bound settlement of a motor accident within 90 to 120 days without the need for filing a claim petition. The court directed Delhi police to prepare an accident Investigation Manual to implement the claims Tribunal's Agreed procedure.
  2. In the case of 'Concord Of India Insurance Co Ltd vs Nirmala Devi And Ors 1979 AIR 1666, 1979 SCR (3) 694', the court stated that an explosive escalation of automobile accidents, accounting for more deaths than most deadly diseases, has become a lethal phenomenon on Indian roads everywhere. Justice Krishna Iyer observed that the poor, who are by and large casualties in most of these cases, suffer loss of life or limb and are deprived of expeditious legal remedies, etc. The court held that delay in providing relief to the aggrieved party is equal to denying justice to the victim.
  3. In the case of 'Jai Prakash vs M/S. National Insurance Co. & Ors' (2010 ACJ 455, 2010 (2) ALT 1 (SC), 2010 (1) AWC 636 (SC), 2010 (1) SCALE 8, (2010) 2 SCC 607), the court held that in cases of death, where the liability of the insurer is not disputed, the insurance companies should, without waiting for the decision of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal or a settlement before the Lok Adalat, endeavor to pay the family (Legal representatives) of the deceased compensation as per the standard formula determined by the decisions of this Court. In cases of injuries to any accident victim, where the liability is not disputed, the insurer should offer treatment at its cost to the injured, without waiting for an award from the Tribunal. If insurance companies can pay the bills for the treatment of those who have taken a medical insurance policy, we see no reason why they should not extend a similar treatment to the accident victims of vehicles insured by them.
  4. In the case of 'Karan v. State NCT of Delhi DLT 352', a landmark judgment was given by the Hon'ble Delhi High Court that has devised a formula of Victim Impact Report to determine the quantum of compensation to the victim in conjunction with the paying capacity of the accused. The Victim Impact Report is to be filed by the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) in every criminal case after conducting a summary inquiry. After the conviction of the accused, the trial court shall direct the accused to file an affidavit of his assets and income within 10 days of the crime on the victim, the expenses incurred on prosecution as well as the paying capacity of the accused. If the accused does not have the capacity to pay the compensation or if the compensation awarded against the accused is not adequate for the rehabilitation of the victim, the Court shall invoke Section 357-A of the Cr. P. C. to recommend the case to DSLSA to award compensation from the Victim Compensation Fund under the Delhi Victims Compensation Scheme, 2018.
  5. In the case of 'Savelife Foundation & Anr. V. Union of India & Anr', the court allowed the writ petition under Article 32 of the Indian Constitution. The court observed that the petition appealed to the court for a set of guidelines for the Samaritans and their protection as they are the immediate people who can render help to the injured victims. It emphasized that the Samaritans fear or hesitate to help because of the "fear of involvement in litigation and other legal consequences."
There have been laws framed in various other countries, such as England and Wales, where Parliament has formed the "Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism Act, 2015″, which contains provisions 2 and 4 that deal with the way the respondent was behaving, that is, bona fide or mala fide, and the other deals with whether the respondent heroically saved the individual in danger. Other countries are Ireland, Australia, Canada, etc., wherein the laws related to Samaritans have been formed.

The court held that Article 21, which covers the right to life, also extends to the "right of safety of persons while travelling on the road, and immediate medical assistance as a necessary corollary is required to be provided, as well as adequate legal protection and prevention from harassment to good Samaritans."

Liability And Legal Provisions

The victim who has suffered the loss of life or who has been griviously injured has the right to get the remedy. For protection of the victim's legal rights the, law has provided some legal provisions to the people.
  • There are two types of remedies available to the victim:
    1. Civil Remedies are those remedies that a party has to pay to the victim of a wrong he commits. Civil remedies require the cooperation of the victim and are voluntary.
    2. Criminal Remedies are those remedies that are general deterrence even though it is initiated against certain known or unknown infringers or violators.
  • In civil remedies, the legal proceeding has to be done by the victim by itself, whereas in criminal remedies, the legal proceeding is initiated by the state. The legal provisions related to the referred case "SAKSHI JOLLY V STATE(NCT OF DELHI)" are section 279, section 320, and section 337 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 and section 158(6) of the motor vehicle act 1988.
  • There are two types of compensation which the individual has to pay off, as follows:
    1. Pecuniary Compensation is payable for the loss of earning capacity, relating to property or business and medical expenses.
    2. Non-Pecuniary Compensation is payable for pain & suffering, shock, discomfort, etc.

The legal provisions are as follow:
  • Section 279 of the Indian Penal Code states, Rash driving or riding on a public way:
    Whoever drives any vehicle, or rides, on any public way in a manner so rash or negligent as to endanger human life, or to be likely to cause hurt or injury to any other person, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
  • Section 320 of the Indian Penal Code states, grievous hurt:

    The following kinds of hurt only are designated as "grievous":
    1. Emasculation.
    2. Permanent privation of the sight of either eye.
    3. Permanent privation of the hearing of either ear.
    4. Privation of any member or joint.
    5. Destruction or permanent impairing of the powers of any member or joint.
    6. Permanent disfiguration of the head or face.
    7. Fracture or dislocation of a bone or tooth.
    8. Any hurt which endangers life or which causes the sufferer to be during the space of twenty days in severe bodily pain, or unable to follow his ordinary pursuits.
  • Section 337 of the Indian Penal Code states, Causing hurt by an act endangering life or the personal safety of others.�Whoever causes hurt to any person by doing any act so rashly or negligently as to endanger human life, or the personal safety of others, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months, or with a fine which may extend to five hundred rupees, or with both.
  • Section158(6) of the Motor Vehicle Act 1988 states, As soon as any information regarding any accident involving death or bodily injury to any person is recorded or report under this section is completed by a police officer, the officer incharge of the police station shall forward a copy of the same within thirty days from the date of recording of information or, as the case may be, on completion of such report to the Claims Tribunal having jurisdiction and a copy thereof to the concerned insurer, and where a copy is made available to the owner, he shall also within thirty days of receipt of such report, forward the same to such Claims Tribunal and Insurer.
  • Section 147(2) of the motor Vehicle Act 1988 states, ) Subject to the proviso to sub-section (1), a policy of insurance referred to in sub-section (1), shall cover any liability incurred in respect of any accident, up to the following limits, namely:
    1. save as provided in clause
    2. the amount of liability incurred;
    3. in respect of damage to any property of a third party, a limit of rupees six thousand: Provided that any policy of insurance issued with any limited liability and in force, immediately before the commencement of this Act, shall continue to be effective for a period of four months after such commencement or till the date of expiry of such policy whichever is earlier.
  • Section 149 of Motor Vehicle Act 1988 states, Duty of insurers to satisfy judgments and awards against persons insured in respect of third party risks:
    1. If, after a certificate of insurance has been issued under sub-section (3) of section 147 in favour of the person by whom a policy has been effected, judgment or award in respect of any such liability as is required to be covered by a policy under clause (b) of sub-section (1) of section 147 (being a liability covered by the terms of the policy) 1 [or under the provisions of section 163A] is obtained against any person insured by the policy, then, notwithstanding that the insurer may be entitled to avoid or cancel or may have avoided or cancelled the policy, the insurer shall, subject to the provisions of this section, pay to the person entitled to the benefit of the decree any sum not exceeding the sum assured payable thereunder, as if he were the judgment debtor, in respect of the liability, together with any amount payable in respect of costs and any sum payable in respect of interest on that sum by virtue of any enactment relating to interest on judgments.
    2. No sum shall be payable by an insurer under sub-section (1) in respect of any judgment or award unless, before the commencement of the proceedings in which the judgment or award is given the insurer had notice through the Court or, as the case may be, the Claims Tribunal of the bringing of the proceedings, or in respect of such judgment or award so long as execution is stayed thereon pending an appeal; and an insurer to whom notice of the bringing of any such proceedings is so given shall be entitled to be made a party thereto and to defend the action on any of the following grounds, namely:
      1. that there has been a breach of a specified condition of the policy, being one of the following conditions, namely:
  1. a condition excluding the use of the vehicle:
    • for hire or reward, where the vehicle is on the date of the contract of insurance a vehicle not covered by a permit to ply for hire or reward
    • for organised racing and speed testing
    • for a purpose not allowed by the permit under which the vehicle is used, where the vehicle is a transport vehicle
    • without side-car being attached where the vehicle is a motor cycle
  2. a condition excluding driving by a named person or persons or by any person who is not duly licensed, or by any person who has been disqualified for holding or obtaining a driving licence during the period of disqualification.
  3. a condition excluding liability for injury caused or contributed to by conditions of war, civil war, riot or civil commotion
    • that the policy is void on the ground that it was obtained by the non-disclosure of a material fact or by a representation of fact which was false in some material particular
  1. Where any such judgment as is referred to in sub-section (1) is obtained from a Court in a reciprocating country and in the case of a foreign judgment is, by virtue of the provisions of section 13 of the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) conclusive as to any matter adjudicated upon by it, the insurer (being an insurer registered under the Insurance Act, 1938 (4 of 1938) and whether or not he is registered under the corresponding law of the reciprocating country) shall be liable to the person entitled to the benefit of the decree in the manner and to the extent specified in sub-section (1), as if the judgment were given by a Court in India: Provided that no sum shall be payable by the insurer in respect of any such judgment unless, before the commencement of the proceedings in which the judgment is given, the insurer had notice through the Court concerned of the bringing of the proceedings and the insurer to whom notice is so given is entitled under the corresponding law of the reciprocating country, to be made a party to the proceedings and to defend the action on grounds similar to those specified in sub-section (2).
  2. Where a certificate of insurance has been issued under sub-section (3) of section 147 to the person by whom a policy has been effected, so much of the policy as purports to restrict the insurance of the persons insured thereby by reference to any conditions other than those in clause (b) of sub-section (2) shall, as respects such liabilities as are required to be covered by a policy under clause (b) of sub-section (1) of section 147, be of no effect: Provided that any sum paid by the insurer in or towards the discharge of any liability of any person which is covered by the policy by virtue only of this sub-section shall be recoverable by the insurer from that person.
  3. If the amount which an insurer becomes liable under this section to pay in respect of a liability incurred by a person insured by a policy exceeds the amount for which the insurer would apart from the provisions of this section be liable under the policy in respect of that liability, the insurer shall be entitled to recover the excess from that person.
  4. In this section the expressions "material fact" and "material particular" means, respectively a fact or particular of such a nature as to influence the judgment of a prudent insurer in determining whether he will take the risk and, if so at what premium and on what conditions and the expression "liability covered by the terms of the policy" means a liability which is covered by the policy or which would be so covered but for the fact that the insurer is entitled to avoid or cancel or has avoided or cancelled the policy.
  5. No insurer to whom the notice referred to in sub-section (2) or sub-section (3) has been given shall be entitled to avoid his liability to any person entitled to the benefit of any such judgment or award as is referred to in sub-section (1) or in such judgment as is referred to in sub-section (3) otherwise than in the manner provided for in sub-section (2) or in the corresponding law of the reciprocating country, as the case may be.
For the purpose of this section, "Claims Tribunal" means a Claims Tribunal constituted under section 165 and "award" means an award made by that Tribunal under section 168.

The Insurance Company Liability

The insurance company must know about an accident immediately upon its occurrence so that it can do the necessary investigation. The Investigating officer shall submit a report with respect to the negligence of the driver of the offending vehicle. details. The insurance company, if satisfied with the negligence of the offending vehicle.

The insurance company should compute the compensation and submit a report to the claims tribunal. In the case of National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Swaran Singh [2004(3) SCC 297] clearly laid down that the liability of the Insurance Company vis�-vis the owner would depend upon several factors.

The owner would be liable for payment of compensation in a case where the driver did not have a licence at all. It was the obligation on the part of the owner to take adequate care to see that the driver had an appropriate licence to drive the vehicle. In the case of 'P.S. Somanathan and Ors. V. District Insurance Officer and Anr'. The court clearly formulated the principles very lucidly and which are quoted below:

Basically, only three facts need to be established by the claimants for assessing compensation in the case of death:
  1. age of the deceased;
  2. income of the deceased; and the
  3. the number of dependents.
The issues to be determined by the Tribunal to arrive at the loss of dependency are:
  1. additions/deductions to be made for arriving at the income;
  2. the deduction to be made towards the personal living expenses of the deceased;
  3. the multiplier to be applied with reference of the age of the deceased.

If these determinants are standardized, there will be uniformity and consistency in the decisions. There will lesser need for detailed evidence. It will also be easier for the insurance companies to settle accident claims without delay.

To have uniformity and consistency, the Tribunals should determine compensation in cases of death, by the following well-settled steps:
  1. Step 1 (Ascertaining the multiplicand)
    The income of the deceased per annum should be determined. Out of the said income, a deduction should be made in regard to the amount which the deceased would have spent on himself by way of personal and living expenses. The balance, which is considered to be the contribution to the dependant family, constitutes the multiplicand.
  2. Step 2 (Ascertaining the multiplier)
    Having regard to the age of the deceased and period of active career, the appropriate multiplier should be selected.

    This does not mean ascertaining the number of years he would have lived or worked but for the accident. Having regard to several imponderables in life and economic factors, a table of multipliers with reference to the age has been identified by this Court. The multiplier should be chosen from the said table with reference to the age of the deceased.
  3. Step 3 (Actual calculation)
    The annual contribution to the family (multiplicand) when multiplied by such multiplier, gives the 'loss of dependency' to the family.
The parties accused and the third party i.e the insurance companies are both liable to pay compensation to the victim who has suffered the loss due to the negligence of both or either of the parties.

The key conclusion of this study is to understand the rights of victims who either suffer the loss of their life or suffer grievous injury in their life. The victim who loses his/her life in an accident is not only the sufferer of some other person's negligence, but also his/her family who suffers the most afterwards.

The law assures the victim to provide justice and compensation to them or to their family members, but the delay in providing those kills the justice itself. In the ongoing case of 'Sakshi Jolly v. State' the victim has already suffered the loss, she has to leave her school for six months. Being a mother and a teacher, she has also suffered mentally and has faced financial problems in her family. The victim's husband had a job but, at that point of time it, was not sufficient for him to bear all the expenses(medical, household, education etc).

Later on, due to the negligence of an Investigating officer, the DAR which should have been filled within 90-120 days (Rajesh Tyagi & Ors. vs Jaibir Singh & Ors ) has not been filled yet. The investigation has not been completed yet and its already been 10 months since the accident. The victim should be provided the compensation as laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in P.S. Somanathan and Ors. V. District Insurance Officer and Anr.


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