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Thursday, January 10, 2013

Insurers win appeal ~ it was murder and not road accident

Motor Insurance is compulsory ~ all vehicles on public road should compulsory have insurance – not a policy covering the vehicle or its owner but some, which are stated in the Motor Vehicles Act itself.

Sec 147 of Motor Vehicles Act 1988 specifies the requirements of policies and limits of liability.  The primary requirement is : 147 (1) (b) (i) against any liability which may be incurred by him in respect of the death of or bodily injury to any person, including owner of the goods or his authorised representative carried in the vehicle or damage to any property of a third party caused by or arising out of the use of the vehicle in a public place; [section partially reproduced]

In effect any person getting injured or dying would get compensation under the Motor Vehicles Act.  Liability claims are made against the driver, owner of the vehicle involved in the accident and its Insurer.  For expeditious disposal of such claims arising out of Motor vehicles, Motor Accident Claims Tribunals have been constituted.  The defences available to the Insurer are very limited and again specified in the Motor Vehicles Act itself.  

There is another chapter – chap X ‘Liability without fault in certain cases’.  Sec 140. Liability to pay compensation in certain cases on the principle of no fault.- (1) Where death or permanent disablement of any person has resulted from an accident arising out of the use of a motor vehicle or motor vehicles, the owner of the vehicle shall, or, as the case may be, the owners of the vehicles shall, jointly and severally, be liable to pay compensation in respect of such death or disablement in accordance with the provisions of this section.

Under this section, the compensation in respect of death is Rs.50000/- and for permanent disablement is Rs.25000/-.  Here the claimant is not required to plead and establish that the death or permanent disablement in respect of which the claim has been made was due to any wrongful act, neglect or default of the owner or owners of the vehicle or vehicles concerned or of any other person.

In almost all cases of claim for compensation, petition under No fault liability also gets filed. Often, it would be argued that in tune with the founding tenets of No Fault Liability, the Insurance Company must deposit the amount specified under this section, once the insurance credentials of the vehicle involved in the accident is established.  They would say that there was an accident, the petition is in respect of injuries / death arising out of the accident, the vehicle involved is insured ~ the Insurers have no defence and must pay the amount readily without any delay.

There have been occasions where death / injury not arising out of an accident involving motor vehicle but caused otherwise are claimed as arising out of a motor vehicle accident, sometimes with the connivance of officials too…  Here is an interesting case, that appeared in Dinamalar, dated 5th Jan 2013 – Madurai Edition.

A man working in a Coop society died in Feb 2001 and a case as arising out of an accident was filed at Adhirampattinam.  The legal heirs of the deceased filed a MCOP before MACT Pattukkottai and it was decreed that the Insurers – Oriental Insurer should compensate Rs.9,00,000/- to the petitioners.  

The Insurers went on appeal stating that the wife of the deceased had filed a complaint to the Police that the death could have been a murder due to previous enmity; that as per the evidence of the attending Doctor, the death had been caused by wounds caused by sharp instruments and that the lorry driver also did not mention of any accident.  

The Judge concluded that the circumstances leading to death make it appear to be a murder and not as arising out any accident involving a motor vehicle.  He directed that the order of the MACT is cancelled.  Many a times, Courts tend to view MACT cases in favour of those who had lost their lives or affected in MV accidents and that way this is a case well conducted by the Insurers.

There is learning everywhere ~ as they say.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar.
courtesy : - Madurai edition. 

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