Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Court directive to Motor Accident Claims Tribunals

Don't allow insurance firms to deny liability in case of pillion riders and occupants of cars, says judge

The Madras High Court Bench here has directed all Motor Accident Claims Tribunals in the State not to permit insurance companies to deny their liability to compensate for the death of or injury caused to pillion riders in two-wheelers or occupants of cars if the vehicle owners had taken Motor Package Insurance Policies.
Disposing of an appeal filed against an award passed by a tribunal in Kumbakonam, Justice D. Hariparanthaman said: “I am told that so many cases are pending involving pillion riders and occupants of cars all over Tamil Nadu… The Registry (of the High Court) is directed to send a copy of this judgement to all the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal in Tamil Nadu to take suitable steps as stated above.
“Unfortunately, the Motor Vehicles Act does not make it mandatory that the risk of the pillion riders and occupants of a car should be covered by the Insurance policy. Since the Act does not provide for mandatory coverage, it is done by package policies. Even when there are package policies, the insurance companies take a plea that they are not bound to pay the compensation.”
Advocating an amendment to the Motor Vehicles Act thereby making it compulsory for covering the risk of pillion riders and occupants of cars in insurance policies, the judge said: “It is high-time the amendment is brought in especially when there is vehicular explosion in our country competing with the population explosion. In fact, the automobile industry has succeeded in the race.
“Nowadays, even a common man and office-goers use two-wheelers. What was considered to be a luxurious item is now an essential item of life. Similarly, we do not find parking space to park the four wheelers and owners of the car themselves drive the cars without appointing drivers. Thus, the risk of the owners of these vehicles should also be covered as they are also the road users.”
In the present case, the Kumbakonam tribunal had discharged Oriental Insurance Company from its liability of compensating a woman pillion rider who was injured in an accident on July 12, 2007 and directed the owner of the two-wheeler to pay a compensation of Rs. 88,531 to the woman.
Hence, the owner had filed the appeal questioning the correctness of the award passed by the tribunal.
Reversing the lower court order, Mr. Justice Hariparanthaman held that the insurance company alone was liable to compensate the woman who had suffered disability assessed at 21 per cent. He also increased the compensation amount to Rs. 1,75,051 by fixing her monthly income as Rs. 3,000, though she was a housewife, and multiplying it for 17 years as she was only 28 years old at the time of accident.

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