Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Motor Accident Death - Kerala High Court Lays Down 'Twin Conditions' To Claim Compensation In Plea Alleging Driver's Negligence

The Kerala High Court has held that in a claim under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act, the petitioners must prove not only the negligence on the part of the driver or rider but also prove that the person alleged to have sustained injuries in a motor accident died in consequence of the accidental injuries.

Justice A. Badharudeen added that it is the burden of the petitioners to adduce evidence to satisfy the allegations raised by them since grant of compensation therein is based on the principle of `fault' liability.

"The prime question arises for consideration is what are the conditions to be established to claim compensation in a petition filed under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act when the petitioners allege negligence on the part of the driver/rider of the vehicle and death as its consequence? The answer to the above question is; twin conditions must be satisfied in this regard. The first one is proof of negligence on the part of the rider or driver of the vehicle alleged to be involved in the accident and the second one is proof of death of person in consequence of accidental injuries."

 A woman allegedly met with an accident and succumbed to her injuries while travelling on a motorcycle driven by her brother. Her husband and two sons filed an application under Section 166 before the Tribunal alleging that the accident was contributed by the brother's negligence and they claimed compensation from the owner, driver and the insurer (appellant herein) of the motorcycle respectively.

The appellant denied the accident and the negligence attributed against the deceased's brother (driver) pointing out that the police had not registered any case until 3 months later, which was based on a private complaint lodged by the husband before the Magistrate. It was argued that the deceased died of natural causes while emphasizing that there was no postmortem certificate or inquest to hold otherwise.

However, the Tribunal found negligence against the driver and granted compensation to the applicants after examining the husband of the deceased and the doctor who treated the deceased. Challenging this order, the appellant-insurer approached the High Court.

The Court noted that the respondents failed to substantiate negligence against the driver with convincing and cogent evidence.

As per the FIR, rash and careless driving by the brother caused the accident. But according to the final report, the allegations in the FIR and the private complaint are false. No protest complaint was filed by the applicants before the Magistrate Court against this finding to establish the allegation in the FIR and the private complaint. None of the occurrence witnesses were examined before the Tribunal either.

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