Judge dwells on compensation

Compensation in a motor accident case must be calculated in such a manner that the death of the victim should not make any difference to the dependants, the Madras High Court has said.

Allowing in part an appeal by an insurance company against a tribunal’s award, Justice M. Venugopal said the Motor Vehicles Act is admittedly a welfare legislation.

The legislature had purposely not used the English term ‘damages’ but ‘compensation’.

When ‘damages’ is considered, the sum awarded is normally based solely on the extent of the plaintiff’s loss and the degree of defendant’s fault is not taken into account.

On June 21, 2006, Kannaiyan, a head constable attached to the Kumbakonam East police station, was driving a two-wheeler when it was hit by a car near the Thirubuvanam industrial estate. He suffered grievous injuries and died two days later.

On September 4, 2010, the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal, Subordinate Court, Gudiyatham, Vellore District, awarded Rs. 10.01 lakh to the claimants. The United India Insurance went in appeal.

The insurance company stated that the tribunal had passed excessive award of compensation not in consonance with the facts and circumstances of the case.

Mr. Justice Venugopal held that the accident was caused by rash and negligent driving of the car. On the insurance company’s plea that Kannaiyan’s driving licence was not produced during inspection, that he had no valid licence; and the two-wheeler had no insurance, the Judge said the deceased was not at fault and also not a tortfeasor. Therefore, the plea paled into insignificance.

He said the insurance company was entitled to take all available defences in a claim petition.

Undoubtedly, Kannaiyan was a third party to the car’s insurance policy and because of the fact that the insurance company was the insurer of the offending vehicle, Mr. Justice Venugopal said the company was liable to pay compensation of Rs. 9.14 lakh.