Bench confirms award of Rs.14.23 lakh to family of a 60-year-old man

Failure to possess a valid driving licence could not be a sole reason to deny just compensation in motor accident cases unless and until it was established with unassailable evidence that the accident had occurred also due to the reckless act of the victim at the time of the accident, the Madras High Court Bench here has said.

A Division Bench comprising Justice K.N. Basha and Justice P. Devadass made the observation while dismissing an appeal filed by an insurance company challenging an award of over Rs. 14.23 lakh granted by a Motor Accident Claims Tribunal in Karur to the family of a 60-year-old motorcyclist, T.M. Subramani, who died nine months after he was knocked down by a car .

The incident had occurred at the Thalavapalayam-Moorthipalayam branch road on February 19, 2009, and the victim suffered injuries on his head, left femur and right clavicle region. His family spent over Rs. 11 lakh for treating him in a number of hospitals until his death on November 30, 2009. Thereafter, his legal heirs got substituted as claimants in the case filed by him before the tribunal.

The lower court on appreciation of evidence, found the claimants eligible for compensation. It determined his monthly income to be Rs.4,000 a month, deducted Rs. 1,500 towards his personal expenses and multiplied the balance for seven years. It also awarded compensation under other heads including medical expenses and arrived at the total amount of Rs.14.23 lakh.

Finding no infirmity with the quantum determined by the tribunal, the Division Bench said that the term ‘contributory negligence’ implied contribution of a material act, a reckless one, which was also responsible for the road accident. Such negligence could not be assumed or presumed. It must be proved like any other fact and established by relevant and positive evidence.

Initially, the courts had taken a view that the victim’s failure to possess a driving licence would amount to contributory negligence.

But now, the law had changed and the present position was that mere absence of licence could not be a ground to thrust blame on the victim, especially in the absence of materials to substantiate his negligence at the time of the accident.

In the present case, there was no evidence to show that the motorcyclist rode the vehicle in a rash and negligent manner.

Therefore, the tribunal was right in holding that the accident had occurred due to the negligent act of the car driver; the Bench said and directed the insurance company to disburse the money to the claimants within eight weeks.