Not wearing helmet per se cannot be reason to attribute contributory negligence to accident victim: Madras High Court

The court said the victim’s family could not be denied full compensation as the death had occurred because of multiple injuries to the body and not solely because of head injuries

Updated - April 22, 2024 04:54 pm IST

Published - April 22, 2024 03:41 pm IST - CHENNAI

File photograph used for representational purposes only

File photograph used for representational purposes only

A motor accident victim cannot be attributed with contributory negligence for not having worn a helmet while riding a two-wheeler and his/her family cannot be denied full compensation if the death had occurred because of multiple other injuries and not solely because of the head injuries, the Madras High Court has held.

Justice N. Anand Venkatesh issued this ruling while disposing of an appeal preferred by an insurance company against the compensation granted in 2021 by a motor accident claims tribunal in Erode to the family members of a 21-year-old engineering college student who had died after his motorcycle had collided into a bus in 2010.

While perusing the tribunal’s order, the judge found that it had attributed contributory negligence on the part of the youngster for having failed to wear a helmet at the time of the accident and consequently deducted a substantial amount of money from the total compensation to which his family was entitled.

Disagreeing with the tribunal’s decision, the judge said the postmortem report of the accident victim had listed several ante mortem injuries found on his body and finally concluded that the victim appeared to have died due to multiple injuries all over the body and the resultant complications.

“It is therefore, evident from the postmortem certificate as well as the final opinion of the doctor that the head injury was not the sole cause for the demise. When that is the case, the non wearing of helmet cannot be put against the deceased and contributory negligence cannot be attributed against him,” the judge held.

He went on to state: “In view of the same, this court, by exercising its power and jurisdiciton under Order 41 Rule 33 of Code of Civil Procedure, is inclined to fix the entire negligence on the driver of the bus and the tribunal’s order attributing contributory negligence on the part of the deceased is hereby set aside.”

Since the deceased was a college student, the tribunal had rightly fixed his notional income to be ₹12,000 a month to arrive at the compensation amount using the multiplier method but it had failed to add a reasonable quantum towards his future prospects, while fixing the income, Justice Venkatesh said.

He said that 40% of the notional income must be added towards future prospects and ordered that the monthly income of the engineering student must be considered to be ₹16,800. The judge also granted ₹1.2 lakh for loss of love and affection towards the family and confirmed the compensation granted on other heads.

After deducting personal expenses that the deceased would have incurred if he had been alive, the judge ordered the rest of the amount to be paid to his family within six weeks.

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