With the evolution of the civilization of human beings, the actions of negligence have become an actionable error. In English law, any individual or legal associate of the deceased who have passed away because of the negligent acts of others may recoup damages under tortious law in addition to initiating criminal proceedings. Consequently, the carrying on of negligence by losses to the other individuals paving the way for the institution of the action.

Fatal Accidents Act, 1885 was enacted by the British Government in India in order to provide equal rights to the person wounded or deceased in an accident. The Act provisioned for a process and the right of designated legal heirs to seek relief from the negligence committer. The law worked for a considerable period of time. Due to the rise in automation and far-reaching damage of life and asset in the event of an accident, it was recognized that an efficient law should be introduced in order to provide for respite to the victims of accident claims.

In order to encourage this, arrangements have been enacted for mandatory third-party insurance and to establish an adjudication process for claimants under the Motor Vehicle Act by amending Act No.110 of 1956, under which sections 93 to 109 relating to third-party insurance and sections 110(A) to 110(F) relating to the establishment of the Motor Accident Appeals Tribunal and the procedures for adjudication of claimants have been catered. Originally, the responsibility was limited to a single amount, but after 1982, the responsibility of the Insurance Corporation was made unrestricted and even the protection of the Insurance Industry was reduced in order to ensure that third parties are provided with an award of indemnity. 

In 1982, the extension of Section 92(A) and 92(E) created a new principle of granting temporary relief on the grounds of No-Fault’. Many people that die from hit and run collisions have since been provided coverage under the same provision, where the offending vehicles are not classified. The Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 was passed with a view to consolidating and amending the legislation relating to motor vehicle accidents. When a statute is passed to reform and change the law, the Legislature takes into account not only the law when stood but also the legislation that occurred before it. In 1988, a revised Law on motor vehicles was enacted and Chapter 10 of the new Motor Vehicles Act provided for temporary relief. Chapter 11 administered for motor vehicle insurance against third party danger, and Chapter 12 furnishes for the creation of Claims forum and the adjudication of demands through lawsuits and related issues.

Furthermore, this legislation seeks to regularize the use of Motor Vehicles and to reward people who are wounded or killed in a crash and family associates and dependents of the victim if applicable. It is well established that an attempt is made to place the plaintiffs in the pre-accidental situation in case of motor accident lawsuits. The relief to be awarded is to be sufficient in terms of cash so that the injured or claimants are placed in the same situation if they had not suffered the loss due to the respondent’s error, however, no amount of indemnity can recover the accident of limb or sense of pain or damage of life.[2] In 1994, this Act was further modified. The legislation is still in a time of extreme transition.

The Supreme Court has ruled on several occasions that this is a statute for the interest of the citizens and that it is appropriate to clarify the provisions of the law in order to benefit the individual. Throughout this process, in the recent past, the Supreme Court passed numerous judgments which limited the substantive defences of the Insurance Company to a greater extent as the law relating to the onus of proof was fully amended. Restricted protections in the absence of a valid driving licence, the use of a car for rent and compensation, the use of a transport vehicle for reasons not permitted by a license must be demonstrated in such a clear way that the claimant does not benefit from such defences.

An operation for claiming compensation may be made by the individual who sustained the damage or by the proprietor of the vehicle or where death has been caused by the accident by every or any one of the deceased’s legal associates or by an officer deservedly empowered by the injured person or by everyone or anyone of the deceased’s legal associates. Those individuals not being dependants but are the legitimate heirs do have the right to getting compensated. But a person’s legal associate, who himself is responsible for reckless and careless driving, is not entitled to claim compensation.

In the light of the judgment given by Supreme Court in Manjuri Bera v. Oriental Insurance Company, the father or the brothers of the deceased party would be eligible to claim compensation under section 140 of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 since the burden under section 140 of the Act does not desist because there is no dependence. Yet his legal heirs can’t continue an appeal filed by the injured claimants for personal injury.[5] There is a provision in the Motor Vehicle Act, 1988 for claiming losses to self or Other (Third Party) as a result of an accident with the motor vehicles. Two kinds of accidents could happen:-

(i) Where Third Party is affected, in terms of injuries or damage to its properties

(ii) Where self-damage is done, including damage to the insurer’s own vehicle.

The accident must be addressed to police with immediate effect and then to insurance corporations in the event of claims by third parties. The person must apprise the insurance officers and police officers for own injury claims before he or she gets his damage settled. To recover the damage under the Act, the owner himself must record the complaint or, in the event of the owner’s demise, his closest kin could file the petition demanding compensation. If the injured parties of the accident are younger than 18 years of age, they cannot claim for damages by themselves, they have to file through a lawyer. An applicant may file an application for a settlement with the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal at the place where the complainant lives or conducts his business.

The records which are mandatory to be produced while making a provision of claim due to motor accidents are FIR copy disclosed to the closest police station, Copy of Medico Lawful Credential/ Post Mortem Certification/ Death Certificate, Identification Documentation of Claimants as needed, Original Expense Records as incurred in hospital along with the medical record, Injury Certificate as appropriate, Documentation in relation to the claimant, a Cover document of the third party insurance scheme and Statement of facts specifying a claimant’s relationship with the deceased.

Provision for Fault Liability

The person who is bringing the compensation petition must present that the respondent was negligent. It is essential to have evidence that he is at fault for himself and is legally responsible for his actions. For the intent of such a proceeding, as there is no specific meaning of negligence, it would usually mean a breach of obligation induced either by omission which a reasonable man directed on certain grounds which he would usually do or be obliged to do because of the conduct of public interests, whether by doing things which a decent or conscientious man would not do. The Supreme Court held that ‘rashness’ should be defined as, “Rashness” consists in hazarding a dangerous or wanton act with the knowledge that it is so, and that it may cause injury. The criminality lies in such a case in running the risk of doing such an act with recklessness or indifference as to the consequences.”[10] ‘Negligence’ has been defined by Supreme Court as, “Negligence means omission to do some-thing with reasonable and prudent means granted by the consideration which ordinarily regulate human affairs or doing something which prudent and a reasonable means guided by similar considerations would not do.”

Appraisal of Claim and Compensation

However, the compensation assessment can be made good but cannot be said to be foolproof. There are certain hypotheses to be made in each such determination and there is every probability of difference of opinion among judges in applying from time to time the various fundamentals affirmed by the Courts. Lord Viscount Simon developed an evaluation system “Nance’s method” more widely known as “discounting system.” Lord Wright developed the other prominent form, known as the “Davis method”.

Existence cannot be taken for granted. Similarly, no human being will place monetary worth of his leg or of any other human being. How does one evaluate the amount of the damage of all faculties when some victim loses his mental faculties due to accident and lives in a vegetal state. Hon’ble Supreme Court evolved a formulation while dealing with a matter. Annual Revenue Annual spending on deceased provides the amount paid on legal associates. If this balance is capitalized due to other limitations, the family’s monetary loss can be estimated.

Though refining the above formula in the case of CKS Iyer[12], the Supreme Court claimed that there is no exact universal method for calculating the worth of human life and calculating loss cannot be accomplished by a statistical equation, but the recoverable quantity depends on the prospect of a life of the legal associate beneficiaries. The courts can only permit compensation for the pecuniary and monetary loss caused and some other costs, but no court can even try to allocate compensation for life-loss or limb loss. Mainly the pecuniary loss must be evaluated. Nominal losses related to funeral expenses, consortium and conventional damages. Long life expectancy is tied to earning power. With the development of accident claims, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India found a solution through the milestone judgement of Susamma Thomas and has started to give recognition to the deceased’s yearly income. It includes some guesswork, some hypothetical consideration, some amount of compassion associated with the nature of the ailment caused, in its very nature whenever a Tribunal or a Court is needed to settle the quantum of compensation in accident matters.

This recognition varies from doubling earnings depending on the nature of employment, sex, career opportunities etc. The Supreme Court held that 1/3 should be subtracted from the costs to be borne on the deceased after examining and doubling the annual income, and that the leftover amount should be multiplied by a multiplier depending on the age of the deceased and the legal heir. The multiplier, accepted as 16 in the matter of Sushma Thomas, had been increased to a maximum of 18.

But, in a recent Supreme Court judgment, in order to make compensation fair and take into account, the overall multiplier factors was reduced from 16 to 12 in the case of 38-year-old deceased. In light of the above case laws, it can be said that the compensation appraisal should be governed by exercising precedents to the facts and circumstances of a particular matter.

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