The Punjab and Haryana High Court, while recently dealing with a matter relating to compensation in a road accident claim, observed that driver negligence is not, in itself, the reason to engage the responsibility of such a vehicle.
The sighting came from Judge Rajbir Sehrawat, which noted that it is “the use of the vehicle” on the road which, in itself, engages the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle; and therefore it is for the insurer; pay compensation; if the vehicle is involved in an accident:
“Under section 165, courts shall be constituted to adjudicate claims for compensation arising out of the ‘use of a vehicle’ and not necessarily resulting from the negligence of the driver of that vehicle. The section 166 also allows claims to be made in cases of accidents covered by section 165, i.e. not necessarily resulting from the negligence of the driver of the vehicle, so it is “use of the vehicle” on the road which, in itself, engages the responsibility of the owner of the vehicle; and therefore of the insurer; to indemnify; in the event that the vehicle is involved in an accident. The negligence of the driver is not, in itself, the reason to incur liability for such a vehicle. It is therefore an objective liability attached to the vehicle as such.”
He noted that the Indian legislature intentionally avoided adopting “negligence” per se; as determining the locus of liability. The legislature did not even use the word “negligence” in Chapters XI and XII of the Motor Vehicle Act, which contain provisions relating to compensation.
The court was dealing with five appeals filed by the insurance company and counterclaims filed by the plaintiffs in a case relating to compensation under the Motor Vehicle Act. The facts giving rise to the appeals are as follows: On February 6, 2014, a family was traveling to Amritsar from Delhi in an Innova car. When they arrived at the area between Pipli and Shahbad on the national road, the tanker driving ahead of the Innova car suddenly applied brakes.
As a result, an accident took place. In this accident, the occupants of the Innova car were seriously injured. Four people died from injuries. The surviving legal representatives filed an FIR. In said range of facts above, four claims were filed by the legal representatives of the deceased and the 5th was filed by the injured himself for the injuries he suffered in the accident.
A notice has been issued to the insurance companies of both vehicles. The plaintiffs examined the injured eyewitness in addition to other relevant witnesses. The driving license of the driver of the Innova car – Amarjeet Singh was also introduced into evidence. However, no evidence was provided either by the driver and owner of the offending tanker truck or by the respondent insurance company.
The court awarded compensation to all claimants. However, the respondent insurance company, the tanker’s insurer, was absolved by the Tribunal on the grounds that the driver of the Innova car was required to maintain a safe distance, which he failed to do. Therefore, the owner of the Innova car and, therefore, the appellant insurance company, the insurer of said Innova car, were held responsible for making the payment.
Contesting said sentence, appeals were filed by the car insurance company Innova.
The Applicant argued that the Tribunal erred in law in absolving the Respondent Insurance Company. The evidence in the file proves categorically that it was the driver of the tanker in question who was negligent in driving it. It was acclaimed that the eyewitness was duly questioned to prove the claimants’ claims. It was further said that the Tribunal totally ignored the eyewitness version and only proceeded on the assumption that there was no safe distance maintained by the driver of the Innova car. This despite the fact that there is no evidence adduced in the record by the respondents even to demonstrate the fact that the driver of the Innova car did not maintain the safety distance.
Finally, it was argued that the liability of the appellant insurance company was not even in issue according to the questions formulated by the Tribunal. The respondent tanker’s insurance company never claimed liability to be the appellant’s insurance company; As such. Therefore, the award rendered by the Tribunal deserves to be annulled. Liability for the full amount deserves to be imposed on the respondent insurance company, the insurer of the oil tanker at fault.
The respondent argued that under Regulation 23 of the Road Traffic Regulations 1989 (abbreviated to “the 1989 Regulations”) the driver of the Innova car was required to maintain a “safe distance”. Counsel for the Respondent maintained that it was his sole responsibility to ensure that he maintained sufficient distance to allow him to apply the brakes and stop his car; in case the tanker in front of him applied sudden breaks. Furthermore, he argued that the extent of the damage to the car shows that it was traveling at high speed and without due regard to the fact that the tanker was traveling in front of it.
The Court noted that under Section 164, the factors which the plaintiff is exempt from advocating and proving in claims made under “no-fault liability” and that, conversely, plaintiffs will be required to plead and prove in the event that he chooses to claim the higher amounts under “fault liability” are:
That the death or permanent disability claimed was due to
(a) any wrongful act,
(b) negligence or
The Court stated that none of the above factors are intrinsically linked to the negligence of the driver of the vehicle. Although driver negligence may become relevant in some cases where the driver; since the statutory “every other person” commits a wrongful act or neglects to do something that is expected of him as a reasonable man, however, the accident could also result from the wrongful act of the owner; even when he is not the driver.
Furthermore, the court declared that the responsibility of the owner and therefore of the insurer; arises from the “use of the vehicle” and its defect, not necessarily from the negligence of the driver of the vehicle, therefore the plaintiff also invokes “fault liability”; is not required to prove the negligence of the driver of the vehicle. He would only be required to prove the failure of the vehicle to behave in a way that was expected of that vehicle. Therefore, the court observed that even the legal representatives of such a driver cannot be denied compensation solely because the accident could have been avoided by such a driver, unless that driver is the owner himself. same.
With respect to the issue of liability in this case, the court stated that the eyewitness testimony clearly indicated that the tanker involved was being driven in a reckless and negligent manner and in violation of traffic laws and that the plaintiffs had succeeded in proving that it was the negligence of the tanker driver that caused the accident.
Regarding the safety distance argument put forward by the respondent company, the court declared that it found no merit in it. It was said that there is no doubt, Regulation 23 prescribes that the following vehicle must maintain the safety distance, however, it is a rule of the road advised to drivers when driving on the roads ; and it can hardly be made a criterion for assessing compensation or determining the place of liability, as such.
Regarding liability, the court said that in this case the plaintiffs had presented enough evidence to show that there had been significant negligence and misconduct on the part of the offending vehicle and that there was no There was no evidence of negligence or lack of “due care” on the part of the driver of the Innova car, but his vehicle was also faulty to some degree. Therefore, the court held that his insurer should also share some liability.
“As a result, respondent insurance company is held 70% liable, while appellant insurance company is left with 30% of the liability to reimburse plaintiffs.” said the court.
In view of the foregoing, the appeals were dismissed.
Case Title: Tata AIG General Insurance Company Limited Vs. Surjeet Kaur and Others, with Related Issues