Indian laws on accident claims are quite stringent. The laws were formulated by prioritizing the best interests of the victims and those who are liable to disburse the compensation, such as insurance companies. Indian laws on motor vehicle accident claims are strict, but beneficial for victims in claiming their legal rights in a court of law.
FATAL ACCIDENTS ACT, 1885: This was enacted in India to protect the legal rights of the accident victims and their legal heirs. This Act entitles the legal heirs of a deceased accident victim to claim compensation from the person who committed negligence.
Important facts about Driving License:
According to the Motor Vehicles Act 1988, a valid Driving License is necessary to drive any motor vehicle on public roads.
Driving License is issued by the Regional Transport Office (RTO) of Motor Vehicles after the recipient has passed a driving test and has proved the required age.
The Driving License in India is segregated as Motorcycle License, Light Motor Vehicle (LMV) license, and Heavy Motor Vehicle (HMV) License.
Learner’s License is issued after passing a theory test.
The legislation of Driving License is done through the ‘Rules of the Road Regulation’ and the Motor Vehicle Act 1988.
The driver of the vehicle is required to keep the original copy of the license while driving.
This Act provided only a procedure and a right of named legal heirs to claim compensation from the person committing negligence. This enactment has worked in India for a comfortably long period. Because of increase in automation and consequential losses of life and property in accident, it was considered that to give relief to the victims of accident claims, an effective law should be brought in.
MOTOR VEHICLES ACT: To facilitate this, provisions have been inserted for compulsory third party insurance and to provide a machinery of adjudication of claim in Motor Vehicles Act by amending Act No. 110 of 1956, by which Section 93 to 109 with reference to third party insurance and Section 110(A) to 110(F) with reference to creation of Motor Accident Claims Tribunal and procedure for adjudication of claim has been provided. Initially, the liability was restricted to a particular sum, but after 1982 the liability of the Insurance Company was made unlimited and even the defences of the Insurance Companies have been restricted, so as to ensure payment of compensation to third parties.
Indian law on accident claims is relevant due to the higher rates of accidents leading to loss of life and property across the country. In 1988, the Government of India introduced the Motor Vehicle Act, to make the Indian laws on accident claims more effective. Also, the Act stipulates for establishment of Motor Accident Claims Tribunal to address the accident claim cases. This means that if you are a victim of a motor vehicle accident, your first point of reference to press for a claim is at the aforementioned tribunal that has been established to address similar claims Section 145 to 164 of the Act provides for mandatory third party insurance, which is compulsory for a vehicle owner. This means that if you have a vehicle that you use to move in public places, you cannot do so legally unless you have an insurance policy. Typically, your insurance policy papers must always be kept in the car with your car registration and driving licence. Section 146(1) of the Act prohibits a vehicle owner from using the vehicle in a public place without undertaking an insurance policy in compliance with the Act.
Further, the Act provides for unlimited liability and limited defence of the insurance companies. Several court judgements passed by the Supreme Court have restricted the legal defense strategies put forward by various insurance companies. Also, the liability to prove the limited defenses rests on the insurance companies.
Section 165 provides the form of constitution of Claim Tribunal in adjudging claims of compensation in respect of accidents involving the death of bodily injury to persons “arising out of the use of Motor Vehicle”. Being a welfare legislation, the scope of this term has been widened, which includes accident by a stationery vehicle, injuries suffered by passengers in bomb blast, injuries due to fire in petrol tanker etc. Murder in a motor vehicle has also been covered as a motor accident.
The Insurance Company cannot avoid the liability except on these grounds and not any other ground, which have been provided in Section 149(2) like:
The limited defenses allowed to be made by the insurance companies include:
Use of vehicle for racing and speed testing.
Use of vehicle not allowed by permit.
Divers without a valid Driver’s license or who have been disqualified from owning Drivers license.
Void insurance policy due to non-disclosure of crucial facts.
In recent times, the Supreme Court while dealing with the provisions of Motor Vehicles Act has held that, even if the defence has been pleaded and proved by the Insurance Company, they are not absolved from liability to make payment to the third party, but can receive such amount from the owner insured. The courts one after one have held that the burden of proving availability of defence is on Insurance Company and Insurance Company has not only to lead evidence as to breach of condition of policy or violation of provisions of Section 149(2) but has to prove also that such act happens with the connivance or knowledge of the owner. If knowledge or connivance has not been proved, the Insurance Company shall remain liable, even if defence is available.