Accident Death: Claimants Need Not be Dependents

Published: 24th November 2014 06:18 AM  |   Last Updated: 24th November 2014 06:18 AM   |  A+A-

HYDERABAD: The High Court has held that being legal representatives, claimants of deceased, though they are not dependents, are entitled to compensation. The court made it clear that for being entitled to compensation, one need not be a dependent legal representative. It is only when there are dependents and non-dependents, that dependents are to be preferred for grant of compensation over non-dependents.

Justice B Siva Sankara Rao made this order in an appeal by the United India Insurance Coompany, Hyderabad, challenging the order of the Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal-cum-XVIII Additional Chief Judge, Hyderabad, awarding compensation of Rs 2.39 lakh (against a claim of Rs 2.5 lakh) with interest at 9 percent per annum to the claimants, who are the husband and two major sons of the deceased, Anjan Bai Metre (55), who died in an accident in 2003.

The accident was the result of an autorickshaw dashed against a roadside big tree near Ranjendra Nagar, and the deceased who was travelling in the auto succumbed to the injuries. Two more persons died, and another injured in the incident. The accident was the result of rash and negligent driving by the auto driver, with an overload of seven passengers and himself. The appellant-insurer contended that the judgment and decree of the Tribunal is contrary to law, weight of evidence and probabilities of the case, and the Tribunal did not consider the factum of the auto having capacity of only 3+1, but overloaded with 7+1. The driver alone is the reason for the accident. As for the claimants, the husband of the deceased, who is the first claimant, died during the pendency of the claim petition, and the other two claimants are in no way dependent on the deceased, who is their mother. They are mere legal representatives and that is not a ground to award any compensation by the Tribunal.

On the other hand, the two claimants, who are major sons of the deceased and aged above 32 years, said the contentions of the appellant-insurer are untenable and there is nothing to interfere with the award of the Tribunal. After going through various judgments of the Supreme Court and High Courts, the judge held that if the claimants/legal representatives suffer from accidental death of a person, they are entitled to compensation and one need not be a dependent legal representative. Where there are dependents and non-dependents, the dependents are to be preferred for grant of compensation over non-dependents. However, if it is shown that the non-dependents are the sufferers, they are also entitled to compensation.

As for arriving at the compensation sum, the judge said the age of the claimants, who are major sons of the deceased, were shown as above 32 years and there is no plea either in the claim petition much less in evidence of any of them are dependents on the deceased, but for to say they suffered from death of the deceased (their mother). It is no doubt not only by financial contribution to them but also the domestic contribution with elderly advice and guidance. The Tribunal by considering the earnings of the deceased estimating at Rs 2,500 per month and by deducting 1/3rd towards personal expenses, awarded Rs 2.39 lakh. Compensation awarded should not be inadequate and should neither be unreasonable, excessive nor deficient, the judge opined.

While allowing the appeal partly, Justice Siva Sankara Rao held that being the legal representatives, the claimants as major sons of the deceased, though not dependent on the deceased, are entitled to compensation arrived from taking of their means also in fixing the contribution of the deceased and arrived at the compensation of Rs 1.9 lakh.

As overloading contributed to the accident, 20 per cent is fixed exclusively on the owner of the vehicle, which comes to Rs 38,000 and the remaining 80 per cent comes to Rs 1.52 lakh fixed on the insurer to indemnify the owner with interest at 7.5 per cent on respective sums from the date of claim petition till the date of realisation which they have to deposit, the court said.

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