Madras HC highlights need of empathy towards injured victims of motor accidents

Umamageshwari Maruthappan

The Madras High Court in its order dated 4th February 2021 had comments on the lack of empathy towards drivers of big vehicles who usually fall prey to cases concerning motor vehicle accidents.

It further observed, “It is also high time for all who are dealing with motor accident claims to review our mentality in considering the plight of the injured victim or the legal heirs of the deceased victim sympathetically and awarding of compensation in the accidents occurred by violating the Laws and Rules.

The Madras High Court Madurai Bench of Justice K. Murali Shankar was hearing an appeal from the bus driver who was alleged to have been guilty of negligence which claimed the life of one of the four persons who were riding in a bike. [Tamil Nadu State Transport Corporation v. Marimuthu & Ors.]

The trial court, in 2015, held the bus driver solely responsible for the accident and directed him to pay Rs. 6,62,000/- as compensation along with a 7.5% of interest. The appeal before the High Court challenged this impugned order.

The appellant argued that the bike which is usually supposed to carry only two persons had instead carried four. The bike was trying to overtake a lorry ignoring the bus which was coming just opposite to it. According to him, carrying more than the required persons itself amounts to negligence.

These arguments of the respondents were based on the court observations of Mohammed Siddique & Anr. V. National Insurance Company Limited & Ors. The only fact that the bike comprised more than its capacity cannot be a criteria for negligence, they stated.

The Bench quashed the contentions of the respondents and upheld contributory negligence on their part. “Two wheeler is only meant to take a rider and a pillion rider and not more than two at any cost. If the rider takes 2 or 3 persons in his vehicle, then he has to give more acceleration to increase the pulling capacity so as to take more weight. The efforts required from the rider to maintain the acceleration level would affect or divert his attention and concentration,” it observed.

“Since the two wheeler was proceeding on the right side of the lorry and was overtaking the lorry, as alleged by the claimants, two wheeler riders should have seen the Bus coming from the opposite direction. Even after seeing the Bus, he decided to proceed further and in that decision, we can easily infer that he miscalculated the speed of the vehicles, the space and the time taken to cross that space between the two wheeler and the Bus, as he was carrying more weight than the prescribed. Considering the above, this court is of the clear view that not only the two wheeler rider but all the pillion riders are also liable for contributory negligence,” the Bench held.

“Every road user owes a duty of care and caution and is duty bound to drive their vehicles in such a way not to endanger themselves and more importantly not to endanger the pedestrians, cyclists, two wheelers and other vehicle users,” expressed the Single-judge Bench.

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