In a first such instance in Delhi,a city court has ordered an insurance company to pay compensation for dragging a motor accident case and pushing the victims family to the rigours of a full-fledged trial.
Additional Sessions Judge (ASJ) Sujata Kohli held that the act called for imposing special costs. She directed United India Insurance Company to pay Rs 10,000 in compensation,besides paying Rs 4.15 lakh to the victims relatives.
In the recent order,ASJ Kohli asked the company to deduct the money from the salary of the concerned divisional officer.
The victim,Mohammed Yasin,had died in an accident involving motorbikes in July 2006. His bike was hit by another,ridden by one Deepak,near a petrol pump in Bhajanpura,Northeast Delhi.
The accident left Yasin with serious head injuries,and he succumbed a few days later.
But instead of settling the matter and making payment at the outset,the claim was allowed to proceed like a routine matter,ASJ Kohli observed. The insurance company ignored that these cases are not civil cases for property,or for gain,but for meeting sudden financial crises in the lives of the petitioners,caused by the untimely death of their bread winners.
Yasins family wife and six children filed the claim petition the same year. They made the rider and owner of the offending bike,and the company with which the bike was insured,as the parties. The petition contended that Yasin died due to rash and negligent driving.
During the trial,the defendants refused involvement of their bike but their defence collapsed after an eyewitness testified about the accident.
ASJ Kohli said though the insurance company had no valid argument and opted not to lead any evidence in the final stages of the trial,it took no step in settling the claims and,instead,compelled petitioners to make endless rounds of the court.
The company let the case drag on for so many dependents who are evidently from the poor strata and waited for compensation for so long, the court said.
Advocate Lokesh Kumar,dealing with motor accident cases for almost 15 years now: This verdict may prove to be the start in changing the attitude of insurance companies. The Delhi High Court in 2008 had asked insurance companies to get their acts together and consider expediting release of money. While not much changed thereafter,this judgment could show the way.
Nirmal Mishra,a young lawyer,says he will now seek help from the judgment in many of his cases pending before the Motor Accident Claims Tribunals. I have several such cases where compensation has to wait despite there being no defence available to insurance companies.