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Thursday, April 25 2024
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Bengaluru: ‘Motorist’s death due to tree fall is vehicle accident’

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Bengaluru: A motorist’s death caused by a falling tree branch is still regarded as an accident “arising out of the use of motor vehicle,” and as such, the insurance provider is liable for paying compensation, said Karnataka High Court.

The United India Insurance Company appealed to the High Court an earlier decision by a lower court that had awarded Rs 3.62 lakh in compensation to the family members of a motor vehicle accident fatality. Justice H. P. Sandesh delivered the verdict in the case.

The accident took place on July 2, 2006, and the lower judge’s ruling was delivered in February 2011. The appeal was filed in the HC later that year and the judgement came recently.

In the Kolhapur district of Maharashtra, Shamrao Patil (44) was killed in a motorcycle accident while travelling on the Salpewadi-Gargoti road. He was killed when a branch from a eucalyptus tree fell on his head.

The company challenged the compensation award in the HC, arguing that the accident was not one “arising out of the use of the motor vehicle” but rather was caused by a branch of a eucalyptus tree falling on the victim.

Sanjay S. Katageri, a lawyer for the victim’s family, cited the 2003 case of Sulochana vs. KSRTC, in which three persons died when a banyan tree fell on a bus on the road.
The court had then ruled that because the deaths were “due to accident arising out of the use of motor vehicle,” they are entitled for compensation under Schedule II, Section 163A of the Motor Vehicles Act.

There were also references to other verdicts where the courts determined that a person who does not own the vehicle is a “third party.”

In its ruling, the HC cited the instance of Shivaji Dayanu Patil v. Vatschala Uttam More, in which a petrol tanker had toppled following a collision and people had gathered to collect petrol. These individuals were hurt as a result of an explosion. According to the Supreme Court, this was still a car accident, and the insurance provider was required to make compensation.

In a different case of Rita Devi v. New India Assurance, an auto-rickshaw driver who was killed by passengers who intended to take his vehicle was similarly considered to be an accident victim arising from the use of a motor vehicle for the sake of compensation.

In this case, the HC added that despite the victim’s daughter owning the bike, the victim had taken possession of it by using a borrowed bike to commute. It further ruled that negligence could not be used as an excuse to withhold compensation. According to its judgment, the insurance provider must pay compensation.
However, the HC also pointed out that because “owner-cum-driver” personal accident insurance was charged, it was only required to cover the personal accident (PA) cover of Rs. 1 lakh.

A specific amount of Rs. 50 was collected in the insurance as personal accident insurance. According to the HC, this justified just a compensation payment of Rs. 1 lakh and not the Rs. 3.62 lakh that the lower court had ordered.

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