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Motor Accident Claims| Multiplier To Be Determined Based On Completed Age, Not Running Age: Kerala High Court

Hannah M Varghese
28 Jan 2022 6:02 AM GMT
Motor Accident Claims| Multiplier To Be Determined Based On Completed Age, Not Running Age: Kerala High Court
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Tribunal may disregard FIR if there is credible evidence including oral testimony contradicting FIR.

The Kerala High Court recently ruled that the multiplier to be used while computing compensation in motor accident claims has to be determined on the basis of the age attained by the deceased/injured and not based on the running age.Therefore, Justice C.S Dias observed that when a person aged 50 years and 7 months dies in a motor accident, the multiplier applicable to the age bracket...

The Kerala High Court recently ruled that the multiplier to be used while computing compensation in motor accident claims has to be determined on the basis of the age attained by the deceased/injured and not based on the running age.

Therefore, Justice C.S Dias observed that when a person aged 50 years and 7 months dies in a motor accident, the multiplier applicable to the age bracket of 46-50 will apply and not the one applicable to the age bracket of 51-55.

"The sine qua non to select the multiplier is the attainment of the specified age mentioned in the table and not the running of the age into the next group".

The Court also held that a claim petition under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act has to be decided on the touchstone of preponderance of probability and not on the litmus test of beyond reasonable doubt.

Brief Facts: 

The Court was adjudicating upon appeals challenging the MACT award granted for the death of one Madhavan, his minor daughter and the vehicle driven by him during the accident.

Partly allowing the claims, the MACT found that Madhavan had also contributed to the accident (contributory negligence) and thereby deduced 50% of the compensation amount awarded in the three claim petitions.

Aggrieved by this, the appellants approached the High Court.

Findings:

(A) If there is credible evidence before MACT, information in FIR can be ignored

The Court while considering if the finding of the contributory negligence attributed against Madhavan was sustainable in law, observed that in such matters, if there is credible evidence including oral testimony contradicting FIR, the MACT may disregard the FIR.

The tribunal had accepted the FIR and rejected the oral testimonies of prosecution witnesses on the ground that they were interested witnesses. It had thereby concluded that the accident occurred due to the contributory negligence of the drivers of both vehicles.

Reliance was placed on the Supreme Court decision in National Insurance Company Ltd v. Chamundeswari & Ors where it was held that if any evidence recorded before the Tribunal runs contrary to the contents in the FIR, there is no reason to give weightage to the contents in the FIR.

Hence, the Court found that relevant supporting materials were not appended to the charge-sheet relied on by the MACT while oral testimonies given by eye-witnesses communicated that the accident occurred due to the negligence of the other driver.

Therefore, the Court set aside the tribunal's finding of Madhavan's negligence finding it erroneous.

(B) Multiplier has to be determined based on the completed age, not the running age

The question before the Court was whether the multiplier of 11 adopted by the Tribunal in the claim seeking compensation for Madhavan's death was right.

Referring to Apex Court decision in Sarla Verma & Ors v Delhi Transport Corporation & Anr, which laid down the multipliers to be adopted of the deceased/injured falling in the age group of 16 - 66 and above, the Court noted that the multiplier set for the age group 46-50 years was '13' and for 51-55 years was '11'.

On the date of the accident, Madhavan had completed 50 years and 7 days. The MACT chose to use the multiplier '11'.

Nonetheless, the Court found that it is only when the deceased/injured completes the age of 51 years, that the multiplier would shift from 13 to 11 and not when the deceased/injured attains the age of 50 years.

Hence, setting aside the finding of the tribunal, the Court adopted the multiplier of 13.

(C) 10% escalation has to be granted on the conventional heads every three years

While deciding the question of the reasonableness of the quantum of compensation fixed for Madhavan's death, the Court considered the fact that he was aged 50 at the time of his death.

Therefore, the appellants are entitled to future prospects @ 10% and refixed the compensation for loss of dependency accordingly.

Further, the Court instructed that compensation for the dependents under the conventional heads viz., 'funeral expenses', 'loss of estate' and 'loss of consortium' be enhanced by 10% every three years.

(D) Minors income has to be fixed at Rs. 30,000 per annum with a multiplier of 15

While deciding the question of the reasonableness of the quantum of compensation fixed for the minor girl's death, the Court noted that the tribunal had awarded compensation at ₹1,500 after fixing the monthly income of the 17-year-old on a notional basis and adopting the multiplier of 15. 

The Court referred to the decision of the apex court in Kuruvan Ansari v Shyam Kishore Murmu & Anr which fixed the notional income of a ten-year-old at ₹30,000 per annum and adopted the multiplier of 15. 

Since the daughter was 17 years at the time of her death, the Court deemed it fit to fix her income notionally at ₹30,000 per annum and adopt the multiplier of 15 and accordingly re-calculated the compensation to be awarded.

As such, the Court ordered the insurer to deposit the compensation amount before the tribunal within sixty days.

Case Title: P.O Meera & Anr. v Ananda P Naik & Ors.

Citation: 2022 LiveLaw (Ker) 43

Click Here To Read/Download The Order

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