Can subsequent death of a dependent be a reason for reduction of motor accident compensation? Supreme Court answers

Supreme Court: In a case dealing with motor vehicle accident that claimed the lives of a man and his pregnant wife, leaving behind his parents and 2 children aged merely 3 and 4, the 3-judge bench of NV Ramana*, SA Nazeer and Surya Kant*, JJ has increased the total motor accident compensation of Rs 22 lakhs awarded by the Delhi High Court to Rs 33.20 lakhs.

The Court took note of the following facts for arriving to said conclusion:

At the time of death, there in fact were four dependents of the deceased and not three. The subsequent death of the deceased’s dependent mother ought not to be a reason for reduction of motor accident compensation.

“Claims and legal liabilities crystallise at the time of the accident itself, and changes post thereto ought not to ordinarily affect pending proceedings.”

The claimants have been unable to produce any document evidencing the deceased’s income, nor have they established his employment as a teacher; but that doesn’t justify adoption of the lowest-tier of minimum wage while computing his income. From the statement of witnesses, documentary evidence-on-record and circumstances of the accident, it is apparent that he was comparatively more educationally qualified and skilled and maintained a reasonable standard of living for his   family.

“Preserving the existing standard of living of a deceased’s family is a fundamental endeavour of motor accident compensation law.”

Given how both deceased were below 40 years and how they have not been established to be permanent employees, future prospects to the tune of 40% must be paid.

Justice NV Ramana took the liberty to write a concurring opinion with respect to the issue of calculation of notional income for homemakers and the grant of future prospect with respect to them, for the purposes of grant of compensation. He said,

“… the conception that housemakers do not “work” or that they do not add economic value to the household is a problematic idea that has persisted for many years and must be overcome.”

Conception that housemakers do not add economic value to the household is “a problematic idea”; Future prospect must be granted in case of motor accident of a non-earning victim: SC

[Kirti v. Oriental Insurance Company Ltd., 2021 SCC OnLine SC 3, decided on 05.01.2020]


** Justice Surya Kant has penned the judgment

*Justice NV Ramana has penned a concurring opinion. Read his opinion here

Know Thy Judge| Justice N.V. Ramana

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