Mohamed Imranullah S.
“Words used in Motor Vehicles Act should be given an extended meaning”
MADURAI: An automobile insurance company is liable to pay third party insurance not only for accidental death but also when the vehicle had been intentionally used to murder a person, the Madras High Court has ruled.
Dismissing a Civil Appeal petition filed by National Insurance Company Limited before the Madurai Bench, Justice M. Venugopal said that the words “accident arising out of use of a motor vehicle” in Section 165 of the Motor Vehicles Act should be given an extended meaning and not a narrow one.
The judge pointed out that Halsbury’s Laws of England, Fourth Edition, defined the term ‘accident’ as covering any unlooked for mishap or an untoward event, which was not expected or designed, or any unexpected personal injury resulting from any unlooked for mishap or occurrence. It further stated that “the test of what is unexpected is whether the ordinary reasonable man would not have expected the occurrence, it being irrelevant that a person with expert knowledge, for example of medicine, would have regarded it as inevitable. The standpoint is that of the victim, so that even wilful murder may be accidental as far as the victim is concerned.”
The judge recalled that in 1910, a cashier while travelling in a train to a colliery with a large sum of money, for the payment of his employer’s workmen, was robbed and murdered. Dealing with the case, reported as Nisbet Vs. Rayne and Burn, the then Court of Appeal held that the murder shall be treated as an accident and also that it arose out of employment.
Striking a comparison, Mr. Justice Venugopal said that in the present case a retired agricultural officer in Tuticorin was allegedly killed by ramming a tanker lorry owing to previous enmity between him and another person. “The wilful murder of the deceased is an unexpected happening and, therefore, this court opines that it is an accident arising out of the use of the motor vehicle,” he added.
Consequently, the judge confirmed a compensation of Rs.2,97,500 awarded by the Motor Accident Claims Tribunal in Tuticorin to the wife and two children of the deceased as against their claim of Rs.18,06,000, which was later reduced to Rs.6 lakh.
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