Motor Accident Claim – Non-Pecuniary Damages Also Have To Be Considered In Case Of 100% Disability – SC Enhances Compensation
A two-judge Bench of Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice JK Maheshwari has held that in the case of permanent disability non-pecuniary damages also have to be taken into consideration while deciding the just compensation to be paid to the claimant.
The Court while holding so placed reliance on Kajal vs. Jagdish Chand and others (2020) 4 SCC 413 a case of permanent disability where the Court adjudicated upon the aspect of just compensation and summarized the principles and held that the compensation was to be assessed in the heads of 'loss of earning', 'medical expenses, transportation, special diet, attendant charges', 'loss or diminution to the pleasures of life by loss of a particular part of the body' and 'loss of future earning capacity, damages, pecuniary as well as non-pecuniary have to be assessed.
The Court in the above precedent also observed that compensation may also be awarded for non-pecuniary damages including pain, suffering, loss of amenities, loss of marriage prospects in case of 100% disability.
In this case, a claim petition was filed under Section 166 of the Motor Vehicles Act asking compensation to the tune of Rs. 2 Crores in various heads on account of permanent disability caused to him because of a road accident. The claimant was five and a half years old, a student of UKG, suffered multiple injuries like cerebral edema/brain edema, fracture right part of the temporal bone, spinal cord, lower limbs, due to which he was having loss of speech, convulsions, injuries on the face. The lower limb of the claimant was completely paralyzed resulting in 100% disability.
Due to the injuries in the lower limbs, he lost his senses to calls of nature and needed all-time attendants for his daily routine work. He cannot move without a wheelchair; thus, his future is in complete jeopardy.
The Motor Accident Claims Tribunal (MACT) had recorded the finding of joint and several liability and the claimant suffered 100% disability.
The Tribunal calculated the compensation applying the multiplier of 16 and awarded a total sum of Rs.9,00,000/ with interest @ 9% per annum from the date of filing of the claim petition till the date of payment under different heads.
Aggrieved, the adequacy of the grant of compensation was assailed by the Appellant-Claimant before the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The Court enhanced the total amount of compensation to Rs. 23,20,000 with interest @7.25% p.a.
The Appellant then preferred an appeal before the Supreme Court seeking enhancement of the compensation, looking to the nature of the permanent disability.
The Apex Court noted that it cannot be doubted that the claimant suffered 100% permanent disability in a road accident and the liability is joint and several.
The Bench further observed, "Due to spinal injury, he has suffered complete paralysis of both lower limbs and partial involvement of hands along with bowel and bladder. In consequence, he may suffer urinary complications throughout his life to which adequate medical attention is required. He cannot pursue a regular carrier having embarrassing situation. The percentage of permanent disability is 100%. With the said medical opinion and the findings, the issue of adequacy and to grant the just and reasonable amount of compensation requires consideration."
The Court also noted that making the payment of compensation for damages would not revive the claimant into his original position. The compensation towards the wrongful act in terms of money though cannot be decided by the Court but may be determined as per the recognized principles.
The Bench in this context placed reliance on various English judgments namely, Philipps vs. London & South Western Railway Co. (1879) LR 5 QBD 78, Mediana, In re- 1900 AC 113 (HL), and H. West & Son Ltd. vs. Shephard 1964 AC 326 in which the English Courts have observed that by making a payment of compensation for the damages, the Court cannot put back again the claimant into his original position. On the date of determination of the compensation, he is being compensated but he cannot sue again, therefore, the compensation must be full and final while determining the same.
The Bench further noted, "The High Court in the impugned order observed that the claimant has now started practice as an advocate, therefore, future loss of earning has been calculated only for 10 years, applying the multiplier of 16, without looking to the facts that claimant cannot perform the work of advocacy similar to the other advocates by attending the cases in different Courts. The attendant charges have been allowed only for 20 years with one attendant. In fact, not only for determination of future loss of earning but for attendant charges also the multiplier method should be followed."
The Court also held that the multiplier method has been recognized as the most realistic and reasonable because it has been decided to look to the age, inflation rate, uncertainty of life, and other realistic needs. Thus, for determination of just compensation to ensure justice with the family of the deceased or the injured as the case may be the compensation can be determined applying said method, the Bench thus opined –
"Therefore, in our view the Tribunal while granting the compensation of future loss as well as earning only for 10 year and attendant charges only for 20 years was not justified. In fact, the said amount should be determined applying the multiplier method."
"…the compensation can be assessed in pecuniary heads i.e. the loss of future earning, medical expenses including future medical expenses, attendant charges and also in the head of transportation including future transportation. In the nonpecuniary heads, the compensation can be computed for the mental and physical pain and sufferings present and in future, loss of amenities of life including loss of marital bliss, loss of expectancy in life, inconvenience, hardship, discomfort, disappointment, frustration, mental agony in life etc," the Court added.
The Court thus held that the total compensation comes to Rs. 51, 62,000/- and deduced the amount of already granted compensation of Rs. 23, 20, 000 awarded by the High Court and enhanced the compensation to Rs. 28, 42, 000/-.
In the light of these observations, the Court partly allowed the appeal.