High Court: 22 years later, accident survivor to get damages of Rs 23 lakh

The survivor, who uses a wheelchair, has completed his law degree and is a practicing lawyer at the High Court.

TWENTY-TWO years and six months after a five-and-a-half-year-old miraculously survived a fatal car accident in which three people were killed on the spot near Lalru, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has enhanced the compensation awarded to the lone survivor from Rs 9 lakh to Rs 23 lakh.

The survivor, who uses a wheelchair, has completed his law degree and is a practicing lawyer at the High Court. On November 10, 1996, three people were killed when a Maruti car driver lost control of his vehicle and hit the rear of a trolley which was parked on the extreme left side of the road. The minor, a student in the UKG then, was the only survivor in the accident. He was also seriously injured and shifted to the PGI in an unconscious state. The four Tricity residents were travelling from Shahbad Markanda to Chandigarh.

The Motor Accidents Claims Tribunal in 2002 directed the insurance company to pay Rs 9 lakh to the minor as compensation after ruling that the car was being driven rashly and negligently but an appeal was filed in the High Court the same year. It was heard on an urgent basis this month. In the High Court, it was argued that the compensation was not satisfactory as the survivor suffered 100 per cent disability in the accident and is totally paralysed. At present, the disability is 85 per cent of the whole body.

The court was also informed that the survivor suffered multiple head injuries and remained in the emergency and paediatric intensive care unit from November 1996 to January 1997 and even thereafter he was attended to by various doctors in Delhi. Even now, he is getting treatment from Indian Spinal Injuries Centre, Vasant Kunj, New Delhi. This treatment is to continue throughout life. The advance treatment is available in the USA for which cost is over two lakh dollars, the counsel representing the claimant told the court, adding that he cannot move out without wheelchair as his body below waist is completely paralyzed and requires an attendant 24×7.

Justice Kuldip Singh in the order passed on Tuesday said the claimant requires a motorised wheelchair as otherwise he will always remain dependent on the attendant. After the court was told that such a wheelchair costs around Rs 1 lakh, the court ordered that in present scenario, motorised wheelchair is required by claimant-appellant to move around from one court to another. Therefore, Rs 1,00,000 is allowed to claimant-appellant to purchase motorised wheelchair .

However, on the question of loss of future earning, the court said since the claimant was successfully able to complete his law degree and is also now practicing at the High Court, the loss of future income at the most can only be some percentage starting from the date of enrollment as advocate in 2016.

The loss is restricted to first few years as after practice of about 10 years, the lawyer started earning good money and the litigants come to lawyer on their own. Therefore, loss of income is only for next 10 years, the court said, while ordering the compensation of Rs 6 lakh with 7.25 per annum interest from December 2016 for the loss of future income.

The court also ordered compensation on account of attendant charges as per the current rate, loss of amenities of life and marital bliss and a consolidated sum under one head of medicines, physiotherapy and diapers. The total amount of enhanced compensation ordered to be paid was Rs 23,20,000 with 7.25% compensation from the day of filing of claim petition in 1998.