The term “fatal accidents” is not defined under this Act. However, if taken in general parlance of the law, it means- such an accident or act inflicting injury which results in the death of a person or causes severe disablement.
The object of the Act:
As the name suggests, the object or scope of this Act is to provide compensation to the person who has sustained severe injuries caused by any actionable wrong or to provide the same to the family of the person who has succumbed to a fatal accident.
Here are the important provisions of the Act:
Applicability of the Act
As per the short, extent, and title of the Act, the provisions of the Act shall be applicable to the whole of India, except the State of Jammu & Kashmir (now a Union Territory).
Parties entitled to compensation
Section 1A provides that in case of the death of a person, there shall be a suit for compensation for the benefit of the husband, wife, parent, or child of the person whose death has been caused.
In General Motor Services Ltd. v. Veluswami, the Supreme Court observed that Section 1A is applied for recovering damages for the benefit of the persons mentioned in the said Section.
Death by actionable wrong
Section 1A also provides that this Act shall take effect when the death of a person is caused by an actionable wrong- wrongful act, negligent act, or any other act that leads to causing the death of a person.
When if the death had not occurred, the injured would have the right to take an action and recover damages, where such an action would generally amount to a felony.
Apportionment of damages
This doctrine is governed under Sections 1A and 2 of the Act.
Section 2 applies the recovery of pecuniary loss to the estate of the deceased in an action or a suit by the executor, administrator, or the representative of the deceased.
The same principle is applicable for the benefit of the family or the dependants of the person whose death has been caused.
In case of Lachman Singh & Ors. V. Gurmit Kaur & Ors., the Supreme Court laid down the principles while assessing compensation:
Compensation to the deceased in the pecuniary loss caused to the dependants by the death of the person.
For the purpose of calculating just compensation, the annual dependency of the dependants should be determined, in terms of the annual loss accruing to them due to abrupt termination of life.
The multiplier for calculating compensation shall include various factors.
Damage to Estates:
Section 2 of the Act covers any suit or legal action instituted for the damage or loss caused to the estate of the person, resulting from the accident.
In Union Co-operative Insurance Society Ltd. v Bhartibon, it was held that the damages in respect of the loss caused to the estate are to be claimed on behalf of the state and when recovered, from part of the estate. The claim for such estate damages can only be made by those who would succeed to the estate on behalf of the person, who has passed away/died as a result of the accident. It cannot be made by someone who has no legal right to succeed the estate of such a person.
---------In this case, where a Hindu man had died leaving behind a father, a daughter and a wife who had a child in her womb (as under Section 8 of the Hindu Succession Act 1956) the wife with the baby in her womb and her daughter were the rightful claimants of the compensation.
Delivery of Particulars
Section 3 of the Act states that- in case of the institution of a suit for damages, the plaint for such action or suit shall be given with full particulars or details of the person or persons, for whom or on whose behalf such action or suit is brought and,
It shall also specify the nature of the claim in respect of which damages are sought to be recovered.
Nature of claims/ Cause of Action
It has been interpreted through a number of judgements of the Supreme Court that the cause of action under Sections 1A and 2 are different.
Where under Section 1A damages are recoverable for the benefit of persons mentioned therein: Section 2 provides that damages can be claimed inter alia for the compensation that goes for the benefit of the estate.
Though, in some cases, parties are entitled to recover pecuniary may not necessarily be the case, because persons claiming compensation under Section 1A may be different from those claiming under Section 2.
Prima Facie, as the two claims are based upon different causes of action, the claimants, whether the same or different, would be entitled to recover compensation under both heads.
Section 4 of the Act makes the following clarifications-
A person shall include- ‘bodies politic’ and ‘corporate’ entities
A parent shall include- 'father’ and ‘mother’, ‘A grandfather and a grandmother’ but, it does not include step-father/mother.
A child includes- a son, daughter, granddaughter, stepson and stepdaughter.