Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation: Parents Entitled to Loss of Consortium for Loss of Child- Supreme Court

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September 21, 2018

Motor Vehicle Accident Compensation– In this recent case, the Two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court while recognizing that the Motor Vehicle Act is a beneficial legislation enlightened on the concept of Compensation for Loss of Consortium to Parents and why is it necessary?

Case name: Magma General Insurance Co. Ltd.  v. Nanu Ram Alias Chuhru Ram & Ors.

In the present case, the death of the deceased took place due to an accident whereby through material available on record it was proved that the driver of the offending vehicle was driving in a rash and negligent manner.

The Motor Accidents Claim Tribunal awarded compensation to the aged father and the unmarried sister of the deceased and the Insurance Company and the driver of the vehicle were held to be jointly and severally liable to pay the compensation.

Aggrieved by the amount of compensation, the dependents of the deceased approached the High Court for enhancement of compensation. The High Court enhanced the compensation and the amount was held to be payable jointly and severally by the Appellant Insurance Company and driver of the vehicle.

In this appeal, the Appellant Insurance Company has challenged High Court’s order and the amount of compensation which have been explained below.

Bench

The Two-Judge Bench of the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal on the following counts:

That where the family of the bachelor is large and dependent on the income of the deceased, as in a case where he has a widowed mother and large number of younger non-­earning sisters or brothers, his personal and living expenses may be restricted to one-­third, as contribution to the family will be taken as two­-third.

Aged Father and Unmarried Sister Entitled to Compensation– The Apex Court brushed aside the Appellant’s contention that the father and the sister of the deceased could not be treated as dependents, and it is only a mother who can be dependent of her son. The Court noted that the deceased was a bachelor, whose mother had pre­deceased him. The deceased’s father was about 65 years old, and an unmarried sister. The deceased was contributing a part of his meagre income to the family for their sustenance and survival. Hence, they would be entitled to compensation as his dependents.

Compensation for Loss of Estate- The Supreme Court in the case also noted that the MACT as well as the High Court had not awarded any compensation with respect to Loss of Consortium and Loss of Estate, which are the other conventional heads under which compensation is awarded in the event of death, as recognized by the Constitution Bench in National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Pranay Sethi[1].

The Supreme Court in its exercise of power under Article 142 of the constitution awarded to the claimants compensation for Loss of Estate and opined that the Motor Vehicles Act is a beneficial and welfare legislation. The Court is duty­bound and entitled to award “just compensation”, irrespective of whether any plea in that behalf was raised by the Claimant.

Compensation for Loss of Consortium- The Supreme Court again relying on its judgment in the landmark case of Pranay Sethi awarded compensation to claimants for Loss of Consortium. While awarding compensation for Loss of Consortium, the Supreme Court made the following observation pertaining to Loss of Consortium and compensation payable:

In legal parlance, “consortium” is a compendious term which encompasses ‘spousal consortium’, ‘parental consortium’, and ‘filial consortium’.

The right to consortium would include the company, care, help, comfort, guidance, solace and affection of the deceased, which is a loss to his family.

With respect to a spouse, it would include sexual relations with the deceased spouse Spousal consortium is generally defined as rights pertaining to the relationship of a husband­wife which allows compensation to the surviving spouse for loss of “company, society, co­operation, affection, and aid of the other in every conjugal relation.”

Parental consortium is granted to the child upon the premature death of a parent, for loss of “parental aid, protection, affection, society, discipline, guidance and training.”

Filial consortium is the right of the parents to compensation in the case of an accidental death of a child. An accident leading to the death of a child causes great shock and agony to the parents and family of the deceased. The greatest agony for a parent is to lose their child during their lifetime. Children are valued for their love, affection, companionship and their role in the family unit.

Consortium is a special prism reflecting changing norms about the status and worth of actual relationships. Modern jurisdictions world­over have recognized that the value of a child’s consortium far exceeds the economic value of the compensation awarded in the case of the death of a child. Most jurisdictions therefore permit parents to be awarded compensation under loss of consortium on the death of a child. The amount awarded to the parents is a compensation for loss of the love, affection, care and companionship of the deceased child.

The Motor Vehicles Act is a beneficial legislation aimed at providing relief to the victims or their families, in cases of genuine claims. In case where a parent has lost their minor child, or unmarried son or daughter, the parents are entitled to be awarded loss of consortium under the head of Filial Consortium.

Parental Consortium is awarded to children who lose their parents in motor vehicle accidents under the Act.

The entire case can be accessed here.

 

[1] (2017) 16 SCC 680