Kin of road death victims got insurance in only 50% cases

MORE THAN 1.46 lakh people died in road accidents last year but at least in half of these cases, the families of victims are yet to receive their insurance claims. Further, the four general insurance public sector (GIPSA) companies, which account for at least 90 per cent of market share, collected over Rs 21,200 crore as premium in 2015-16 but disbursed only Rs 11,480 crore towards accident claims.

And, only Rs 2,762 crore — not even one-fourth of the amount disbursed in the last financial year — went towards death claims. These statistics were recently adduced before the Supreme Court, which expressed concern over the fatalities and the fact that in half of the death cases, the victims’ families did not receive monetary help.

During a hearing on October 3 of a PIL on this issue, a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and D Y Chandrachud went through the affidavit filed by the government and noted that there was a gap of around Rs 10,000 crore between what the GIPSA companies collected as premium and what they handed out in damages.

“We also find that the number of claims that have been made on account of death are roughly half the number of deaths. In other words, at least half of the legal representatives of road accident deaths are not aware that they are entitled to compensation, including no-fault liability,” said the court.

The court was informed that the four companies — National Insurance Company Ltd, New India Assurance Company Ltd, Oriental Insurance Company Ltd and United India Insurance Company Ltd — collected Rs 9,762 crore more as premium in the last financial year.

The figures show that while deaths in road accidents rose by more than six per cent between 2013 and 2015, the number of claims came down by 15 per cent — and claims disbursed towards accident deaths slumped by 10 per cent, by more than Rs 300 crore.

While the GIPSA firms disbursed Rs 2,762 crore towards death claims, more than double this amount — Rs 5,922 crore — was distributed under ‘own damage’ cover, which remained the only head in which number of claims grew by more than 3 lakh between 2013 and 2015.

Underlining that the number of deaths in road accidents has gone up from 1,39,671 in 2014 to 1,46,133 in 2015, the bench said that the victims could not be left without any remedy and asked the government to inform “what steps have been taken in this regard to bring about awareness amongst victims/families of victims of road accidents”.

Perusing a report submitted by amicus curiae Gaurav Agrawal on behalf of the court-appointed Road Safety Committee, the judges also sought to know from the Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways as to how it spent the Rs 500 crore allocated towards road safety in 2015-16.

“We expect to know from the Ministry how the amount has been spent and also how the amount of Rs 600 crore earmarked for the years 2016-17 is proposed to be spent and whether any of that amount has been spent or not and for what purpose,” said the bench, while noting that apart from identifying 789 black spots, no other plan was divulged by the government.

Stating that “life is not cheap”, the court pointed out that one road accident death occurred within every four minutes and said that “it is high time that road safety issues should be taken seriously both by the central government as well as by the state governments”.

The court has fixed the next hearing of the PIL filed by Dr S Rajaseekaran in the first week of November, while returning the government affidavit saying it was “deficient of any meaningful information” and just a “collection of papers”.

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