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Some act or omission should be attributed to person in road accident to prove contributory negligence: SC

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New Delhi: Some act or omission should be attributed to a person in a road accident against whom contributory negligence is alleged, the Supreme Court has said.

A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian made the observation on an appeal filed by a woman and her minor children against the findings of the Karnataka High Court that her deceased husband, who was driving the car which dashed into a lorry, was also guilty of contributory negligence.

The high court had said the woman and her minor children are entitled only to 50 per cent of the amount of compensation as determined.

The apex court held however that the mere failure to avoid the collision by taking some extraordinary precaution does not in itself constitute negligence.

“To establish contributory negligence, some act or omission, which materially contributed to the accident or the damage, should be attributed to the person against whom it is alleged,” the bench said while reversing the high court’s finding.

The top court said that the view expressed by the high court to the effect that if the driver of the car had been vigilant and driving the vehicle carefully following the traffic rules, the accident would not have happened, is presumptuous and not based on any evidence.

“There was nothing on record to indicate that the driver of the car was not driving at moderate speed nor that he did not follow traffic rules. On the contrary, the High Court holds that if the lorry had not been parked on the highway, the accident would not have happened even if the car was driven at a high speed,” the bench said in its October 6 order.

Allowing the appeal, the apex court modified the high court judgment and directed that a total compensation of Rs 50,89,96 be paid with interest at 9 per cent per annum.

On February 10, 2011, the car in which the deceased was travelling, dashed against a lorry in the front when its driver allegedly stopped it all of a sudden without any signal or indicator.

The victim suffered serious injuries and died on the spot.

Claiming that the accident occurred due to the rash and negligent driving on the part of the driver of the lorry, the petitioners filed a claim before the Motor Accident Claim Tribunal seeking compensation in a sum of Rs 54,10,000.

According to the appellants, the victim was 32 years of age at the time of the accident and that he was employed as a Senior Design Engineer in a company earning a sum of Rs 45,000­ per month with bright future prospects.

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