National Road Safety Day Today

Accident victims cry for compensation

Rajib Kanti Roy

22 October, 2020 12:00 AM printer

Russell Sarkar, a private car driver, has lost his left leg after being hit by a Green Line Paribahan bus on Mayor Hanif Flyover in the capital, but hasn’t got full financial compensation yet.

About one year after the accident on April 28, 2018, responding to a writ petition, the High Court (HC) asked the bus company to pay the victim Tk 50 lakh in compensation within two weeks.

Albeit initially the Green Line Paribahan tried to skip the directives issued by the HC on March 12, 2019, they paid Russell Tk 13.28 lakh in three installments.

Finally, on October 1 this year, the High Court ordered the bus company to pay him Tk 20 lakh more in compensation by next three months.

Probably, he will get the compensation as the amount was fixed by mutual consent.

However, Russell Sarker’s case is an exception. Unlike him, majority of the road accident victims are deprived of justice and compensation due to legal complications and loopholes.

Most of them even don’t know about laws and how to claim compensation from perpetrators who are responsible for their sufferings.

In such a situation, the country is set to observe National Road Safety Day today.

Awareness is the key

Ahead of the national road safety day, a survey was conducted on 30 pedestrians in two major intersections of Dhaka city to understand the state of awareness among the mass people about the laws related to compensation.

Only six of the participants were aware of the existence of laws, but none of them could tell that which are the laws and how they would claim compensation if they fall victim to road accidents.

When asked about mass awareness, Liton Arshad, joint secretary general of ‘Nirapad Sarak Chai’, said, “In the Road Transport Act 2018, there is a provision that speaks of a financial assistance fund, formed from the yearly donation of motor vehicle owners, and told if victims or their relatives apply to the trustee board with credible evidence and papers it will determine the amount of compensation for them.”

“Unfortunately the law is yet to be implemented and many people don’t know about it. However, we, along with the government, have been trying to make all aware of this,” he added.

What do laws say about compensation?

Apart from the Road Transport Act 2018, there are several laws in the country, including the Penal Code 1860, the Motor Vehicles Ordinance 1983, the Employers’ Liability (Compulsory Insurance) Act 1969, the Road Traffic Act 1988, the Consumer Rights Protection Act 2009, and the Fatal Accidents Act 1855, which deal with redress in the stance of wrongful death of a person.

According to these laws, families, beneficiaries or the dependants i.e. wives, husbands, parents and children of the deceased or maimed survivors have rights to file suits against perpetrators for damages.

In case of these incidents, the court may fix damages proportioned to the loss resulting from such death or loss to the affected parties respectively.

But these acts don’t have any concrete and unified principles for the court to be followed to estimate damages.

In need of legal reforms

When it comes to ensuring compensation for the injured persons in road fatalities, existing laws offer little respite to victims and their families.

If road accident causes a loss of any part of body like hands or legs, the court can address innumerable pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses apart from punishing an offender.

Some courts prefer fixing compensation based on the social status of victims and wrongdoers being unimaginable and irrational.

Senior Supreme Court lawyer Advocate Shah Monjurul Hoque opined, “There should be a specific guideline regarding the amount of compensation. Reviewing all the laws a specific law can be formed or an existing law can be reformed addressing the issue. In addition, separate court or bench should be established to settle these cases.”

Some experts believe that exercise of tort law can deal with these cases as it tries to redress the victim in monetary terms and allows the court to impose legal responsibility on third parties who should be held accountable (but escape criminal liability) such as bus owners who operate unfit buses, employ unqualified drivers or encourage reckless driving by paying drivers according to the number of trips instead of introducing monthly payment system.