As per the data released by the government, 15.5% of all the road accidents in India were ‘Hit & Run’ cases which resulted in more than 29,000 deaths. To fast-track investigation & settlement of claims in such cases, the government recently published draft rules regarding the ‘Motor Vehicles Accident Fund’ and the compensation scheme. Here is a review.
‘Hit and Run’ accidents are defined as accidents where an individual driving a vehicle incurs any damage to any person’s life, health and/or property and the driver knowingly leaves the scene without providing their information to concerned legal authorities. In other words, hit and run accidents mean hitting a person or property while driving and fleeing.
On 02 August 2021, the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways published the Draft Scheme for Compensation to victims of Hit & Run Accidents, 2021 and rules to fast track hit and run accident investigations and settlement of claims.
Creation of dedicated fund, increase in compensation for victims
The Draft Rules and Scheme for Compensation of Hit & Run Accident Victims make way for a number of changes. Notably, the minimum compensation for hit and run cases has been increased significantly. They provide for an eight-fold increase in compensation for any death and a four-fold increase in compensation for any grievous hurt in hit and run accidents.
The major highlights of the scheme are;
- Mandates mobile number in the Certificate of Insurance, thereby amending the existing Central Motor Vehicles Rules 1989.
- Amendments made for detailed investigation of road accidents, Detailed Accident Report (DAR) and its reporting, along with timelines for different stakeholders, and quick settlements of claims by Motor Accident Claim Tribunal (MACT).
- Creation, operation, and sources of the Motor Vehicles Accident Fund which shall be used for providing compensation in case of hit and run accident, treatment for accident victims and any other purpose, as specified by the Central Government.
- The new Scheme for Compensation for Hit & Run Accident Victims would provide enhanced compensation (from Rs 12,500 to Rs 50,000 for grievous hurt and from Rs 25,000 to Rs 2,00,000 for death), superseding the earlier Solatium Scheme, 1989.
The government also published draft rules for setting up ‘The Motor Vehicle Accident Fund’ which would have three different accounts with different sources of funding. The three accounts would be
- Account for Insured Vehicles
- Account for Uninsured vehicles/Hit and Run Accident
- Hit and Run Compensation Fund
The proportion of hit & run cases (in total accidents) has increased in the past three years
According to the Road Accidents in India Report 2019, at least 29,354 persons succumbed to death and 67,751 persons were injured in a hit and run cases in the country in the year 2019. The report reveals that ‘Hit and Run’ cases accounted for the largest share of 19.4% of the total persons killed in accidents in 2019, even registering an increase over the previous year of 18.9%. The number of hit and run cases in 2019 accounted for 19.4% of all accident deaths compared to 18.9% in 2018 and 17.5% in 2017.
The share of ‘Hit and Run’ cases in the total number of road accidents has also increased from 14% in 2017 to 15.5% in 2019. A similar increasing trend is observed in the number of injured persons.
MP, Maharashtra, UP, Rajasthan, Bihar and others register the most ‘Hit & Run’ cases
A total of 10 states together account for about 80% of ‘Hit and Run’ cases registered in the country during 2019. Among these, Madhya Pradesh stands out with 13,550 cases (3,495 fatalities), which is higher than all other states by a significant margin. Maharashtra records the second-highest number of hit and run cases with 8,575 followed by Uttar Pradesh (7,778), Rajasthan (7,741) and others.
Care during golden hours and protection of Good Samaritans
In the absence of an efficient Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system in India, the role of bystanders is crucial in saving the lives of victims in road crashes. According to WHO (World Health Organisation), 50% of victims of road accidents die in the first 15 minutes due to serious cardiovascular or neurological injuries and the rest can be saved by providing basic life support during the ‘Golden Hour’. However, due to fear of harassment by police, detention at hospitals and prolonged legal formalities, bystanders are reluctant in coming forward to help a victim on the road.
According to the Road Accidents in India Report 2019, the Central Government is planning to introduce a scheme for the cashless treatment of victims of the accident during the golden hour i.e. the time period of up to one hour following a traumatic injury, during which the likelihood of preventing death through prompt medical care is the highest. The proposal is under consultation with the States, the National Health Authority (NHA) and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI). The report also highlights other efforts being undertaken by the government vis-à-vis emergency and trauma care in road accidents.
According to a Save Life Foundation study titled Impediments on Bystander Care in India, in 2013, about 74% of respondents expressed unwillingness to assist victims of road accidents. Among these, as many as 88% of unwilling bystanders cited legal hassles, involving repeated police questioning and multiple court appearances, as the reasons for their hesitation. The report highlights that 80% of victims fail to receive emergency medical care within the critical ‘Golden Hour’ after an accident.
The absence of a protective framework for good Samaritans was in stark contrast to legislations prevalent throughout the world, until May 2015 when the government notified guidelines for the protection of Good Samaritans.
In May 2015, the Ministry had issued guidelines to protect the Good Samaritans who voluntarily, in good faith and without expecting a reward, render emergency medical or non-medical assistance to a victim at the scene of an accident or transports the victim to a hospital. One of the earlier articles highlights the various aspects of Good Samaritan Guidelines and Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) to be followed while dealing with the Good Samaritans.
The standard procedures call for non-coercive, non-discriminatory, and time-bound inquiry into an accident, and state that the examinee (i.e., the Good Samaritan) cannot be compelled to disclose personal information. The guidelines also state that the Samaritan does not have to pay for treatment unless she is related to the injured person.
Impact of Good Samaritan Guidelines negligible, harassment and difficulties persist
Two years after India’s Good Samaritan law came into existence, the Save Life Foundation conducted a National Study of Impact of Good Samaritan Law. The study has been conducted in 11 cities across the country with a total sample size of 3667 respondents including Good Samaritans (who have helped road crash victims post-2016), Police Officials, Hospital Administration, Medical Practitioners and Trial Court Lawyers.
The study reveals that there is little awareness about the new rights under the Good Samaritan laws. Overall, only 16% of people were aware of the Good Samaritan Law. The cities of Hyderabad, Kolkata and Ludhiana were found to have the lowest level of public awareness on Good Samaritan Law.
Though there is an increase in general willingness to help the injured, from 26% in 2013 to 88% in 2018, yet in terms of concrete actions, the willingness to help victims is still low. Out of those who were willing to help, only 29% said they were willing to escort the victim to the hospital, only 28% were willing to call an ambulance, and only 12% said they would call the Police.
In comparison to their 2013 study, about 62% of respondents were hesitant to help due to legal hassles and police harassment, as compared to 88% in 2013.
None of the hospitals surveyed had a Good Samaritan Charter published and 96% of the surveyed medical professionals admitted to not having a Good Samaritan Law Committee in their hospitals. Moreover, 87% of the surveyed medical professionals and 74% of the surveyed police officials admitted to not having received any training on implementing the Good Samaritan Law.
One of the most discouraging facts revealed by the survey is that about 59% of the surveyed Good Samaritans said that they were detained by police while another 22% said that they were detained at hospitals while trying to help injured road crash victims.
However, on an encouraging note, the survey also finds that about two-thirds of Police Officials surveyed confirmed that the calls from bystanders to facilitate medical assistance for road crash victims have increased after the enactment of the Good Samaritan Law, i.e., after 30 March 2016. The incidence of calls varied across cities. Hyderabad, Bangalore, Indore, Kanpur, and Jaipur saw a high incidence of calls. However, cities like Mumbai, Varanasi and Ludhiana were below average.
Featured Image: Draft rules to fast track ‘Hit &Run’ Accident investigations