Laws are to be introduced to make it mandatory for motorists to pay compensation to third party or victims of road accidents departing from the current practice of settling the damage only between the two parties involved in the accident.
The issue of getting a majority of road accidents settled between the two drivers or the owners of the vehicles involved under the recently introduced Vehicle Insurance Policy and on the spot payment of compensation without any redress to the victims of the accident has been discussed in detail during the inquiry of the Insurance Board of Sri Lanka (IBSL) at the Committee On Public Enterprises (COPE).
COPE Chairman and Senior Minister D.E.W.Gunasekara told the Daily Mirror that the objective of introducing laws to make it mandatory to pay compensation was to protect the interests of road accident victims.
“Under the Motor Traffic Act, a motor vehicle cannot be put onto the road without a third party insurance. But with the introduction of the Vehicle Insurance Policy in the recent past, the third party or the road accident victims are neglected. In many instances no compensation is paid to them. The accident is being settled between the two parties and the victim is left in the lurch. Our objective by bringing new legislations or introducing amendments to the Motor Traffic Act is to do justice to the road accident victims,” Minister Gunasekara stressed.
Minister Gunasekara has directed the Chairman of the IBSL to prepare a proper mechanism for third party insurance and make it mandatory as the COPE considers it necessary to explore the possibility of formulating a scheme whereby these victims are sufficiently compensated through Third Party Insurance Policies.
Though the Third Party Insurance has been made mandatory for vehicle owners, the Third Party does not draw any benefit from the existing Third Party Insurance Scheme. The only beneficiaries are the vehicle owners who promptly receive their claims for damages, Minister Gunasekara pointed out.
Minister Gunasekara said he has drawn the attention of Insurance Ombudsman Dr. Wickrama Weerasuriya on the issue as well.
Motor Traffic Commissioner General F.H.Harischandra admitting the injustice meted out to road accident victims said he was contemplating to introduce an amendment to the Motor Traffic Act.
“Under the proposed amendments, all accidents must be referred to the police”, Mr. Harischandra said. It is estimated that 80% of road accidents occurred a day were settled through VIP and on the spot settlements.
Meanwhile, Health Ministry Additional Secretary Dr. Palitha Mahipala addressing a seminar on Road accidents said 2,500 road accident victims succumbed to their injuries annually in Sri Lanka.
“Road accidents and resultant deaths and injuries are a national problem that must be addressed immediately as the damage caused is enormous in the term of lives and injuries sustained on victims and the huge cost to treat over 200,000 who get injured,” Dr. Mahipala stressed.
Dr Mahipala said about 80,000 road accidents occur in Sri Lanka annually and average 6-8 persons die per day from road accidents. The health ministry spends between Rs. one million to ten million to treat a road accident victim and the annual budget exceeds Rs. 3.5 billion A major road accident occurs in Sri Lanka e very 10 minutes. (Sandun A. Jayasekera)