FATAL ACCIDENTS ACT, 1855
Fatal Accidents Act, 1855
WHEREAS no action or suit is now maintainable in any court against a person who, by his wrongful act, neglect or default, may have caused the death of another person, and it is often times right and expedient that the wrongdoer in such case should be answerable in damages for the injury so caused by him;
It is enacted as follows:-
1. Short title and extent
(1) This Act may be called the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855.
(2) It extends to the whole of India except the State of Jammu and Kashmir
1A. Suit for compensation to the family of a person for loss occasioned to it by his death by actionable wrong
Whenever the death of a person shall be caused by wrongful act, neglect, or default, and the act, neglect or default is such as would (if death had not ensured) have entitled the party injured to maintain an action and recover damages in respect thereof, the party who would have been liable if death had not ensured, shall be liable to an action or suit for damages, notwithstanding the death of the person injured, and although the death shall have been caused under such circumstances as amount in law to felony or other crime.
Every such action or suit shall be for the benefit of the wife, husband, parent and child, if any, of the person whose death shall have been so caused, and shall be brought by and in the name of the executor, administrator, or representative of the person deceased; and in every such action, the court may give such damages as it may think proportioned to the loss resulting from such death to the parties respectively, for whom and for whose benefit such action shall be brought, and the amount so recovered, after deducting all costs and expenses, including the costs not recovered from the defendant, shall be divided amongst the before-mentioned parties, or any of them, in such shares as the court by its judgment or decree shall direct.
Comment: (i) Under section 1A of the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855, compensation awarded for loss of dependency, worked out by applying the principle of multiplier is a part of damages “proportioned to the loss resulting from the death”; Fizabai v. Nemi Chand, AIR 1993 MP 79.
(ii) Section 1 A of the Fatal Accidents Act, 1855 read with the Motor Vehicles Act 1939 (Now see Motor Vehicles Act, 1988) makes it obligatory on the tribunal to award “just compensation” which differs from case to case: Sardar Ishwar Singh v. Himachal Puri AIR 1990 MP 282.
But in assessing damages certain other factors have to been taken note of which the High Court overlooked, such as the uncertainties of life and the fact of accelerated payment - that the husband would be getting a lump sum payment which but for his wife's death would have been available to him in driblets over a number of years. Allowance must be made for the uncertainties and the total figure scaled down accordingly. The deceased might not have been able to earn till the age of retirement for some reason or other, like illness or for having to spend more time to look after the family which was expected to grow. Thus the amount assessed has to be reduced taking into account these imponderable factors. Some element of conjecture is inevitable in assessing damages; AIR 1977 SUPREME COURT 1189, M.P. State Road Transport Corporation, Bairagarh,Bhopal v. Sudhakar.
2. Not more than one suit to be brought
Provided always that not more than one action or suit shall be brought for, and in respect of, the same subject-matter of complaint.
Claim for loss to the estate may be added: Provided that in any such action or suit, the executor, administrator, or representative of the deceased may insert a claim for, and recover any pecuniary loss, to the estate of the deceased occasioned by such wrongful act, neglect or default, which sum, when recovered, shall be deemed part of the assets of the estate of the deceased.
3. Plaintiff shall deliver particulars, etc.
The plaint in any such action or suit shall give a full particular of the person or persons for whom, or on whose behalf, such action or suit shall be brought, and of the nature of the claim in respect of such damages shall be sought to be recovered..
4. Interpretation clause
The following words and expressions are intended to have the meanings hereby assigned to them respectively, so far as such meanings are not excluded by the context or by the nature of the subject-matter; that is to say, the word "person" shall apply to bodies politic and corporate; and the word "parent" shall include father and mother, grand-father and grand-mother; and the word "child" shall include son and daughter, and grand-son and grand-daughter, and step-son and step-daughter.