SC:20 days’ delay in lodging claim after serious accident is no delay at all

The Hon’ble Supreme Court, on 18th June 2020, in the matter of Surendra Kumar Bhilawe v. The New India Assurance Company Limited pronounced that in case of a serious accident in course of inter-state transportation of goods, a 20 days delay in lodging an insurance claim is no delay at all.

The Hon’ble Supreme Court observed that:

There can be no doubt that property in a specific movable property is transferred to the buyer at such time as parties to the contract intend it to be transferred, provided such immovable property is free to be transferred, and/or in other words capable of being transferred.  (Para 31)

If there is an impediment to the transfer, there could be no question of transfer of title until the impediment were removed, for otherwise the contract for transfer would be, immoral, unlawful and void under Section 10 read with Sections 23 and 24 of the Contract Act, 1872. (Para 32)

It is difficult to accept that a person who has transferred the ownership of a goods carriage vehicle on receipt of consideration, would not report the transfer or apply for transfer of registration, and thereby continue to incur the risks and liabilities of ownership of the vehicle under the provisions of law including in particular, under the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and other criminal/penal laws. (Para 41)

Where the registered owner purports to transfer the vehicle, but continues to be reflected in the records of the Registering Authority as the owner of the vehicle, he would not stand absolved of his liability as owner. (Para 48)

 If the insured continues to remain the owner in law in view of the statutory provisions of the Motor Vehicles Act, 1988 and in particular Section 2(30) thereof, the Insurer cannot evade its liability in case of an accident. (Para 49)

In the case of a major accident slight delay if any, on the part of the traumatized driver to lodge an FIR, cannot defeat the legitimate claim of the Insured. (Para 51)

In case of a serious accident in course of inter-state transportation of goods, delay of 20 days in lodging a claim is also no delay at all. (Para 51)

Delay in intimation of accident, or submission of documents due to unavoidable circumstances, should not bar settlement of genuine claims. (Para 52)

Copy of judgement: Judgement_18-Jun-2020

-Adv. Tushar Kaushik

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