Road accident cases - how to deal with emergencies

Filed under: People and society by Hari
Posted at 08:42 IST (last updated: Fri, Feb 17, 2012 @ 09:03 IST)
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Recently a friend of mine was involved in quite a serious road accident where his car hit a bike and the rider of the bike sustained serious head injuries.

Now causing or at the least, being involved in a serious road accident in which you are not the affected party can attract either civil or criminal liability or both. It's very important that if you're the driver of a car or a bigger vehicle and has caused serious injury or maybe even death to another road-user (and especially to pedestrians or bike riders) on the highway, that you should not try and rush away from the scene of the accident.

This creates a very dangerous situation for the driver and owner of the car (or the bigger vehicle involved) and might be taken as a prima-facie evidence or admission of guilt. Hit-and-run is a sure way to attract severe criminal penalty - at least in India. And when the case involves accidental death, it may even attract a maximum of a 2 years imprisonment (with or without fine) if negligence on the part of the driver is proved (Section 304A of the Indian Penal Code - causing death by negligence). Even if there is no fault on the part of the driver, leaving the scene of the accident at the earliest possible moment is a big mistake.

To be on the absolute safe side, it's very, very important to follow these simple rules which can minimize liability (if any) and go a long way to ensuring that you're on the safe side of the Law. Accident cases can be very disturbing and being the accused in a criminal proceeding can be very unpleasant and stressful to the person or persons involved.

Stop and arrange to take the injured person to a nearby hospital

This is a legal duty! When an accident occurs, don't panic... It is very easy to think about running away and escaping, especially if there are no witnesses. Even without direct witnesses, the police can trace vehicles involved in highway road accidents by the process of elimination - even if it takes a long time. One such way is to get the records of toll collection and police check posts and finding out the registration numbers of which cars passed through around the time and date of the accident in question.

It's extremely important that the question of responsibility or guilt should come second if the person involved in the accident is seriously injured and is losing blood. It is common humanity to arrange for emergency medical care to the injured party as quickly as possible to save a life. If it is absolutely impossible to personally attend, a close trusted friend who will take all responsibility on your behalf should be left behind to attend to the injured. Calling a nearby ambulance service is highly recommended.

Note the name, address, vehicle number and contact details of the injured person(s) and their friends/relatives

This is another step to ensure that you are not caught unawares if the police are investigating the accident and you are not denied the chance to put forward your side of the case or defence in time. If you wait for the police to catch up with you before you admit involvement in the accident, it can create a bad impression.

Noting the names and addresses of the injured party will at least give you a solid piece of evidence that you HAD cared to stop and attend to the injured if the police do eventually arrive and inquire at your doorstep several weeks after the incident.

Keep your temper under control

Even if you do stop voluntarily, you might be tempted to leave when it appears that there will be trouble over the event. Especially on highways, the local townsfolk or villagers will gather together in hostile attitude near the scene of the accident. Tempers might flare up for a short duration, but avoid getting caught in a heated verbal altercation or a scuffle with the local populace.

Even if there appears that there won't be trouble, never take anything for granted. Particularly, don't trust local persons who tell you to leave the scene of the accident or those who try to act as mediators and take money from you promising to discharge you of liability. Your actions might still be taken as hit-and-run when the police ultimately arrive on the scene. Implicating the absent party is not only possible, but highly probable in such scenarios.

Inform the police of the accident and register a counter-complaint if warranted

If you are not at fault or at least there is a chance that the accident has been caused, in part, by the negligence of the other party, filing a counter-complaint at the local police station near where the accident has taken place as soon as possible will give you a better chance of avoiding criminal liability.

Here I'll say one more thing. It's important not to make a deal with the police without getting a written assurance from the other party that they will drop charges if you offer them some kind of monetary compensation. Never take the assurances of the police for granted!

In the less serious accidents, compromise is often possible and indeed desirable from everybody's point of view. But compromises should be made in the proper manner and the police should not be given a chance to take advantage of your absence to establish and file charges. Trying to bribe policemen can be a double-edged weapon and very dangerous! Be very careful in such a situation.

Inform your lawyers immediately

If there is a good chance of getting charged on a criminal offence, it is important to get in touch with a good lawyer as soon as you can and let them know the whole facts of the case. A lawyer can definitely be a help and a support in dealing with the situation and in the worst case scenario, a lawyer will help you wade through the technicalities of criminal proceedings.

If there are regular hearings of the case, you might be able to get the court's permission from having to appear in every single hearing.

That's about it. Being involved in road accidents is never pleasant and is nearly always stressful and panic-inducing. Following these tips will not be easy or natural, but it will save a lot of trouble in the long run.

Disclaimer: Ultimately, I am not a qualified lawyer (yet). I am a law student and I can only state opinions based on my own understanding of law. Consult a legal specialist in road accident cases to be properly and authoritatively advised. The suggestions in this article are purely general and advisory in nature based on my limited knowledge of Indian Law.

23 comment(s)

  1. If the driver of bigger vehicle stays there, chances are that public will beat him to death- that is the ground reality in India, which is why lots of people prefer to escape first and then think of anything else.

    Comment by Shrinidhi Hande (visitor) on Fri, Jun 26, 2009 @ 10:02 IST #
  2. Shrinidhi, I was talking from a legal point of view.

    Escaping and not reporting the accident is a tacit admission of guilt. If there is a crowd or threat of immediate physical danger, the driver should report to a police station in any case within 24 hours and explain the circumstances of the accident in writing and the fact that he could not assist the injured because of the danger posed by the crowd. Otherwise the danger of being prosecuted and being convicted of a crime under the IPC is much greater.

    Staying silent is not recommmended in any case. If physical presence on the accident site becomes impossible because of circumstances, the driver should take a close, trusted friend and a lawyer and report to the police ASAP. Otherwise it will be recorded as a hit-and-run case.

    The big thing here is that being classified as a "hit-and-run" driver is big trouble, especially considering the recent high-profile cases of that nature in India.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Fri, Jun 26, 2009 @ 10:40 IST #
  3. We have met with similar situation. An old lady tripped and fallen on rear end of the car while she was standing on the divider. We have taken her to hospital. She was admitted there for 2 weeks. All the expenditure was taken care by her son's mediclaim. We have spoken to the family and agreed to give some compensation. But they are not coming to police station and give in writing that they don't have any complaint against us. Also, they are not even filing compliant against us. We are worried..if the old lady dies after some days and the family files criminal case against us...

    Comment by Veena (visitor) on Fri, Sep 18, 2009 @ 12:11 IST #
  4. Veena, you should get their statement in writing before you gave compensation. Also get in touch with a lawyer who knows the ropes in these cases.

    Also you should have informed the police immediately after the accident or very soon of your admitting the other party into the hospital and the agreement of this settlement when you pay them so that it is recorded officially. Don't give the compensation without consulting a lawyer and getting a written statement from the other party.

    Regardless, if they complain so late, their case will be weakened considerably especially since you had immediately admitted her in hospital and the records will show that clearly it was not a hit-and-run case, but you should not take any chances in this matter. Keep the hospital records handy so that you can prove that you did admit her into the hospital and not run away.

    All my advise is still not enough or sufficient. The best advisor in this situation will be a qualified lawyer.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Fri, Sep 18, 2009 @ 13:12 IST #
  5. Hi Hari...thank you very much for the reply. When we took her to hospital, traffic police also accompanied us. And we have given a written information to the police station about the incidence and taken receipt also. And we have not given any compensation to him till now. We told him that we will give only when he gives a letter to police stattion to close the issue(as police has received a memo from hospital about the case). Our worry is as the lady is very old....and if she dies after some days, the family should not go and file criminal case against us.

    Comment by Veena (visitor) on Fri, Sep 18, 2009 @ 17:00 IST #
  6. Well, from what you write, it appears that you have done your legal duty. If they still refuse to accept compensation and you have clear proof/records to indicate that you have done all this, you should not worry any more from a legal point of view.

    Obviously you cannot stop their complaint if they make one, but you will be in a strong position to rebut and disprove their claim.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Fri, Sep 18, 2009 @ 18:07 IST #
  7. My girlfriend went to leave the house and I got snagged on the mirror and got my foot ran over, she had no idea she did it or what even happened, but a neighbor here me yell and called the cops before I could say anything. Now the state is pressing felony hit and run charges on her, and she did NOTHING wrong. I want her out of jail now!

    Comment by chase (visitor) on Thu, Oct 1, 2009 @ 22:30 IST #
  8. even i went thorugh such situation where i hit a girl and ran away because the localities over there made me scared and i couldnt help her out to hospital. later next day came to know that she passed away and my car num,ber was published in newspaper and i surrendered. i had been attending court hearings. now they are asking for 12 lakhs as compensation where i cant afford much to give them. what do i do now. i am not from well off family where we can give lumpsum amount. please advice me

    Comment by rahul (visitor) on Wed, Jan 6, 2010 @ 10:33 IST #
  9. Rahul, yes, it's a tough situation to be in. I am not sure what you can do now except negotiate with the aggrieved party to bring down the amount of compensation.

    But please consult a good lawyer for advise. A hit-and-run is a serious case and you require professional guidance to navigate through the technicalities.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Wed, Jan 6, 2010 @ 17:13 IST #
  10. 3 years back me and my father who was driving a two wheeler met with an accident involving a Tractor on the raod. My father died in the same accident and I sustained serious injuries to my hand which got broken. Thought I got the insurance amount , but now after 3 years I get a surprise call from local police station to appear for the court. I remember that while in hospital I filled an FIR and that may me be reason. I donot want to go to the court as the driver of the Tractor though responsible is a poor chap, please advice what I should I do. The local cops are insisting me to appear in court and I donot want to waste my time. Please advice being a victim is it mandatory to attend the court and do the local police have any legal power to keep on insisting me, which is a nuisance to me.

    Comment by Phillip (visitor) on Tue, Mar 16, 2010 @ 11:49 IST #
  11. Which country do you live in? Depending on that there may be rules of evidence which requires a witness to attend court. Did you receive subpoena?

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Wed, Mar 17, 2010 @ 07:32 IST #
  12. i(two wheeler) met an accident wit a pedestriant for not a mistake of him.then i took him to the hospital along with the friends of pedestriants after that i left the place.those ppl then filed an complaint on me and said that they did so inorder to claim the insurance.so i paid the fine @ court.but now after 10 months that guy had filed a case on me(1) and the insurance company(2) for a compensation claim of 6lakhs
    is it now tat the insurance company will pay the amount or am i liable to pay the amount?
    pls give me some suggestions...

    Comment by lokesh (visitor) on Wed, Jul 21, 2010 @ 16:43 IST #
  13. Was the first case a criminal case and now he's suing you under law of torts for damages?

    Have you consulted a lawyer?

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Wed, Jul 21, 2010 @ 17:26 IST #
  14. My wife hit a pedestrian (an old man) last week. The old man (77 yrs old) got injured and one my relative (who was also in the car) took him to hospital. Later he died.
    Now the person's son lodged a FIR and a criminal case has been registered (279 and 304A) against my wife. We are consulting a lawyer and she has been granted bail. She was driving the car very slow because the lane was too congested. My questions:

    1. What's the next step?
    2. Is there any out of court settlement possible?
    2. What's the proof required to save from jail term?

    Comment by Rup (visitor) on Tue, Jan 4, 2011 @ 17:17 IST #
  15. Rup, if the criminal case is filed it's a serious matter. I don't think a monetary compromise is possible at this stage like a civil case, but you should really get your lawyers to take over now. Any advice I can give will be useless.

    As for jail term, I am not sure. There might be a heavy fine for sure if your wife is convicted and the judge might direct some of the fine to be paid by way of compensation to the victim's family.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Wed, Jan 5, 2011 @ 08:16 IST #
  16. I agree that daily many people dies in road accidents. It's a common issue for consideration for all countries. Government should take some steps to reduce road mishaps and if someone found guilty means caught while breaking traffic rule should be punished by laws.

    Comment by sasosafetysigns (visitor) on Thu, Feb 17, 2011 @ 00:53 IST #
  17. hi ! sir my father was working with sugar factory, last month he met an road accident while he was returning from the marriage,as the jolt of the vehicle was so severe,he could not resist and died on the spot,the GM of the factory send the body to our home town without inspection,no fir was done by the company and by us,the driver of the vehicle ran away.what should be done now?Is it too late now to lodge complain in the police station? help me please..

    Comment by aman bhatt (visitor) on Sat, Mar 19, 2011 @ 18:32 IST #
  18. Theoritically there is no such thing as a limitation on criminal matters, but since the driver has gone away, there was no police case registered at the time of the accident, you don't have a post-mortem report or anything, you will not be able to get any result from a police complaint at this time.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Sat, Mar 19, 2011 @ 19:30 IST #
  19. Hi sir,
    on 14.4.2011 an accident happened near my house on the highway. A car was on the way very fast on the highway. suddenly a Bike man crossed from left to right on the highway(where the platform was broken by the village people to pass between the highway). Unfortunately the car hitted the bike when it reaches the middle of the highway. He was thrown and was highly injured and taken to hospital. This was the Big mistake by the Bike man. Police came and wrote something. Actually what will happen next. What will happen to those persons in court? what type of case will be filed against that car driver and bike person?

    Its completely insane of the bike driver. Spotted persons said car driver will also have to go through trouble. IS it true? Mostly his car damaged a lot.

    what will happen to that car driver?

    Comment by E.Daniel (visitor) on Thu, Apr 14, 2011 @ 12:41 IST #
  20. dear sir ,
    It happened with my friend that while driving in a car on the highway, suddenly a cycle person came in front and got injured , my friend took him to the nearby hospital where doctor done his ( victims) dressing and after observing and waiting for the things to become normal he ( friend) left the place , there is no FIR from both the sides till my friend left just a mutual settlement with some amount among the victims relatives , mob and my friend (my friend is having the mutual settlement letter duly signed by the victim's son), next day my friend got news that the victim got expired while going to the hospital , and the family members did the funeral without FIR and POSTMORTEM , now we just want to know that is it possible for the victims relative or for us TO FILE F.I.R without PRIOR FIR and without POSTMORTEM PRIOR TO FUNERAL , and can we go for INSURRANCE CLAIM and can VICTIM'S RELATIVE ASK FOR A CLAIM FROM INSURANCE COMPANY

    Comment by eliza (visitor) on Fri, Feb 10, 2012 @ 19:26 IST #
  21. Hi, I met with an acciedent and injured a beggar on the road. I took him to the hospital and beared all the expenses. I and the Police could not find any relatives of her till date. Please advice the consequences and the charges faced if -
    1. If she survives.
    2. If she dies.

    Comment by Prasant Banthia (visitor) on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 @ 17:32 IST #
  22. Hi.. I met with an accident last month and took the injured to the hospital where the doctor said that it will cost the other party some 50k for the surgery of his leg.. we suggested that they can claim through the third party coverage, however they denied going to the police and briging their vehicle to the police station also. they requested us to help with some settlement and we gave them 10,000 in cash then and there itself... NOW.. after a month, the injured party launched an FIR under sections 279 and 337 IPC against us and giving wrong info. I, however have released my vehicle and also got the bail but we have to appear in front of the court whenever there is a hearing. I am very confuse if should just "plead guilty" and get rid of it.. or do a counter complaint as the facts mentioned in the FIR against me are incorrect. I helped these people, with the intention of humanitarian act but they are coming back to seek more money when he was driving negligently. Please suggest the best course of action here. thanks

    Comment by Vidu (visitor) on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 @ 20:45 IST #
  23. Hi, all, thanks for all the queries. Unfortunately I am unable to provide personalized advice to the various queries raised here. I am a busy lawyer myself and unable to attend to individual queries online. So please approach a lawyer for proper advise.

    I am closing this comments section.

    Comment by Hari (blog owner) on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 @ 09:02 IST #

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