By Charity M. Ngabirano
The past few weeks have been filled with news of accidents involving a number of public transport companies.
According to data from the Police Directorate of Traffic and Road Safety, from May 29 to June 4, 2022, a total of 378 accidents were registered. Out of these, 78 were fatal, 204 serious, and 97 were minor.
The traffic police spokesperson, Faridah Nampiima, on June 8 said the accidents involved 423 victims, of whom 84 died, while 339 sustained serious injuries.
Records also indicate that 250 people were killed in accidents in the past two months.
When an accident happens, there are losses made; of property and/or life.
Grieving over the loss of a loved one following an accident can take a toll on the affected person, and raise questions on who to seek answers from as far as responsibility for the loss is concerned.
Is there any insurance for an accident victim?
In Uganda, we have the Motor Third Party Insurance, which was introduced by the Motor Vehicle Insurance (Third Party Risks) Act in 1989.
The Act provides for compulsory insurance against third party bodily risks in respect of the use in vehicles.
It is, therefore, mandatory that any vehicle, van or motorcycle for private or commercial use has Motor Third Party insurance cover.
The law only exempts Government-owned vehicles.
Who benefits from this insurance?
The person who benefits from Motor Third Party Insurance is a third party who suffers loss or death or bodily injury as a result of an accident.
This may be any road user, such as a pedestrian, a motor vehicle passenger, or a property owner involved in an accident.
The first party is the owner of the vehicle or motorcycle, whereas the insurance company is the second party.
It follows, therefore, that if one is involved in an accident, the insurance company is indebted to take care of the losses they suffer.
The insurance company compensates the third parties on behalf of the insured. In cases where the vehicle was not insured, then the owner will be directly responsible for any injuries suffered and deaths that occur.
Death as a cause of action
In Uganda, the law provides that a family member of a deceased person can sue for damages for the loss of their loved one.
Here, the family member who has the right to sue or benefit from such a suit is only that one who was a dependent of the deceased and, therefore, is likely to suffer pecuniary loss as a result of his death.
Section 5 of the Law Reform (Miscellaneous. Provisions) Act gives the right for suing where the deceased would have been entitled to sue had they survived.
The following elements have to be proved;
The death of a human being caused by another’s negligence or with intent to cause harm.
In this case the person suing would have to show that the death was as a result of another’s carelessness, unreasonableness or reckless behaviour.
The survival of the family members who are suffering monetary and psychological injury as a result of the death
The purpose of these suits is to compensate certain relatives of the deceased for the money they would have received from the deceased had he or she lived for, instance, if the person was paying school fees, rent, catering for the needs of others who without the deceased will be very unfulfilled.
This also extends to damages for loss of expectation for life in view of the positive measure of happiness of which the victim has been deprived by the defendant’s negligence, for instance, the death of children.
One can argue that they were going to grow up and become very helpful, but all that is now no more.
Other damages that can be awarded include; monetary damages for loss of services if it can be proved to court that the deceased was providing various services to his or her family and damages for funeral expenses.
Who can be sued?
As discussed above, suits to be brought under death as a cause of action should be able to prove that the death was caused by the negligence of someone who owed the deceased a duty of care and that duty was breached thus the consequent damages suffered by the person suing.
In the case of accidents by transport companies, therefore, the right party to sue would be the company itself.
An employer is generally responsible for the acts of his employees or agents while in the course of the employer’s business or within the scope of employment.
When the employee or agent goes out to perform his or her purely private business and gets involved in an accident, the employer will not be responsible for any damages caused while the employee or agent was on a frolic of his own.
For instance, if a bus knocks down people while on a ‘normal’ bus trip, the bus company will be responsible and is the right party to be sued.
However, if the driver was on their own private business, then they will be sued as an individual. This happens a lot in cases where company drivers move around in official vehicles after working hours or on weekends when the company is closed for business, or, for instance, a taxi driver providing their own private transport service that the owner of the taxi has not authorised.
In this case, you, as an individual, will bear all the costs.
The writer is an advocate
Note: The article is intended to provide information about general statements of law and is not intended to create an advocate-client relationship. Contact a lawyer on specific legal problems