Loss Of Vision In One Eye Is Permanent Physical Disability And Loss Of Earning Capacity: In Karnataka High Court.

A Single Judge bench of Honourable Justice Pradeep Singh Yerur in the case of United India Insurance Co., Ltd. Vs Nagendra (MFA NO. 8801 OF 2018) has said that If a professional driver loses complete vision in one eye in a car accident, he will be unable to continue his profession, and this will be considered a permanent physical disability and a total loss of earning capacity.

While partially allowing an appeal filed by one Nagendra, the Karnataka High Court stated, “The petitioner’s occupation as a driver requires specific skills and alertness to operate the motor vehicle.” Both eyesight requires one to be in perfect condition to work as a driver in order to avoid any possibility of an accident or injuring himself or others.”

Briefly, the Petitioner was an employee of Respondent No.1, where he worked as a jeep driver. On May 1, 2011, at approximately 9.30 p.m., while petitioner and another person were driving the jeep mentioned above from hand post of H.D.Kote Taluk towards Antharasanthe Village on Mysuru-Manandawadi Road, near Anagatti gate, on the left side of the road, a vehicle came from the opposite direction and collided with the petitioner’s jeep. As a result of the accident, the said unknown vehicle fled the scene without stopping, resulting in a hit and run case. Petitioner and another occupant, Devaraju, were injured as a result of the impact of the aforementioned accident. Petitioner suffered injuries to his face, left eye, and other parts of his body, whereas the other occupant, Devaraju, died at the scene. Because of the petitioner’s injuries in the accident, his left eye was severely damaged, and the surgery was performed on the left eye. He received further treatment on an outpatient basis after being discharged from the hospital due to post-operative complications. Because of the injuries sustained in the accident, particularly on the left eye, the petitioner has completely lost his left eye vision and thus sustained permanent visual disability, resulting in his inability to perform his avocation of driving employment. As a result of the injuries sustained in the accident, the petitioner suffered a loss of future earning capacity.

United India Insurance Co Ltd had filed a court challenge to the Senior Civil Judge and Motor Accident Claims Tribunal’s judgment award. The Insurer’s appeal was based on perversity, arbitrariness, and the exorbitant amount of compensation awarded. The petitioner’s (driver’s) appeal was based on an incorrect assessment of income and inadequacy of compensation.

Respondent argued that the trial Court erred by overestimating the loss of earning capacity, contrary to statute and medical evidence (30 percent incapacity), and by failing to notice that only the left eye is affected, despite the fact that the eyeball is not damaged, and by ignoring the fact that the other eye is perfectly in order.

It was also claimed that the trial Court made a grave error in awarding interest from the date of the accident, when interest should have been awarded after one month from the date of the accident, as required by law. The trial Judge misdirected himself and made a grave error in failing to consider the provisions of law pertaining to the award of compensation as well as the award of interest beginning one month after the date of the accident.

The appellant’s (driver’s) attorney contended that the trial court erred in determining proper income for compensation purposes by failing to consider the seriousness of the injury as stated by the petitioner and corroborated by the Doctor.

Furthermore, it was claimed that the petitioner suffered serious injury to his left eye, causing him to lose complete vision in that eye. The trial Court should have assumed that the petitioner’s monthly income was Rs.10,000. Given that the petitioner can no longer pursue his hobby of driving because he has lost complete vision in his left eye, he should have had his future earning prospects considered favorably by the trial Court.

The court first addressed the issue of the trial Court’s minimum wage for calculating compensation. The court took note of a Central Government Gazette notification issued by the Ministry of Labour and Employment in 2010, which set the monthly wage at Rs.8,000 per month.

It took note of the Gazette notifications increasing monthly wages under the Employees Compensation Act of 1923 to Rs.15,000/- per month. It stated, “It is impossible to deny that the Act is a beneficial piece of legislation. As a result, there must be a liberal interpretation and construction of the same with the intent of carrying out the specific Legislative intent in bringing about such amendments time and again. Section 4 (1) of the Act and Section 4(1B) of the Act are both clear. This also applies to the amendment made in the Gazette notification dated May 31, 2010.”

The court reviewed the facts of the case and the evidence presented and rejected the counsel for the insurer’s submission that because the petitioner’s vision on the right side of his eye was normal, he could do other activities with one of his eyes, namely the right eye, and thus the petitioner would provide 30% of the loss of earning capacity as opposed to 100% awarded by the trial Court.

After looking into all the facts and arguments, the court observed, “It is undeniably true that the petitioner may be able to do some work with his only vision in his right eye, but the essential and critical aspect of the matter to be considered is whether the petitioner can earn a living as a driver, which he was doing as his sole occupation prior to the date of the accident. The answer to the above-mentioned question is no.”

“Under the Act, incapacity to do work has to be determined with reference to the petitioner’s sole occupation, being the driver as on the date of the accident,” the bench stated.
As a result, High Court ¬†upheld the trial court’s decision regarding the petitioner’s assessment of 100 percent disability for loss of earning capacity. Following that, the court dismissed the insurance company’s appeal while partially allowing the driver’s appeal.

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