Bus Safety should be considered along with Third Party Insurance: says the Council

07/09/2011 11:39

THE latest bus incident in Nawai, Nadi, where a bus/coach caught fire, threatening the lives of 60 passengers, illustrates that not all is well for buses as far as safety and security is concerned. Bus operators must put the safety and security of their passengers on the top of their agenda with one aim - to ensure commuters enjoy safe travel. This is only possible if operators have adequate insurance cover that is sufficient to deal with any claim.

In this case 60 passengers were lucky to escape death by the quick thinking driver. Passengers may not be lucky all the time. It is therefore important to review the Third Party laws to ensure victims of such accidents are compensated adequately in a timely manner.  Third party insurance must be made realistic to protect travellers.

Currently the accident cover for a bus is either $40,000 for a whole bus or $4000 per passenger. When compensation for a busload of 60 passengers is calculated, each passenger or their close family members would have received $667 each if travelers were injured. Is this the value of a human life?

Third party law is based on a very clear understanding which is to protect third party victims of a motor vehicle accident. It is designed to protect innocent persons injured, or suffered loss as dependents through accidents. Unfortunately, the current third party policy creates a false sense of security through payment of a compulsory (annual) insurance cover which then is weaved in with various exclusion clauses in favour of the insurance companies who provide the cover.

What is even more disturbing is that there is no ceiling set for the amount of compensation a victim can seek if he or she meets with an accident except for, bus accidents which is $40,000 per bus.  Since there is no ceiling under the current law makes victim knock on the door of the courts as an option to get fair compensation provided the victim can afford legal fees.  Despite going to Courts, the ambiguity in law has not allowed for successful judgements as hoped for, in favour of the third party victims as seen with the trends in case law development in this area.

The Consumer Council Fiji is calling on all relevant stakeholders to accord reasonable and fair compensation to victims of road accidents by putting in place proper redress mechanisms. It is time that all stakeholders review the intent of the Ordinance and think of the poor victims who often suffer silently.