Few Days ago, I came across a very interesting headline "Is Death By Mosquito Bite covered under Death By Accident". I was impressed by this question as I felt strong arguments can be raised from both side, and hence read about the issue in Depth. For answering this question we need to first understand "What is an accident".
WHAT IS AN ACCIDENT?
An accident is something that happens unexpectedly and is not planned in advance. It is defined as1
- as unpleasant event, especially in a vehicle, that happens unexpectedly and causes injury or damage,
- something that happens unexpectedly and is not planned in advance
- as accident, an unforeseen injuries occurrence, something that does not come in the usual course of event or that cannot be reasonably anticipated
- an unforeseen and injurious occurrence due to mistake, negligence, neglect or misconduct; an unanticipated and untoward event that cause(s) harm
JUDICIAL PRONOUNCEMENT BY THE SUPREME COURT
In one of the recent landmark judgments by the apex court2, the court referred to an anecdote from Mozambique, where a death was caused due to Malaria and then the court was tasked to determine whether death by malaria constituted a death due to an accident. The insured shifted from Assam to Mozambique and was diagnosed with encephalitis malaria and died on Account of multi-organ failure. The heirs of the deceased claimed for insurance under Section II of the policy against personal accident. The state commission by its order stated that a "sudden death due to a mosquito bite in a foreign land" was an accident; it would be rather silly to say that it was a natural death. The order of the State Commission was assailed in revision before the National Commission and it was held that:
"It can hardly be disputed that a mosquito bite is something which no one expects and which happens all of a sudden without any act or omission on the part of the victim. In Consumer Complaint No. 223 of 2006, Shri Matber Singh versus Oriental Insurance Co. Ltd. decided on 05.09.2014, this Commission noted that as per the information available on the website of the Insurance Company, an accident may include events like snake bite, frost bite and dog bite. Hence, it would be difficult to accept the contention that malaria due to mosquito bite is a disease and not an accident."
Hence, in order to raise a claim for an accident "the death or mishap must be in the nature which is unnatural, unforeseen or unexpected". In the present case, death is caused due to a disease being contacted; therefore the question was "whether a disease can be covered within the ambit of "Accident".
The Supreme Court analyzing the merits of the case from the purview of different definitions of Accident, emphasised that 'accident' as a term does not include disease in the ordinary course of events.
The Supreme Court in dealing with an appeal against the National Consumer Commission has held that a disease caused/ transmitted by insect/ virus in the natural course of an event would not be covered under accident.
Although the Hon'ble Supreme Court has given its precedent, but some of my questions have still not been answered, How is a death by a disease caused by event of Mosquito Bite different from death by infection, tetanus or Gangrene caused by event of Vehicle Accident. Both events are unforeseen, unexpected. What I mean is getting bitten by anopheles mosquito and getting hit by a vehicle while on road are "accident" as they both are unforeseen injurious occurrence.
1 Oxford Learner's Dictionary available at https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/accident
2 The Branch Manager, National Insurance Co. Ltd. v. Mousumi Bhattacharjee and Ors, In The Supreme Court Of India Civil Appeal No. 2614 of 2019 (Arising out of SLP (C) No. 4297 of 2017) decided on 26.03.2019; available at https://www.sci.gov.in/supremecourt/2017/2086/2086_2017_Judgement_26-Mar-2019.pdf (Last Accessed on May 7, 2019 at 11: 08 AM )
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