More than 95 per cent of public bus-related accident victims settle for meagre compensation because court proceedings take so long, according to recent research.
The research found it took about 18 months to mediate cases, and at least two years for the lowest court to deliver a ruling. Over the period, the victims also had to shoulder travel expenses in contacting the court or relevant authorities in claiming their compensation.
“That’s why most victims decided not to pursue the case further for a higher amount of compensation,” said Dr Sumet Ongkittikul, a researcher at the Thailand Development Research Institute.
The institute conducted the research in collaboration with the Thailand Accident Research Centre.
According to the study findings, compensation including medical costs ranges between just Bt106,886 and Bt145,697, on average.
“Some victims have lost income during their injuries. Some victims have found that their body no longer functions the way it used to do before the accident, while some have clearly become disabled. The compensation is less than what they have suffered,” Sumet said.
The research covered 142 accident victims or their relatives. The average age of the sample was just 35. Of these, 111 have already been concluded, leaving only 31 who are still pursuing the cases.
Sumet said the authorities should ensure victims of accidents involving public buses are compensated based on the actual damages they have faced. He also recommended that the process be speeded up to deliver quicker remedial action, as many of the victims might not be financially able to wait a long time for compensation. Although by law a victim can get immediate compensation without having to wait for a decision on who is at fault, the maximum amount under such circumstances is only Bt50,000.
“Bus operators should buy insurance policies that offer high coverage,” Sumet suggested, adding that he believed medical expenses and compensation for death/disability should be calculated separately.
The researcher said bus operators and drivers should be required to show greater responsibility in regard to preventing accidents. “Victims want reckless drivers to face harsher punishment,” he said.
Other moves could be applied, he said, such as insurance companies charging higher premiums to operators with higher accident records. Victims also want a speed limit for buses and stricter screening of bus drivers’ qualifications.
Dr Thanapong Jinwong, head of the Thailand Accident Research Centre, said the authorities should focus on preventing accidents.
First published in The Nation, 8 April 2013