THE COMPENSATION OF VICTIMS OF MOTOR ACCIDENTS IN CAMEROON
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The increased use of motor vehicles and the many accidents recorded in Cameroon’s highways necessitate compulsory insurance for the compensation of victims in times of misfortune. The CIMA code has codified the procedure for compensation of victims of motor accidents. However, there a hindrance that makes it impossible for victims to receive compensation. In many cases compensation procedures delay to the extent that victims die without receiving their compensation. As a result, this research had as main objective to determine the effectiveness in the compensation of victims of motor accidents under Cameroonian law. To do this, this research adopts a qualitative research methodology. Data were collected from primary and secondary sources. Our main findings revealed that the compensation procedures for victims of motor vehicle accidents were associated with hindrances amongst which delays, bad faith of insurers, loopholes in the CIMA Code , ignorance of the insured remain some of the elements that makes victims go without compensation. Amongst others, our major recommendation was that the lengthy period allocated for the insurer to gather various data to make offer for compensation under the CIMA Code be reduced to about 6 months as such overly long period leave some victims dead without compensation
This introductory chapter presents a background of the study, brings out the problem statement, research questions and objectives, the methodology employed in the research, justification of the research, literature review, scope and limitation, structure of the dissertation and definition of key terms
In the famous American case of Texas Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Company v. Sturrock, motor accident according to the opinion of the Texas Supreme Court was described to occur when one or more vehicles are involved with another vehicle, an object, or a person, when the vehicle is being used, including exit or entry, as a motor vehicle, and a causal connection exists between the vehicle’s use and the injury-producing event.Therefore, simply put one can claim that a motor accident has occurred when one is involved with another vehicle, an object or a person.
The automobile was first invented and perfected in Germany and France in the late 1800s, though Americans quickly came to dominate the automotive industry in the first half of the twentieth century. Henry Ford innovated mass-production techniques that became standard, and Ford, General Motors and Chrysler emerged as the ‘Big Three’ auto companies by the 1920s. Manufacturers funneled their resources to the military during World War II, and afterward automobile production in Europe and Japan soared to meet growing demand. Even though it was one time vital in American urban centers, the industry had become a shared global enterprise with the rise of Japan as the leading automaker by 1980.
In Africa the number of motor vehicles or automobiles has been rising from colonial times to the early period of post colonization and in this contemporary era the number of vehicles used is plummeting. The reason behind this increase in the demand of motor vehicle is the need for independence and freedom of mobility. Mobility is becoming more and more important due to ever-increasing distances between home, work, educational institutions, shopping and leisure facilities. Urbanization and creation of new roads to link communities is causing many to go for cars across Africa. As of 2015 Cameroon reportedly registered about 347.000 Unit of motor vehicles.
After the First World War, the motor automobile became widely used in metropolitan areas. By that time, cars were relatively fast and hazardous, but many countries in the globe did not require drivers to carry any kind of motor insurance. This meant that after an accident, injured victims would seldom receive any compensation, and drivers would frequently incur significant fees for damage to their vehicle and property. The use of a car can pose several dangers to life and property due to the state of the motor vehicle, state of the roads, traffic loads, state and professionalism of the car owner, road safety standards or checks amongst others. This has prompted many states to develop the idea of compulsory motor vehicle insurance as a means to protect the public via compensation of victims under such insurance schemes. Several jurisdictions have experimented with a ‘pay-as-you-drive’ insurance plan which utilizes either a tracking device in the vehicle or vehicle diagnostics. This would address issues of uninsured motorists by providing additional options and also charge based on the miles (kilometers) driven, which could theoretically increase the efficiency of the insurance, through streamlined collection.
A compulsory car insurance scheme was only first introduced in the United Kingdom with the Road Traffic Act 1930. This ensured that all vehicle owners and drivers had to be insured for their liability for death or injury caused while their vehicles were being used on a public road.Many saw this at the time as an infringement of economic liberalism This was due to the fear of the progressive intervention by the state in professional organizations such as insurers who then showed a hostile reaction against this idea of compulsory insurance. However, the British government still went ahead and the British Road Traffic Act was passed in 1930. In France initial proposal failed but by 1935 same was introduced for all public transport vehicles and racing cars. In 1958 compulsory motor insurance was introduced for all motorists in France via Law No: 208 of 27th February 1958.
In Cameroon, compulsory motor insurance was introduced by Law No: 65-LF-9 of 22nd May 1965 relating to compulsory automobile insurance. As a result of the initiative of the International Insurance Supervisory Conference (CICA), sub-Saharan countries signed a treaty on the 10th July 1992 creating the Inter-African Conference of the Insurance Markets (CIMA) treaty. Cameroon ratified this treaty on April 14th 1994 and it entered into force on February 15th 1995. Since then, CIMA Code is the legislation governing insurance business in Cameroon and in article 200 of the CIMA Code, motor vehicle insurance is compulsory. It must be noted that by Law No: 65-LF-9 of 22nd May 1965 relating to compulsory automobile insurance is still applicable with regards to sanctions for non-possession of motor vehicle compulsory insurance.
The victims from motor vehicles in Cameroon continue to be on the rise. Cameroon in particular records an average of 16,583 road accidents each year, killing more than 1000 people, according to official figures and over 6000 according to WHO estimates. Road accidents involve very high costs which cannot be quantified only in terms of money, as costs may be permanent suffering for persons injured loss of earning for the family members, and even death . These figures can be increased with regards to certain peaks such as the 39 victims of Ndikinimeki on December 27, 2020 and the well-known case of the 55 victims of the Santchou-Dschang cliff on January 27, 2021.
The above data leaves one to worry on what could be the reasons for such accidents .Firstly, there is so much traffic in the roads amidst heterogeneous users of a single highway ranging from pedestrians, motor bikes, tourism cars, buses, trucks, and multi-axle commercial vehicles, etc. Besides the traffic movement of trucks transporting goods within stretch of roads, there are steady increases during weekends due to the high movements of passengers by transport and personal vehicles to attend funeral services and celebrations in the country. Increase in vehicle population with limited road space and its poor nature used by a large variety of vehicles has heightened the need and urgency for a well-thought-out policy on the issue of road safety. The recklessness of drivers and poor state of vehicles are the other causes of road accidents. Most road accidents occur along the Yaounde-Douala-Bafoussam-Yaounde triangle. The triangle is called the “death triangle” because it records over 46% , of the entire road accidents on highways in Cameroon. In the South West Region, the Tiko-Douala and Kumba- Buea Stretch are another hotspot for accidents.
Consequently and be inference from the preceding paragraph, it is evident that third parties that sustain injuries from road accidents must be compensated. Article 2317 of the CIMA code has instituted a system of compensation for the benefit of motor accident victims. The insurer is obliged to make a compensation offer within a given period of time8. Under article 226 of the Code9, the driver is listed in the category of indemnifiable victims under the law on compensation. The CIMA code has also set out conditions that must exist for one to succeed in a claim for compensation as well as procedures that must be taken. Unfortunately, even though the law has provided mechanisms for compulsory motor insurance and the compensation of victim, motor accident victims rarely enjoy the compensation entitled to them under the law. The delay and bottlenecks noticed in the compensation process has rendered the compensation regime ineffective. This is the idea under investigation in this dissertation.