Nowadays, there is an increase in the rate of automobile accidents this is because of the increase in the usage of automobiles by individuals. There are many reasons for causing accidents on the road, negligence of a driver, alcohol consumption, not following the speed limit which is prescribed by the authorities, etc. The evidence in the case of road accidents plays a prominent role in finding the fault of the person and to determine compensation and punishment for the same.
There is a list of materials that can be considered as physical evidence such as, glass from headlight or windshield, metal parts, paint, hairs, fibers, blood, debris from the undercarriage of the cars, grease, and brush marks. The physical evidence in the road accident can be mainly divided into two categories, Human evidence, and Motor Vehicle evidence.
The physical evidence can be strengthening only when the investigation officer understands the report of the laboratory evidence and rules out several other sources of possibilities. The evidence that was found in motor accidents can be admissible in a court of law. The facts must be being put before the court. Relevant facts and the irrelevant facts, which are not relevant but otherwise, become relevant in further stages of investigation are admissible under sections 9 and 11 of the Indian Evidence Act, 1872.
In the case of Mohd. Adil Siddiqui v. Jai Devi the truck was overloaded; carrying persons in excessive number and over and above the load of the goods, by itself was a negligent act making the vehicle prone to accident. Nevertheless, at the same time having seen it in this situation, boarding it might be an act of contributory negligence.
In the case of Bhagwani Devi v. Krishna Kumar Saini, when a Tribunal is confronted with the vexed controversy of apportioning blame, amongst the two vehicles involved in the accident, both parties clearly must place before it the best evidence available. A party may refrain from doing so, but only on peril of an adverse inference being drawn against it.
Physical Evidence in the Investigation of Traffic Accidents
In the case of road accidents, physical evidence is taken into consideration. So, physical evidence can also be considered as material evidence in road accidents. The location of the items found and the position of the automobile and the people in it should be photographed and the distance between the vehicles should be carefully measured and recorded.
The glass pieces which are found in the dress or body of the deceased must also be compared with the glass of the vehicles. Fragments of paint and paint smears are very useful as evidence in cases of motor vehicle accidents. Especially, in cold weather, the collision between two autos or between an auto and a pedestrian will tend to crack the paint at the point of impact, and chips of paint may be found at the scene, on the other vehicle, or embedded in a victim’s clothing. Pieces of metals would help to draw a conclusive proof of evidence as they would help us to identify the parts which collided in the accident from which we can draw the assumption of how the accident took place.
Some Aspects of Scientific Accident Investigation
Keeping only the factual evidence in mind would result in injustice to both the plaintiff and defendant. The differences in internal structure between tires, together with cord angles, number of cords, type of cord materials, tread depth, the temperature sensitivity of tread stock, and many other factors, control the stopping ability of a tire is also very important and should be considered in the investigation.
The coefficient of friction values of the tire recorded in test data are not valid unless the same vehicle with the same tires on an identical test of the roadway is used. The differences in tire condition, such as new, worn, or smooth, controls the stopping distances of vehicles. The season of the year, age of the road, and dust accumulation on the road change the coefficient of friction value of any road surface. The effects of any one factor on the coefficient of friction of one set of tires on the same roadway will also control changes of many other factors involving both the tire and the roadway.
The Investigation of Road Accidents
It is the task of the officer to find who is the blame for the accident. Whether the accident is culpable or not? A culpable accident can be defined as one, which could have been avoided by the exercise of ordinary care and judgment on the part of one or both parties to it. The officer must arrive at the place of accident and put marks on the places where the person is found and take pictures of the person from all angles as the accurate position of the injured or dead person is very important. The position of the vehicle should also be marked and photos from various angles should be taken to understand the position of the vehicle for the later investigation as the vehicle will be removed. So everything must be recorded accurately.
The officer must next collect the information from the witness of the accident; if any, and it’s not necessary to write it down then and there but the officer must collect his name and address. The drivers of the vehicles should also be interviewed. Any statements made by either driver in your and each other’s presence may be used by you as evidence, even if you have not cautioned the driver who made the statement. The surface of the road should be examined for the wheel tracks of the vehicles concerned with the accident. The range vision of the drivers before the accident should also be recorded. The officer must then sketch the incident, attach all the documents, and then present evidence in the court.
Material evidence of vehicle
In a road accident, there is a collision of vehicles, collision of the vehicle with the person, and many more types of accidents. The material evidence of the vehicle includes the direction of the vehicle, tire impression, broken or damaged parts of the vehicle, grease and lubricants, glass pieces of the vehicle, paint marks, skid marks, drag marks of the vehicle, and dust marks. The location of the items found and the position of the automobile and the people in it should be photographed and the distance between the vehicles should also be carefully measured and recorded.
- Glass and Glass Fragments
The most useful piece of evidence in the scene of a road accident is pieces of glass from the vehicle. These pieces must be collected initially and they should be matched with the vehicles that met with the accident. These class pieces might include the glass pieces of the headlight, parking lights, or windshield of a suspect’s vehicle.
Facts: The accident between the bus owned by Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation and the dumper-truck owned by the appellant. The impact of the accident was so devastating that the entire right side of the bus from the driver’s cabin until the end was completely torn exposing the seats on the right-hand side. There were 35 passengers in the ill-fated bus. 8 passengers died on the spot and one passenger succumbed to injuries later on. 11 passengers suffered injuries.
Judgment: The court held that the accused is liable for the negligent driving and has to pay compensation to the victims and the bus owner. The court based on the expert opinion and the evidence produced before the court, the court held that there is a mistake on both sides over speeding the truck and it has crossed the divider over 3 feet but the bus driver did not apply break and the accident occurred. Expert opinion was taken under Section 45 of the Indian Evidence Act, it was stated that when an empty dumper truck was moving at the speed of 40 to 45 kmph then it is obvious that the truck gets vibrated and the driver would lose his control. The glass pieces found at the place of the accident are considered under section 9 of the Indian Evidence Act, the glass pieces belong to the bus mirror and window.
The court referred to the case of Kumar Mohamed Rafique v. Municipal corporation of Greater Bombay. It is a decision of a Division Bench of this court. The Division Bench has held thus: “The owner of a travel bus who invites passengers to travel on his vehicle for hire or reward is under an obligation to take all precautions to carry passengers safely to their destination. He takes the risk of accidents to passengers resulting from their exposure to hazardous situations. The risk of such accidents occurring is always there and the owner of the vehicle must be fastened with the knowledge that such a risk is always involved.“
Mr. Kotak has pressed into service another decision of the Division Bench of this court in the case of Shakuntla Shridhar Shetty v. the State of Maharashtra. The view taken by the Division Bench is that a person in control of a motor vehicle must keep a good lookout in all directions of the road and where he notices another user of the road it is his duty to so adjust the speed that in case of necessity, he can stop the vehicle instantaneously.
- Fragments of paint
Fragments of paint and paint smears have been very useful as evidence in cases of motor vehicle accidents. Especially, in cold weather, the collision between two autos or between an auto and a pedestrian will tend to crack the paint at the point of impact, and chips of paint may be found at the scene, on the other vehicle, or embedded in a victim’s clothing.
Case: State v. Barnett
Facts: A vehicle belonging to Kyle Cortright’s father-in-law was parked at the Hampshire Apartments, where Cortright is employed as a maintenance worker. The gash was so extensive that the metal was exposed, dented, and crumpled. The gash started in the area of the rear driver door, and extended to the rear wheel well, and then caught again on the rear quarter panel.
Judgment: The court held that Barnett is liable for the hit-skip case as the paint marks found on his truck match the paint to the vehicle belonging to the petitioner. Officer Britt testified that when he approached the tow truck, he observed a white paint “smear” on various locations on the tow truck that was otherwise painted black and red. Officer Britt took several photographs, which were later admitted at trial, and then cited Barnett for failure to control his vehicle and for leaving the scene of an accident. During the exchange with Officer Britt, Barnett denied having hit the Silverado.
After the trial, the court found Barnett guilty on both counts, and sentenced him to 30 days in jail, suspended, as well as probation, a $500 fine, and court costs. The trial court also ordered $1,000 restitution for the insurance deductible owed by Cortright’s father-in-law. Barnett now appeals the decision of the trial court, raising the following assignments of error. For ease of discussion, we will discuss the two assignments together.
- Tire marks and Pieces of metal
Pieces of metal may be found at the scene, which can provide a physical matching with their counterparts remaining on the suspect car, in the same way as was outlined under “Pieces of Glass”. In many cases, these pieces of metal may be so small that physical matching is not possible. The minimum size for a worthwhile laboratory examination is much smaller than in the case of paint. Under extremely good conditions, pieces of metal that just glisten on clothing can be removed using a vacuum sweeper technique and can provide an identity. Again, the possibilities of using these small fragments of physical evidence necessitate the careful handling of clothing so that this type of evidence is not lost.
Comparison samples are required of the metal parts of the car in question. Usually, the parts of the car in question, which are the most likely sources of comparison metal, will be those which show evidence of having been rubbed or which are bent. Spectrographic examination of these bits of metal can be quite as conclusive as has been indicated for the examination of paint in many cases.
Facts: On 22/04/2012, now deceased Ameena, then aged 18 years, was proceeding on foot along with her younger sister Sabina Khan (PW2) when she was hit by a Maruti Swift Car No.GA- 06-D-7561, driven by the applicant. The accident occurred near the MES Gate, Rawanfond, Margao. It is said that the applicant, who was driving the vehicle was under the influence of liquor at the time of the accident. In the accident, Ameena was thrown into a drain adjacent to the road and sustained injuries to which she subsequently succumbed.
Judgment: There is clear evidence on record that the Swift Car traveled to the right side, gave a dash to the deceased, and then swayed back to the left-hand side before dashing the compound wall. There are tire marks while the car swayed to the left before dashing the compound wall, which would be indicative of the speed at which the vehicle might have been driven. The sketch annexed to the spot panchanama shows that from the spot of impact, the dead body was thrown to a distance of 8.60 meters in the drain by the side of the katcha road.
Reliance placed on behalf of the applicant on the decision in the case of State of Karnataka Vs. Muddappa is, to my mind, misplaced. There cannot be any dispute with the proposition that for the offense under Section 304-A of IPC to be brought home, the death has to be a direct and proximate result of the rash and negligent act of the accused.