NCDRC Rejects Surveyor Report, Asks Royal Sundaram General Insurance To Pay Rs4.98 Lakh Insured Declared Value for Damaged Car
Moneylife Digital Team 04 June 2024
Terming the report prepared by a surveyor as 'untenable', the national consumer disputes redressal commission (NCDRC) directed Royal Sundaram General Insurance Company Ltd (erstwhile Royal Sundaram Alliance Insurance Company Ltd) to pay Rs4.98 lakh, the insured declared value (IDV) of the car which was totally damaged in an accident.
 
In an order last month , the NCDRC bench of air vice-marshal (AVM) J Rajendra (retd) (presiding member) says, "It was the Malwa Auto Sales, which had caused the detailed inspection of damages to the car by its qualified engineer and foremen and determined the costs for repairs as Rs9 lakh. Royal Sundaram General Insurance had provided details of the repairs involved and the costs vide report dated 30 May 2014. Thus, it is a matter of record that the car was totally damaged and the costs of repair were well beyond the IDV of the car, which was only Rs498,717. Even the surveyor was to have based his assessment of damage to the car based on the inputs from the repair agency. Thus, the report of the surveyor limiting the loss to Rs1.54 lakh is untenable."
 
In 2010, Ishwar Singh Mehra from Sonepat district in Haryana bought a Chevrolet Tavera from Malwa Auto Sales. He insured the car with Royal Sundaram General Insurance between 29 May 2013 and 28 May 2014. On 18 May 2014, the Tavera met with an accident. Mr Mehta intimated the police and the insurance company. 
 
The surveyor appointed by Royal Sundaram General Insurance assessed the loss as Rs1.54 lakh. However, Mr Mehta demanded the IDV value of the vehicle— a total loss of Rs4,98,717 from the insurer. 
 
He then filed a complaint before the Sonepat district consumer disputes redressal forum. During the hearing, Malwa Auto Sales submitted that the surveyor appointed by the insurer had inspected the vehicle which had been lying in its premises. Neither Royal Sundaram General Insurance nor Mr Mehra allowed it to be repaired, and thus, there is no deficiency in service on its part, the car dealer said.
 
Royal Sundaram General Insurance contended that its surveyor undertook the necessary survey and assessed the loss to be Rs1.54 lakh, after making appropriate deductions for depreciation and policy excess as per policy. "Mr Mehta did not produce the vehicle for re-inspection along with original bills and receipts for payment made to Royal Sundaram General Insurance, for settlement of the claim," the insurer contended while seeking to dismiss the complaint. 
 
In its order on 4 August 2016, the district forum allowed the complaint. Accepting the surveyor's report, it directed Royal Sundaram General Insurance to pay Rs1.54 lakh to Mr Mehra within 60 days.
 
Aggrieved by the order, Mr Mehra filed an appeal before the Haryana state consumer disputes redressal commission. In its order of 3 February 2017, the state commission partly allowed the appeal and increased the compensation to Rs4.98 lakh, the IDV of the car. 
 
Royal Sundaram General Insurance challenged the order before NCDRC. During the hearing, the counsel for the insurance company argued in favour of the order passed by the district forum and sought to set aside the impugned order of the state commission. 
 
The counsel for Mr Mehra asserted that the vehicle in question was completely destroyed in the accident and Mr Mehra is entitled to the IDV of the vehicle to the tune of Rs4,98,717 as awarded by the state commission.
 
After examining the pleadings and associated documents on record and perusing orders passed by the fora below, the bench of AVM Rajendra noted that, in this case, there was a discrepancy in the assessment of the vehicle's damage and repair cost following an accident.
 
He says, "There was a discrepancy between the repair estimate of the authorised dealer and the assessment of the surveyor. Clearly, Malwa Auto Sales, as an authorised dealer is more in sync with the damages and repair costs. Therefore, to that extent the report of the surveyor limiting the loss to Rs154,559 is untenable. There is total loss and the estimated repair cost is more than IDV. Therefore, compensation to the extent of IDV is applicable in this case."
 
The bench also referred to two judgements given by the Supreme Court. In New India Assurance Co Ltd vs Pradeep Kumar, the apex court held that "The surveyor's report certainly can be taken note as a piece of evidence until more reliable evidence is brought on record to rebut the contents of the surveyor's report."
 
In Sri Venkateshwara Syndicate vs Oriental Insurance Co Ltd case, the SC observed that "There is no disputing the fact that the surveyor or surveyors are appointed by the insurance company under the provision of Insurance Act and their reports are to be given due importance and one should have sufficient grounds not to agree with the assessment made by them." 
 
AVM Rajendra, while disposing the appeal filed by Royal Sundaram General Insurance, says that the state commission rightly overlooked the surveyor report and directed the insurer to pay Rs4.98 lakh, the IDV of the car, to Mr Mehra. 
 
(Revision Petition No1150 of 2017 Date: 20 May 2024)
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