Car Accidents in India – Nothing Like How Americans Handle It!

by Darwin on December 18, 2011

What happens when you’re in an accident in America?  The standard advice is immediately call the police, get the other driver’s information, contact your insurance company and in many cases, look for some sort of settlement and sue after calling your injury lawyers.  I couldn’t help but notice the huge contrast in how accidents are handled in India based on my trip last week (here were my impressions of India from a personal, professional and financial standpoint).  I was traveling with a colleague who spent her first 20 years in India and then moved to the states, but she goes back annually to see her family so she’s quite up to date on life in India.

I was asking about the irony of horrible traffic and crazy driving contrasted with never seeing cars pulled off the side of the road from accidents with police, etc.  She said, “Oh, when there’s an accident, the drivers get out and argue a bit, someone pays the other and off they go”.  I was like, “Seriously?  No police report?  No insurance?  No lawyers?”.  She started laughing.  She said there isn’t really an insurance system like that over there, police don’t get involved in minor accidents and everything is handled via debate and payments, not the way accidents are handled in the US.  She shared a story about an accident she had when she was younger as well.

In essence, she ran her car over a guy on a motorcycle.  She was on her way to get her license ironically.  So, she was kind of freaked out and upset and called her friends on a nearby payphone to bring money to pay the guy.  Her friends showed up with some money, paid him off, he accepted and everyone walked away! (Well, he hobbled apparently).  That was it!  Apparently, the guy was injured pretty badly as well, as people needed to actually lift her car off the poor guy.  Could you imagine that in the US?  I figure that would be at least a 6-figure settlement with the car insurance company, maybe more, depending on whether the person was permanently disabled or out of work for a long period of time due to the extent of injuries and “pain and suffering”, right?  While much of Indian law and society stems from the vestiges of the British empire, you don’t here of no win no fee solicitors and such in India.  It’s where cash is king and people needing to feel like they were made whole and the driver is repentant, as opposed to pursuing years of legal action and huge settlements.  Definitely a different world!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

krantcents December 18, 2011 at 11:43 am

I like the directness of the solution. Our system has become expensive because there are so many people involved. Is it fair? No, but in some way better.


Darwin December 18, 2011 at 11:50 am

Sometimes there’s beauty in simplicity. Some people get screwed. But in aggregate, have to wonder if the system is much more efficient and lower cost in the end.


Paula @ Afford Anything December 18, 2011 at 3:44 pm

When I was 14, I rode a bus in Nepal — from Kathmandu to Pokhara — that hit and killed a child. The bus pulled over, and all of us passengers waited for 4 hours while the driver negotiated a payment with the child’s mother. When he had finished, we continued on our way.

When I was 25 or 26, I was riding that same bus route in Nepal when our bus got held up — I’m not joking — by a soccer team coach. He demanded enough ransom to afford soccer balls for the community. The driver gave him the U.S. equivalent of $5, and we continued on our way.


Darwin December 18, 2011 at 4:50 pm

Ugh; that’s terrible. I suppose even in the US when a case is settled for an auto death, there’s no value that can equate to a life. But surely it’s always much higher in the western economies. The soccer ball thing? Crazy! I’d avoid Nepal after 2 strikes!


Andy Hough December 18, 2011 at 4:28 pm

It is definitely a simpler system but I think the American system is a lot better.


Darwin December 18, 2011 at 4:51 pm

Oh totally. I wouldn’t trade it, especially since I’m much more likely to be receiving end of an accident than the giving end. But it is an interesting view into how things work elsewhere in the world.


101 Centavos December 18, 2011 at 6:23 pm

I once had a back-end collision while driving in Saudi Arabia. The other driver was cut off getting into a roundabout, and I was following too close. BAM! The driver was a poor Yemeni in a beat-up old Toyota, while I was the “rich” foreigner in a big shiny 4×4. For that reason, I both felt sorry for him and wanted to end it quickly and be on my way in case the police showed up or, even worse, a crowd formed. He wasn’t hurt, but the back end of his car was dented pretty good. After some haggling, I forked out a couple hundred dollars, and thankfully that was that.


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