©New Straits Times
(Used by permission)
by Mohd Fuad Abdul Aziz, Pontian, Johor
I APPLAUD Attorney-General Tan Sri Abdul Gani Patail’s proposal for a
no-fault liability scheme for motor vehicle accidents. It is about time such a
proposal is forwarded for the benefit of the public.
As it is, the law that governs the proceedings of accident
claims in courts does not seem to benefit consumers.
The lawyer acting for the plaintiff or the aggrieved party will file a summons
against the defendant and simultaneously serve notice to the defendant’s vehicle
While waiting for the summons to be extracted from the court bearing the court’s
seal, the insurer appoints its panel of lawyers to represent the defendant.
The lawyers of both parties may communicate by letter during this period.
The plaintiff’s lawyer then gets back the sealed summons with
a fixed mention date (six to eight weeks from the date of filing of summons) for
parties to appear before a magistrate or a Sessions Court judge, and he serves
this summons on the defendant as well as the lawyer representing the defendant.
This is when the "waiting game" begins.
The plaintiff’s lawyer goes to court and asks for a postponement to allow the
defendant’s lawyer to file his defence.
The court allows the postponement and gives another four to six weeks. And, of
course, the defendant’s lawyer files the defence.
When the file is called again after four to six weeks, the plaintiff’s lawyer
asks for another postponement to file his documents in support of the
plaintiff’s claim. And, yes, the court allows the postponement. Three to four
weeks later, the plaintiff’s lawyer finally secures a date for full trial, which
may be fixed, at the earliest, in six months.
On trial day, the plaintiff’s lawyer and the defendant’s lawyer go to court. The
former will say: "Dengan izin Tuan Hakim, saya (nama) bagi pihak plaintif dan
rakan bijaksana saya (nama) bagi pihak defendan. Tuan Hakim, saksi-saksi
plaintif hadir dan pihak-pihak bersedia untuk bicara. (If I may, Your Honour, I
am [name] for the plaintiff and my learned friend [name] is for the defendant.
Both parties are ready for trial, Your Honour, and all witnesses are present
The above chronology shows a period of at least a year from the date of filing
of summons to the time a trial is conducted. This may only happen if you are
lucky enough. Do not be surprised to find that some cases are dragged up to 10
years before any compensation is seen.
At the end of the day, the plaintiff suffers the most. When he needs money the
most, he doesn’t get it.
And despite the delays and small sum of compensation, the plaintiff has to pay
the legal disbursements and give his lawyer a cut, ranging from 10 to 25 per
cent of the sum received.
I don’t want to undermine the integrity of the legal practitioners since I am
also a member of the Bar Council.
However, I do remember the reason why I studied law. I want to know the law and
use it for the betterment of society. "Justice Through Law" is written on the
the Bar Council crest and that is what I intend to do.
Having said all the above, I pray that the A-G’s proposal will be implemented