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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

As Oman hit-and-run accidents increase, government sets up fund to help victims

Most victims of hit-and-run crashes are left to fend for themselves, whether or not they report the incident to the authorities — who in most cases have a hard time pinning the crime to the driver due to lack of evidence

Last year, the Omani authorities recorded 73 cases of hit-and-run accidents, an increase from 61 in 2015. Stephen Lock / The National.
Last year, the Omani authorities recorded 73 cases of hit-and-run accidents, an increase from 61 in 2015. Stephen Lock / The National.

Ghaida Al Farsi was on her way back home from school when she was hit by a car as she was crossing the road in the Omani capital, Muscat. Not only did the driver fail to stop at the pedestrian crossing, he kept on driving after hitting Ms Al Farsi, leaving her alone and injured on the street. Ultimately, her left leg had to be amputated.

The motorist was never found or arrested. He simply got away with it.

“I now have an artificial leg, and the man is probably celebrating not getting caught,” said Ms Al Farsi, an 18-year-old high school student living in Muscat. “I am bitter because the police never found him.”

Last year, the Omani authorities recorded 73 cases of hit-and-run, an increase from 61 in 2015. According to the police, hit-and-run accidents have increased by an average of 5.8 per cent over the last five years.

Most victims of hit-and-run crashes are left to fend for themselves, whether or not they report the incident to the authorities — who in most cases have a hard time pinning the crime to the driver due to lack of evidence. Without a police report or evidence, it is difficult to claim the insurance money.

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Abdulhaleem Al Maimani, 32, was hit by a motorcycle last year. As an Omani, his medical care was free but he still had to support himself while he was off work with no salary because his insurance would not pay out without evidence.

“I was hit while crossing the road, and the man did not stop,” said the mechanic. “I broke my ribs and had a fracture in my right thigh. I couldn’t work for four months, and my [employer] did not pay me while I was home. The police could not do anything even though I had the registration number of the bike.”

Mr Al Maimani said the man denied hitting him, and there was no way to prove otherwise. “There was no evidence, and without a police report, insurances do not pay up,” he said.

In an attempt to help the victims of hit-and-run cases, the Omani government has announced it will set up a fund to help them cope with their financial burdens.

“A committee, under the supervision of the market regulator, will be authorised to receive, manage and settle the claims from accident victims, who are denied insurance coverage mainly due to the failure to establish the identity of the vehicle and its driver involved,” said a statement from the Capital Market Authority (CMA), a state-run financial market regulator.

The CMA said that a percentage of the fund will be collected from local insurance companies and policy holders, and the rest will be from the government. However, it did not give a detailed breakdown of the size of the fund or say when it would be available to the victims of hit-and-run crashes. Nor is it known who will sit on the committee or what their area of expertise is. CMA officials were not available for comment.

Expatriates in Oman are not eligible for free medical care, but the fund will also cover their medical care and salary compensation if they have to be off work.as a result of injuries from a hit-and-run accident.

Indian Joseph Ravidranath, 43, said he sustained a head injury in July 2015 after a pickup truck ran into him.

“My office’s insurance refused to pay for my hospital bills because the driver was not identified,” he told The National. “I ended up paying 1,400 rials (Dh13,380) for a 10-day stay in hospital.”

Some car owners, meanwhile, were sceptical about the new compensation fund, saying it would make insurance companies increase premiums.

“If insurance companies and policy holders are forced to partly pay for [the fund], then that would make driving a car in the country [more expensive],” said Abdulrahim Al Mukhaini, 27, a computer engineer. “The insurance bill would definitely go up.”