The private taxi (sometimes referred to as the ‘pirate taxi’) business is flourishing in Trinidad and Tobago. It seems that the authorities have turned a blind eye to such operators, who continue to operate illegally in this country.

But what happens if someone is injured while riding in a “PH” taxi? Student Attorney Andre Koylass examined this issue for the for the Hugh Wooding Law School’s Human Rights Law Clinic. Andre’s article was published in the Law Made Simple column of the Trinidad Guardian newspaper on Monday January 16th, 2017.

In our society today there has been a continued use of what we refer to as “PH” taxis, despite them being illegal. These PH taxis are generally found on routes which are not covered by any other type of regulated or public transportation. Consequently, where the average citizen is unable to obtain regulated transportation, the individual is often left with no other choice but to use these private taxis in order to reach their final destination. Accordingly, as these “PH” taxis continue to be in use, it is important to understand what happens if one is injured in an accident while in a “PH” taxi.

According to the Motor Vehicles and Road Traffic Act Chapter 48:50 of Trinidad and Tobago, no person shall drive on any road a taxi registered as such unless he is the holder of a taxi driver’s licence issued to him by the Licensing Authority. It also provides that one shall not use a motor vehicle for a purpose other than which it is registered for. Therefore, it is an offence under the law for individuals to use motor vehicles, which are solely registered for private use, to transport people for profit or gain. As a result of the illegality of this practise, citizens who make use of this type of transportation do so at their own risk.

The Motor Vehicles (Third Party Risks) Act Chap. 48:51 provides that the insurer of a motor vehicle must indemnify its policyholder (up to a certain limit) against any claims arising out of an accident involving the insured. In the case of ‘PH’ taxis, if the motor vehicle is indeed insured for private use only, and an accident occurs, the insurance company may not be obligated to honour any claims which arose from the use of the motor vehicle in a manner in which it was not insured for in the first place.

Injured passengers may however bring a claim for negligence against the driver of the “PH” taxi or any other party involved in the accident. Such claims will be adjudicated by the Magistrates Court in cases where the damages suffer are less than $50,000 or the High Court, where the damages exceed $50,000. It is important to note however, that any party bringing such a claim before the court must rely on evidence such as police reports, medical records and the testimony of witnesses. Furthermore the injured party would need to prove that offending party acted in a negligent matter causing the accident to occur.

Where the insurance company refuses to honour such a claim and judgment is awarded by the court, an injured passenger is not guaranteed to recover any monies if the offender cannot afford to personally pay the judgment sum.

Students of the Hugh Wooding Law School Human Rights Law Clinic were each given the opportunity to write an article for the “Law Made Simple” column in the Trinidad Guardian newspaper.

These topics ranged from analysis of specific legislation, to general legal concepts. The aim of this exercise was to teach the students how to write about complex legal issues, for the average newspaper reader.

This article was re-published with permission from the Human Rights Law Clinic.

About The Author Jason Nathu

Jason Nathu is an Attorney-at-Law and Tutor attached to the Legal Aid Clinic at the Hugh Wooding Law School.