Fangshan District in Beijing is pioneering new regulations to help traffic accident victims' access to justice. The rules, which went into force on Monday, enable lawyers to get involved at an earlier stage and ensure protection of evidence.
"Fangshan Traffic Management Department is now obliged to provide relevant documents, including testimonies, as well as confirmation of who is liable, to lawyers representing those involved in traffic accidents," read a joint notice from the district's people's court, traffic department and justice bureau.
The number of traffic accident cases heard is currently fairly small because parties usually reach settlements out of court.
Those that didn't settle only reach the courtroom months later, in which time respondents can disappear and evidence can be damaged or lost.
Previously, local departments only had to provide documentation to courts or procuratorates; but now they are required to providep laintiff's lawyers with such documentation too to help them present their case fairly.
According to the new regulations, when people are granted an evidence preservation order, courts must take action within 48 hours. A free legal service will also be provided at the district's traffic management department.
"Thus when the court opens a hearing or makes a judgment, the responsible car owner will be easier to find and ordered to pay compensation," said Zhang Zhongxia, vice president of the district court.
Yesterday, Li Gong, whose 60-year-old mother was run over and killed last month, became the first plaintiff to get an evidence preservation order.
The car that killed Li's mother has now been papered with strip seal. "I am not worried the driver will run off now," Li said.
(China Daily July 12, 2005)