A reader wrote to Lifelines about a recent accident:
I was riding my bicycle and heading straight through an intersection when a car turned right and hit me. I broke my left arm and leg, and was taken to a hospital. A couple of days later, the driver’s insurance company called me and told me that they would pay my medical fees and any damage to my bicycle. What compensation am I actually entitled to for the damage?
You are entitled to your medical fees, compensation for missed work, psychological damage and the cost of your broken bicycle. The damages will be paid for by jibaiseki hoken (compulsory vehicle liability insurance) as well as nin’i hoken (optional insurance) — if the driver has it.
However, jibaiseki hoken only covers up to ¥1.2 million for damage if the victim is injured. Therefore, if the total exceeds ¥1.2 million, the rest of the amount will be covered by nin’i hoken.
Insurance companies will also usually pay damages based on the seriousness of a traffic accident and the victim’s injury. If there is no clear visual damage present on an X-ray or MRI, for example, and instead the injury is nerve-based, companies could pay damages for around three to six months before deciding the injury can not be cured. The term they use is shōjō-kotei, which means there is no possibility of improvement through medical treatment.
Make sure to get a diagnosis from a doctor before it is decided whether or not you are shōjō-kotei. If the doctor believes this to be the case, the next step will be to evaluate whether or not your injury should be classified as a disability. The doctor will need to provide you with a certificate with regards to this, and you need to submit it as part of your jibaiseki hoken.
The actual amount of compensation you can receive is set by jibaiseki hoken standards. For instance, if you visit the doctor, the compensation for a one day checkup is ¥5,700. The compensation for not working is either your daily salary or ¥4,200 (if your daily salary is below ¥4,200). Nevertheless, if you retain a lawyer then the insurance companies will usually accept an amount of compensation based on traffic-accident case precedents from something called the “Red Book.”
When deciding on the amount, the total damages incurred by both parties can be lessened by the rate of negligence of either party. The rate of negligence in the typical traffic accident, such as a cyclist or a pedestrian being hit by a car at an intersection, is determined by the Red Book. If the injured party is determined to have ignored a stop light, for example, the rate will be changed.
If you consult with an attorney in a situation like this, they will likely calculate a rough amount they expect to see from an insurance company. Hence, regardless of whether or not you retain a lawyer, it could be better to at least have a consultation before settling the case.
Seiji Yamaura is an attorney with the Foreign Nationals and International Service Section at Tokyo Public Law Office, which handles a wide range of cases involving non-Japanese in the Tokyo area (03-5979-2880; www.t-pblo.jp/fiss). Your questions and other comments: firstname.lastname@example.org