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What to do when you are involved in a traffic accident in Japan?

When you are in an unexpected car accident, you will most likely be upset, but it is very important to stay calm and identify the parties involved, assess the damage done to your car, and see a doctor as soon as possible. It is also important to file a police report, find out if there are any witnesses, and gather information on the other driver. Here is the list of procedures you need to follow under such circumstances.

1. File a police report
The driver at fault must file a police report, but the victims should also report the collision to the police. Especially when the victim is injured, file the incident as a "car accident causing injury or death".

2. Gather the following information from the driver at fault
(1) Name, address, and phone number
(2) Driver's automobile insurance information (Automobile third party liability insurance)
(3) Voluntary insurance information and insurance policy number, etc.
(4) License plate number

3. Find witnesses
In case of serious accidents, witnesses are called for interrogation. Witnesses' testimonies are considered valuable evidence to negotiate an out-of-court settlement. So, find witnesses at the scene of the accident, obtain their names and contact information, and ask them if they could testify for you later as needed.

4. Record accident details
While your memories are still fresh, make a record of essential items such as the layout and photos of the accident scene and what exactly happened, etc.
(1) Use your cell-phone camera
(2) Make a note of the accident scene

5. See a doctor
You may think the injury is minor at the time of the accident, but it may turn out to be serious later. These things happen, so please be sure to see a doctor.

What insurance covers damages caused by traffic accidents?

According to the Automobile Liability Security Law, all drivers of automobiles and motorcycles are obligated to buy the Automobile Third Party Liability Insurance (compulsory insurance)/ Jidosha Songai Baisho Sekinin Hoken, also known as "Jibaiseki Hoken".
Jibaiseki Hoken (compulsory insurance) was created to ensure victims of car accidents are given basic compensation for the damage caused by the driver at fault. Based on the Automobile Liability Security Law, all drivers of automobiles and motorbikes are required to buy Jibaiseki Hoken, and it is against the law to drive an automobile or motorcycle without it. When you have a traffic accident causing injury or death without Jibaiseki Hoken, you are responsible for paying the entire amount of the compensation which could have been covered by the Jibaiseki Hoken. Even if you have a voluntary insurance, it only covers the maximum compensation for damage offered by the insurance minus what could have been paid by the Jibaiseki Hoken.
If you drive an automobile or motorbike without Jibaiseki Hoken, you are subject to imprisonment up to one year or a fine of up to JPY500,000. Also, if you fail to carry the Jibaiseki Hoken policy, you are subject to a fine of up to JPY300,000. It will also deduct 6.0 points from your driver's license, resulting in an immediate suspension on it.

*To pass a Shaken (vehicle inspection), you have to have a valid Jibaiseki Hoken that covers the period until the next Shaken. Motorbikes less than 250cc don't have Shaken, so please be careful to renew your Jibaiseki Hoken upon expiration. The Japanese Government offers aid to victims of hit-and-run accidents caused by vehicles without Jibaiseki Hoken.

Automobile Insurance (Voluntary Insurance)

Voluntary insurance covers the liability that is not covered by Jibaiseki Hoken. In case of serious accidents causing injury or death, the Jibaiseki Hoken will not be able to cover the entire compensation amount because Jibaiseki Hoken does not cover property damages. In order to cover these property damages, you need to purchase voluntary car insurance. Insurance companies offer a line of insurance policies that are known as automobile insurance or voluntary insurance.

Different automobile insurance companies have different policies. You can choose which policy you want to purchase depending on how much coverage you need. Unlike Jibaiseki Hoken, you have more options when choosing voluntary car insurance. For instance, voluntary insurance can cover the repair costs of the damaged vehicles of both drivers at fault and victims. It can also cover public property damages, the policy holder's injury, and the surplus compensation not covered by the Jibaiseki Hoken.

All Jibaiseki Hoken policies cost the same, but voluntary car insurances' prices vary. So, take a good look at policies before making your decision to buy an insurance policy that suits you the best.

Consultation for Traffic Accidents by the Gunma Prefectural Government (Available in Japanese Only)

You can consult these experts about negotiating an out-of-court settlement, claiming for damage, rating blame, and any other problems regarding traffic accidents you may have. These expert advisors offer advice in a neutral and fair manner and help you find solutions to any problems you may have with your traffic accident. All information is treated as strictly confidential, and there is no charge. Please feel free to use this service.

Open Monday thru Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. except on holidays
Consultation available in person as well as on the phone. Call them at 027-243-2511.
Address: 23rd Floor, the Gunma Prefectural Government Building
1-1-1 Ote-machi, Maebashi-shi, Gunma-ken

(Effective September 2012)

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