If you get involved in car accident

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Although you may be driving with much care, traffic accidents do occur. The same goes when you are walking the sidewalk. Here are things you should be aware of regarding the law when you become the victim or who's responsible for an accident.

1. If you are responsible for an accident

If you cause an accident, there will be problems in criminal and civil dispute (compensation of damages).

(1) Criminal problem

To begin with, if you caused an accident whileen riding a car(or motorbike) and injured a person, you shall be punished by the charged offence of "Causing Death or Injury through Negligence in driving". If you were instituted prosecution by this offence (Causing Death or Injury through Negligence in driving), you shall be punished by imprisonment with work or without work up to 7 years term or a fine with a maxium of 1,000,000yen. It will depend on how serious the injury is and the settlement between the two parties, but you may be prosecuted and be a defendant in criminal trial. However, if the injuries are nothing serious or just a small scratch, you may not be prosecuted. The police officer may simply not even deal it in criminal case. Also, if it was a small accident and both parties agree on facts about the accident, you may be punished by expedited trial procedure(Based on Act pertaining to Procedure for Summary Trial of Traffic Violations) or other summary trial (usually 1day)in Summary Court . In this procedure you shall be punished by a fine with a maximum of 500,000yen.

Next is about when you cause an accident by car. If you get into an accident while driving a car and is responsible for it, the driver has the obligation to stop the car, give aid to wounded person if necessary, and report to the police about the accident. If you neglect any of these, you will be charged of Road Traffic Act besides the charges you receive for injuring a person. Especially if there is an injured person, doing none of the above will count as hit-and-run case, which itself become another offense, and if the victim has serious injuries, it will count as Abandonment by a Person Responsible for Protection and be charged of major crime.

(2) Problems in civil dispute

Next is about the problems that occur in civil affairs. If the victim lost their life, injured their body, or infringe their property, the person responsible must compensate for the loss. Of course the cost will be decided between mutual agreements or by third party so one-sided claim will not decide the situation.

If the person responsible carries an insurance policy, he or she does not have to pay for the damages by themselves. In that case, the insurance company has to pay instead of that person. There are two types of insurance for cars. One is the vehicle insurance that every driver is required to hold and the other is optional vehicle insurance. The first one has a limit to the amount the insurance can cover for damage and will not cover breakdown of cars. On the other hand, optional vehicle insurance covers broader situations. If you carry these insurances, the insurance company may pay for the damages and the repair fee for the car you were driving. In order to receive such payment, you will need a document called "Jiko-Syomei" (Certificate of Traffic Accident). You can get the document by applying at Japan Safe Driving Center ( http://www.jsdc.or.jp/certificate/accident/sample1.html) after reporting to the police. Therefore, it is necessary to call the police immediately and explain the situation of the accident as soon as possible. Also, if you carry the optional vehicle insurance, by calling the insurance company, a staff from the closest agency will come to where the accident occurred and help you with the various procedures. Calling your insurance company will be a good idea when in accident.

2. If you became a victim of an accident

If you get in an accident and injured your body, you can claim for 1. Doctor's fee 2. Damage caused from being absent from work 3. Damage on properties 4. Mental damages and so on. When the person responsible for the accident is a driver and carries insurance, discussions about the damages will mostly be between the staff of the insurance company. The staff will ask you for a medical certificate or receipt for doctor's fee and written estimate fee for repairing car in order to calculate the estimate the cost for the total damages. If the other party requests you to do so, you should give the person in charge the documents and if you don't have them in your hand, you should get them. It will be difficult to claim compensation for the damages you request without these documents.

When the consultation cannot reach a mutual understanding, you can consult a lawyer and substitute the negotiation for you. If you do not know any lawyer, you can contact the Nichibenren Traffic Accident Consultation Center (http://www.n-tacc.or.jp/)run by Japan Federation of Bar Associations. You can consult a lawyer about civil affairs regarding accidents caused by vehicles or motorbikes. Depending on the situation, the insurance company may choose the substitute lawyer and begin the legal procedure.

What if the person responsible did not carry insurance, have no means to pay and have no hope to earn the amount for the damages, or a vehicle hit you but the person fled? In that case, you can use the system called Governmental services of automobile liability's guarantee operated by Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and receive the amount that the ministry approved. Major casualty insurance companies are entrusted from the government to do the service so if you want to use this service contact the casualty insurance company. For this procedure, you will need a certificate of traffic accident and a certificate of registered Inkan (if you haven't registered, register your stamp at each municipality office.) Also you need application form,medical certificate, and receipts of medical fee each especially for this procedure. Therefore, you have to get those forms from the insurance company. Since the documents needed for this procedure are complicated to prepare, it will be better to ask a lawyer or gyosei-syoshi (administrative scrivener) to create them for you.

When you get into an accident during commuting or work, worker's accident insurance can be applied. Then, the victim can claim the other party for the damages but instead carry out the worker's accident insurance and receive an allowance from prefectural labor bureau that labor standards office decided depending on the medical fee or damages of absence from work. You will not be able to receive compensation from both but you will not have to directly demand for the damages to the other party and it may be smoother to receive the amount for the damages.