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Friday, May 15, 2015

Driver Struck By Other Vehicle Ordered To Pay Damages

It's one of those situations where you marvel at the Japanese system of, well… everything.

Japanese courts have ordered a man to pay compensation to the victim of a car accident - even though he was the one who was hit.

On December 3, 2014 (no names were in the article I read), Driver #1 (a University student) with Passenger #1 were driving along a single-lane National Highway late at night.

Driver #1 fell asleep at the wheel, allowing his/her car to float across the center line into on-coming traffic, colliding head-on with Driver #2 coming the opposite direction.

Passenger #1 died. Driver #1 and Driver #2 suffered serious injuries.

Because Passenger #1 (deceased) died, they blamed Driver #1, filing a lawsuit for damages.

The Fukui District Court, on April 13, 2015, laid down the judgement:
  • ¥67,000,000 (~US $560,000) in damages to be paid by Driver #1;
  • ¥40,000,000 (~US $334,000) in damages to be paid by Driver #2.
Wait… WTF?

The driver of the car (Driver #2)  who stayed in his own lane… and was hit by the sleeping Driver #1 (and Passenger #1) has to pay damages?

Who the fug is Passenger #1's Family lawyer? That is one amazing lawyer?!

So… how did such a ruling come about?

Just as here in North America a person is NOT allowed to run over a jay-walker because you have the right of way—you have to make a reasonable attempt to stop or avoid hitting them with your car (It's something I have always known)—Japan also has similar expectations with regards to its vehicle drivers.

The lawyer for the family of Passenger #1 must have made a compelling argument to show that Driver #2 did not make a reasonable attempt to alleviate the on-coming situation.

While there were other cars ahead of and driving the same direction cars Driver #1 (and Passenger #1), it was reasonable to assume that Driver #2 could not have moved his car into the on-coming lane to avoid the accident.

That's good.

However… the judge ruled that since there was approximately 80 meters of space from the time Driver #1 (and Passenger #1) swerved over and Driver #2, there was ample time for Driver #2 to have taken some other form of action… such as honk the horn - to perhaps alert Driver #1 to his dangerous situation… or that Driver #2 could have applied the brakes to his own car to avoid a possible collision.

It sounds like an extreme case that the driver who was hit should be forced to pay damages, but Japan does have an Automobile Liability Security Act in place that supports accident victims.

While Driver #2 did nothing WRONG, he didn't do enough RIGHT to have avoided the situation, and thus is partially responsible in the death of Passenger #1.

Panic is not a defense (not that the news I read mentioned that), nor is Freezing up.    One can't also assume that the other driver will fix their own problem.

You have to try and avoid an accident.

If you were not aware of this before, don't forget it now. 

Looking both ways,
Andrew Joseph

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