Japan, Okinawa
Comments 8

Hardball with Ryukyu Bus Kotsu – 琉球バス交通

The Joys of Japanese Auto Insurance

The Joys of Japanese Auto Insurance

At the start of the year, I wrote a post about being involved in a minor traffic accident. A coach decided to merge into my lane and, although I wasn’t moving and beeping my horn, the coach scraped the fender and bumper of my car. It’s annoying to have to fill in paperwork, get your car fixed, and drive around a loaner for a week or two, but accidents happen.

In the previous blog post I wrote:

The one issue that does remain is exactly whose insurance will be paying for the repairs. You might assume that the bus company’s insurance would pay for everything, but in Japan blame is rarely attributed entirely to one driver. If the discussion between insurance companies results in me being given a token 10% of the blame, my insurance will pay for 10% of the damage to my car and the bus, and next year’s insurance premium will go up.

A couple of weeks ago, I got the accident summary from my insurance company ( J.A. ) it said that both vehicles had been moving at the time of the accident. On the day of the accident I had been told that the accident summary would be written after consultation between myself, the bus driver and both insurance agencies. I pointed out that not only was the accident summary wrong, but that the J.A. investigator had never contacted me.   I said I wouldn’t sign the papers until the correct accident summary was written. They pointed out that it didn’t really matter as I have comprehensive coverage so I won’t have to pay either way. I said I understood, but I still wouldn’t sign the papers until it was correct.

Later that day the accident investigator phoned me and said that he, the bus driver, the representative for the bus company, and I would meet at the accident site to discuss the matter. This wasn’t a good sign. There shouldn’t be much to discuss when you’re not moving, beeping your horn and someone else hit you.

A few days later I was standing by the side of the road in Nago with the J.A. accident investigator, the bus driver and two representatives of the bus company. The representatives from the bus company got straight to the point –  If you looked at my fender it showed a compression crimp that indicated frontal collision rather than a side collision. I therefore must have been moving when the accident occured. Amazingly, the J.A. accident investigator also said this sounded correct.  I said that as I was in the car, with my foot on the brake, and beeping my horn, I was certain I was not moving when the bus hit me. For thirty minutes a strange circle of repetition took place where the bus company representatives pointed to photographs of the fender, and then brought out my actual damaged fender from their car to prove their point, while I continued to tell them I was stationary. At one point the bus driver started to speak and he was gestured to remain quiet by the bus company representatives. I finally said that my story wasn’t going to change no matter how many times they repeatedly showed their evidence. They said they would agree on 70% of the responsibility. I said that’s unreasonable. We decided to continue the matter at a future date.

The J.A. guy asked me what I wanted to do and I said I wanted an accurate accident summary before I would sign the report. I told him again the sequence of events and even wrote them down: Bus signals, I stop, bus moves closer, I beep my horn, bus clips the car, bus stops.

A few days later the papers arrive with a correct accident summary. I sign and send back the papers.

Yesterday I get a phone call from J.A. thanking me for sending in the papers. The J.A. man says they have decided to agree on 70% / 30% and am I okay with that. I say of course I’m not happy, but there’s nothing I can do about it realistically. J.A. guy says no.

I agree to the split, so that this minor fender bender doesn’t grow from an irritation into a surreal nightmare.

I didn’t mention the name of the bus company in the original post, because accidents happen. However the actions of Ryukyu Bus Kotsu – 琉球バス交通 in dealing with what should have been a simple matter have shown they have some ethical issues they need to sort out. As for J.A. they have shown either a lack of  competence, or a desire to meet the needs of a company rather than one of their own clients.


  1. Hate to say I called it, but 30% is what I was expecting. Good for you for sticking to your guns about it; just wish it had had a better effect. So were they originally trying to make it 50/50?

  2. Maybe it’s worth buying a small camera to record back and forward your car surroundings. I wonder if a video proof would made things clear or it’s just “everybody’s fault” mentality.
    Hopefully they don’t apply the same logic to murder, rape or robbery. Do you imagine? A guy rob a bank and then, he has to pay 70% of the money and the bank the 30% to him lol!

    • Pietro Zuco – Nice idea, but to be honest I don’t think it would make a bit of difference. They would look at the video, suck through their teeth a few times and then restate their original offer.

      • Some will say this is a case of discrimination against the blue-eyed foreigner, but I think it is actually about being a individual and the other driver working for a large organization.

        Immediately after the accident the driver didn’t apologize. His first phone call was to the company. The second phone call was to the police.

        On the day of the accident a bus company representative phoned me. He asked if I was Chris Willson. I said yes. He asked if I had any injury as a result of the accident. I said no. He asked again, do you have any kind of injury. I said no. He hung up.

        I am sure that in this situation if I was hit by another individual the driver would have accepted complete responsibility. Ryukyu Bus Kotsu – 琉球バス交通 however appear to have a policy in place to deal with these situations, and therefore limit their liability.

      • True, although a friend (after being hit by someone) has been told that what the people or police say happened has no correlation to what proportion of blame gets appointed by the insurance companies (confirmed by police at the time). The insurance companies talk to each other separate from anything else and agree on the blame.

        Friend was in an accident where the guy told the police it was 100% his fault, and was noted down in hte report. Friend was still given 20% of the blame.

  3. Tom Amick says

    This incident seems typical with most events in present day culture. People are always looking for someone else to place the blame on. No one wants to be responsable for their own actions. It sounds to me like the bus driver would have admitted that it was all his fault if it weren’t for the representatives from his company. I think you handled the situation perfectly. It would have been a mess to try and take this any further. Hopefully you won’t have to deal with anything like this for the rest of your life.

    • Things like this crop up all the time. The key is to move on without getting too much grey hair. Clearly I’ve had problems doing this in the past. (CERAN language schools still owe me about US$4000!)

  4. Your insurer seems like any insurer, they want to put the blame on both parties, as to make maximum profit. I had a similar problem after being hit by a car (running a red light), while riding my motorbike in downtown Gothenburg (Sweden). I have no issues with the driver, as she agreed she was responsible, but my insurer was just willing to give a paltry $1,500 for the remains of my bike, even though I had full coverage. I told their representative that if he cold find a running Yamaha SR500 for that sum, he should then get it for me.

    Eventually, I talked to my uncle, and he said go back and talk to the guy again, say you talked to me, and see what happens then.

    Suddenly, after the second visit, I got an offer of $3,000, after I had indeed mentioned my uncle’s name. He was then (R.I.P., ol’ man!) the former head of the biggest insurance company in Sweden, well known by the guy I had to deal with.

    You should befriend someone high up in your insurance company – maybe do a photo shoot of their VIP?!

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