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Accidents & Insurance


Speeding Up
Feb 15, 2007
Back in March on the KT5 Tanzawa-ko Loop ride I was involved in an accident with a car. Last week I signed the final papers that brought the insurance process to conclusion. The past 4 months have been a learning experience. Thomas has asked me to share that experience with you. You may learn something.

After the accident my bike was a write-off - the top tube and down tube snapped. I had no broken bones, just a few cuts and grazes. The car received minor damage - a broken wing mirror. There was no animosity between myself and the driver. The driver was extremely concerned about me. The police arrived and took statements. I was offered an ambulance which I declined. The driver and I exchanged details. I put my bike in a garbage bag and got the train home.

Next day I get a call from the drivers insurance company. Do I have insurance? No. Have I gone to the office (Monday) today? Yes. "You should go to the hospital for a check up" they recommended. I had a stiff shoulder but was OK. I was busy. I was not going to the hospital. The insurance company person said another person would contact me who would deal with my case.

That afternoon, Insurance Person 2 calls. "My client thinks that at the very least it is 60% / 40% in their favor" Insurance Person 2 tells me. "I disagree" I said. "We will come back to you" I am told. The attitude is rude and clearly the insurance company are going to play hardball. They know I lack the knowledge and experience to deal with them.

Lesson 1: Get representation. You should buy insurance, not for the coverage but for representation your liability buys you. Insurance companies cannot bullshit each other because they have equal knowledge and experience.

HINT: If you learn lesson 1 you do not need to read the rest of this

I decide I need to educate myself quickly. I search the internet.

Lesson 2: A) In accidents, the Japanese system assigns the weight of responsibility to the stronger/larger/heavier party. e.g., the weight of responsibility will be assigned to the car in a bicycle/car accident. The weight of responsibility will be assigned to the bicycle in a person/bicycle accident. B) The Japanese government has a huge book full of accident scenarios and for each scenario they have preassigned weights of responsibility. In my case it was 20/80 in my favor (If I had been a child or pensioner it would have been 10/90). It is important to identify your accident scenario. Don't let someone else decide the appropriate scenario for you. They can all be accessed online.

Luckily for me, my wife's cousin is a lawyer and he agreed to represent me. He instructed me to go to hospital and get a check-up. I did and they gave me a Personal Injury note that said my shoulder injury would take three weeks to heal.

Lesson 3: Personal injury cases automatically become legal cases in which the police are involved. The police will complete a thorough accident investigation. Convictions will be made against the guilty party. In a bicycle/car accident this is most likely to be against the car driver. If you get into an ambulance, it will automatically become a police case.

My lawyer gave a copy of my Personal Injury note to the insurance company. There is no limitation in Japan on bringing personal injury cases. Therefore, despite not using an ambulance, you can file a personal injury case at a later date. If you do file a personal injury case at a later date then you must do so at the police station that dealt with your accident and the other party must attend.

Lesson 4: The insurance company does not care about your million yen carbon fiber wonder. Personal injury liability is what scares them.

The insurance company suggested things could be worked out without my lawyer filing a personal injury case. The insurance company offered to pay for an independent private Accident Investigation report (this makes sense to the insurance company because it will tell them how much risk of losing any subsequent court case). My lawyer agreed highlighting to the insurance company that a private accident investigation is not binding and any subsequent police accident investigation would take priority, if and when we filed a personal accident claim.

Lesson 5: Work out exactly what happened. Reenact the accident on a table with toy cars so you know what could and could not be seen. Talk to witnesses. Build an accurate and honest picture. The car driver claimed I failed to take avoiding action and was traveling too fast. I was able to demonstrate that I could not see the car until seconds before it pulled into view and that my speed was moderate. Based on their and my evidence it was proven the driver crossed the road blind. The driver had been caught in a lie.

The Insurance Company sent an assessor to my house to view the bicycle. Before the visit I collected brochures of the original bike and brochures for a comparative replacement. When he arrived I was honest and friendly. I talked about the bikes value and the cost of replacing it using the evidence I had collected. He thanked me because it saved him time and effort. He complained many people try to overstate their claims.

Lesson 6: The assessor knows bicycles. Do not discuss discounts you received when purchasing the bike. Just help them to identify the actual retail value at the purchase date and the current replacement value.

Towards the end of the conversation the assessor will probe you about what settlement will be acceptable to you.

Lesson 7: The assessor knows what the insurance company will accept and will not accept. He needs to understand what you will accept. Don't make his life hard by trying to bump up the price. He wants to close the case and will work in your favor if he can do so immediately.

The insurance company took 4 months to bring this to conclusion. If you appear desperate by constantly calling and asking questions it weakens your position. The insurance company must settle to everyone's agreement. Letting them take their time means they always have to come back to you with an offer.

Lesson 8: Leave the responsibility to sort the accident out with the insurance company. If you call asking questions you show you are worried and are more prone to agreeing to worse terms.

Conclusion: The case was settled 90/10 in my favor. I did not pay any costs. I received the full cost of my bike and they made a token payment for my shoulder injury.

I hope this helps if you find yourself in the same situation. Don't forget. Buy insurance today so you have representation in the event of an accident.
Thank you Philip for taking the time to share all this wisdom with us...so very insightful.
Thanks very much Philip for sharing your knowledge.

One question: you mentioned that you'd now taken out insurance. Was this with Mont-bell?
Thanks very much Philip for sharing your knowledge.

One question: you mentioned that you'd now taken out insurance. Was this with Mont-bell?

Yes, I purchased insurance with Mont Bell after reading good online reviews.

Yes, I purchased insurance with Mont Bell after reading good online reviews.


You couldn't post a link could you?

After my head-on with a mad driver last night, I want to get insured ASAP!
Philip, thanks very much for the account. Very useful to all of us, I'm sure. Glad you got it all settled to your satisfaction.

Hope you don't mind, but I have two quick questions:

1. Do you have auto insurance? If so, did you phone them to see if you were covered while on the bike?
2. I'm assuming the discussions about compensation for the bike were for a complete bike, and not just the frame. Did it seem like at any point the assessor or anyone else would suggest that "just the frame" was broken, and therefore you need only be compensated for that?

Next up, claims against delivery companies?
I've been in 2 accidents...once I was on a moped and once in my car and a cyclist hit me. Both times I felt the police or the insurance companies started off on the wrong foot and awarded blame un-fairly. Even when the cyclist went through an intersection on the wrong side of the road with his ipod in his ear, I had to accept 80% of the blame... and even after he said he was fine and wanted to go home... his brother and mother called me at all hours harrassing me. Like Phillip said, I told them to deal through my insurance company and not to call me. They took the insurance company for a ride though...getting 60man out of them for all sorts of false claims. My car had 30man yen damage. 2 long stories I won't go into. If you have insurance it doesn't matter what blame is given to you... the insurance company pays and you don't have to worry about it. No insurance and you can't negotiate as easily.

Our cycling club has an insurance program which is about 3000 yen a year and I have my whole family on it.

Take lots of photos of damage and where any accident happened and insist bystanders (witnesses) give you a contact name and number. Take a photo of them as well if you can. Don't hold back.

Nice report there too, thanks.

This is just what we need on this site, thanks so much for taking the time to post this. I think we should make this a sticky (thomas?)

Its very important to have this sort of experience here. Next weekend, it could be me!

thanks again

I got knocked off my bike here (Saitama) by a car turning left into a supermarket. I was riding between the car and the curb as traffic was backed up for a railway crossing. The driver seeing that traffic was stalled did a lazy turn into the supermarket entrance without indicating or checking his wing mirror. Result my then new Kestrel hit the front fender and I went over the hood of the car. I was riding at about 30 kmph. I had unclipped in the air so after rolling on the sidewalk I picked up my now scratched bike, I was getting ready to talk to the driver who was asking me if I was alright. I was more worried about my pride and joy. I went to show him the damage when he and I saw my pinky finger pointing South when all the others were going North. His wife did a scream, he went white and I thought how much it didn't hurt. He asked if I needed an ambulance but I declined saying that all I needed was to make a phone call to my local bike shop to come and pick me up. I belonged to the bikes racing team and spent about an hour each week hanging out there as well as most of my factory jobs wages. A sushi shop across the road had seen the prang and called an ambulance as they said it looked pretty severe. So here comes an ambulance which of course bought the police as it was called in as a traffic accident. I was bleeding a touch from my hand but a band aid would have stopped the blood and felt like the ambulance was overkill. Anyways I rode the ambulance to the local but not my cities hospital and got the finger X-rayed and reset and splintered. all of which took about 2 and a half hours since the smash. The police, by then, had left a message for me to go to the station and make a report. The cop was real nice and wrote down what I said and then asked if I wanted any punitive punishment given to the driver. I said no, it was an accident and accidents happen, all I wanted was my bike fixed. By now the bike shop owner was driving me around from hospital to police station and finally home. The police had bought the bike to the station as I wasn't allowed to take it in the ambulance.
Next day the driver and his wife come by with a big bowl of fruit and I met them in the car park just as I was riding in on my MTB one handed. I really was fine and really felt sorry for their trouble. On the Monday I went to our local doctor who x rayed my hand and said it wasn't set straight so then he pulls my finger out and twists it around all without telling me what he was doing. That HURT!
I was working on a metal lathe machining bike parts and that job pretty much needed two hands so the doctor tells me no work for a week and writes out some form. A week later I was working in the paint house spraying new frames with a spray gun, that was fun.
The insurance guy called but the language was above my head and so I told him to talk to the bike shop. The assessor apparently was just about crying when he learned the replacement value of the frame. The front fork was really bent back pretty good and carbon frames , you know, they might have structural failures. Any part that was scratched was written up and everything was Campy Record. Total cost of frame and parts was nearly 500,000 yen. The days of work and the medical expenses were also added to the claim. They paid directly to the bike shop the cost of repairs etc and credited my bank account with the expenses and lost wages. All I had to do was hanko the paperwork at the bike shop. The shop put new parts on the replacement frame, a Colnago and I got to keep the smashed up frame and parts as well.
The police suspended the guys license for two weeks, poor guy.
What I learnt from this; (1) ambulances scare insurance companies. (2) Supporting your local bike shop is always a good thing to do if possible, you never know when they will support you. (3) Don't talk down your injuries. (4) Be nice and calm, everybody is just doing their job (5) Bike shops LOVE insurance jobs especially on imported frames and parts. (6) some doctors love seeing New Zealanders tearing up in pain on their knees. (7) Drive safely out there cause the system is against the driver.
Good Questions Phil . . .

1. Do you have auto insurance? If so, did you phone them to see if you were covered while on the bike?

I do have coverage from my auto insurance (Sony). However, I understand there are certain limitations to this type of insurance, which is why I also have the Mont Bell coverage.

2. I'm assuming the discussions about compensation for the bike were for a complete bike, and not just the frame. Did it seem like at any point the assessor or anyone else would suggest that "just the frame" was broken, and therefore you need only be compensated for that?

Sorry I did not mention. Before the claims assessor visited me, I took my bike to the LBS and arranged a quotation. The quote was for individual parts to rebuild the bike. As you can imagine, at list price, the cost of rebuilding the bike was significantly higher than purchasing an equivalent complete new bike. In this case the cost of a complete new bike was easy to estimate because it was a Giant (which you generally purchase as a complete bike). The assessor therefore used a complete new bike as a base line.

From here the assessor then applies depreciation. On a mama-chari they apply 3 year straight line depreciation so after 3 years your bike is worth nothing. On an old road bike they will want to write it off and depreciation will be heavy so owners fight to have parts replaced. However, on a reasonably new road bike (mine was 3 years old and clearly in excellent condition) they are more lenient with depreciation. They apply about 15-20% for the first 3 years depending on its condition. Note: depreciation is applied to the retail price. As most people will arrange a 10-20% discount on a new bike purchase the real depreciation is marginal. In addition you get to use any bits that have survived. However, if the bike is over three years old the assessor is going to apply depreciation more aggressively.

Next up, claims against delivery companies?

In this situation I am claiming for parts because you cannot purchase a complete Cervelo in Japan. If the bike was old this would not be in my favor. However, it is under three years old (in fact it is just one month old :mad: ) so as long as the delivery company accept responsibility I will not lose on the claim itself. I will let you know how this works out . . . when it has finally been worked out.


Great Advice . . .

Take lots of photos of damage and where any accident happened and insist bystanders (witnesses) give you a contact name and number. Take a photo of them as well if you can. Don't hold back.

After my accident I was a little dazed and still trying to work things out in my mind. It feels a little embarrassing to start running around asking questions and taking pictures. However, this was a mistake. We all carry camera phones. Take photos . . .
  • The position of all nearby vehicles and road layout. This allows you reconstruct the accident and demonstrate exactly what happened. You will not have to argue about this later.
  • Get pictures of the exact damage to vehicles and (especially) people. As Pete explained, people get very greedy after an accident.
and get witnesses . . .
  • Get witnesses - there were two cyclists in a car at my accident who gave a very sympathetic account of what happened to the police (not to mention the other 8 TCC members. But remember, the witness is not always sympathetic to you!
  • Get witnesses immediately. I spoke to a few people days after the accident and they were already struggling to recollect precise events.


Thanks Simon . . .

It is good to hear other peoples experiences as clear picture is emerging. Anyone else?

Drive safely out there cause the system is against the driver.

If you have choice between hitting a pedestrian or swerving in front of large truck - choose the truck! Your wife will thank you for it :D


Prime material, Philip. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

"Stickied"! :thumb:
another option

After exploring monte belle, and then putting that off for a while, the yearly insurance cycle came up at my school last month, and after stumbling thru the Japanese I discovered that the Private School Mutual Aid Association (私学共済) has a type of supplemental insurance via their アイリスプラン that covers cycling accidents (among other things). This is available to those who work at private universities (私立大学) who are on that medical/pension system.

I've signed up, and also included my family members--for four of us it seems it'll be about ¥5300/year. A simple addition to the life and hospitalization coverage that I've had thru that system for years. The only "catch" is that tho I've signed up now, coverage won't start till the next billing cycle in the spring.
Another type of bike insurance, but the timing is bad

Similar to what jdd as listed, I can also add this.

Your local ward office also offers bike insurance: Kumin Kotsu Shogai Hoken (Ward Residents Traffic Injury Insurance)

A cheap insurance deal that is offered by the ward offices to the residents of the ward that you live in. You need to go to your local ward office to pick up an application form. But you can only apply once a year with the window to apply very short.

Coverage is for 1 year starting from April 1st. It covers all traffic, bike, ship or even plane accidents. E.g. pedestrians, runners or bike riders hit by a car, car or plane crashes, bike accidents etc. Covers injury and or death and some wards (you need to check) include public liability insurance in the coverage. This will cover you if you hit a oba-chan on a mama-chari while out on the bike which is important to have.

This is a good deal for bike riders who want to have extra insurance coverage for training. The draw back is that you need to wait until March with coverage commencing on April 1st. This is all I know about this! (Helps to have a Japanese spouse) If you need more info, please check with your local ward office or with one of your Japanese friends. Not sure if it is available in places other than Tokyo, but I think it is.

My wife signs us up both up every year. There are different scales of coverage and I get the max and my wife usually takes the minimum (still pretty good). Costs about JPY5,000 per year for us both.

Need to mark this in your diary for next year.

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