Is the damage, to humans or property?

Is the damage, to humans or property? This is one of the most important questions, both legally and practically, in automobile accidents. When you're involved in an automobile accident, you call the police. The police will ask you and the other driver to describe the accident. If both of you don't get a severe injury, the police will record the crash as "a property damage traffic accident." If one of you gets severe injuries, they might mark it as "a personal injury traffic accident." Whether they regard the damage is to humans or property makes a big difference to the process later on. In this article, we take a close look at the difference between them and their pros and cons.  

Types of automobile accidents  

There are two types of automobile accidents:  

  • Personal injury traffic accident (人身事故 Jinshin-jiko in Japanese)  
  • Property damage traffic accident (物件事故 Bukken-jiko in Japanese)  

Depending on which the police mark the accident, the procedures by police or insurance companies get different. The police designate and record the types of the accident, and it is a big concern for both of the parties related to the crash.   

The definition of personal injury traffic accident  

If it is categorized into a personal injury traffic accident, the at-fault driver can incur both administrative and criminal penalties. That means, some points might be taken off his/her driver's license, or the at-fault driver might be charged with penalty money. If it's worse, they might incur fines or imprisonment. Not only the at-fault driver but also a victim might incur those penalties if they were also considered negligent in the accident.  

The definition of property damage traffic accident  

If it is categorized into a property damage traffic accident, the people concerned with the accident don't incur administrative nor criminal penalties in many cases. They won't incur fines nor imprisonment as well.  

Now you can see why most of the people, especially at-fault drivers, don't want police to acknowledge the accident as "a personal injury traffic accident." People incur more penalties, and also for the police, more time and work arise if it was a personal injury traffic accident. So, the police also tend not to record the cases as "a human damage traffic accident" even if one or some of the parties gets slightly injured in automobile accidents.    

Procedural difference  

When the police acknowledge the accident as a human damage traffic accident, the police starts to make some reports like the following:  

  • A paper to send to a prosecutor  
  • Spot investigation report  
  • Record of a statement of a victim  
  • Record of a statement of a witness  
  • Record of a statement of an at-fault driver  

These documents are sometimes useful, especially when you want to specify the percentage of negligence in the accident. Note that these documents are never made in a property damage traffic accident.  

One thing to do to record the case as a personal injury traffic accident  

Let's think you've got a severe injury in an automobile accident. You want to make the accident recorded as a personal injury traffic accident. The only thing you have to do is to submit a medical certificate to the police. Only doctors can issue the certificate. Only upon its submission, the police can officially record the case as "a personal injury traffic accident." However, note that in a personal injury traffic accident, you'll need more troublesome works than in a property damage traffic accident.   

At first, you have to go to a hospital for the issuance of a medical certificate. Secondly, you have to bring it to the police which looks after your case. Those are sometimes troublesome when you have work in daytime and pain in your injury, and police station and a hospital are far away from your living area.   

Personel Injury Traffic Accident
It's troublesome to go back and forth to get a medical certificate, especially when you're injured.

Pros and Cons  

As long as your injury is not severe, you don't have to make the case recorded as "a personal injury traffic accident." In some special cases, we recommend to make it recorded as a personal injury traffic accident, but in the other cases, we don't recommend it.  Why? 

The following are each pros and cons.   

 Pros Cons 
Personal injury traffic accident You can get detailed reports written by the police. Sometimes they're very important to refer to when negotiation with another party doesn't go well.・It requires troublesome works. You have to go to the police and hospital back and forth, for submitting a medical certificate.  
・Not only the at-fault driver but also you might incur some penalties, like taking points off your driver's license, fines or imprisonment.   
Property damage traffic accidentTime-efficient because you don't have to submit a medical certificate. You and the at-fault driver don't incur penalties, like taking points off your driver's license, fines or imprisonment. You have to settle the car accident case without detailed reports from the police. If the opinions of both you and the at-fault driver are not a match, a settlement without the reports will be a big work. 

What occasion should we make it recorded as personal injury traffic accident?  

The CALI is compulsory automobile liability insurance. CALI's payout is only limited to injured victims. Accordingly, CALI is officially paid out based on the fact that the accident is recorded as a "personal injury traffic accident". That is a principle, but the practice is different. CALI rather takes care of whether you're injured or not, than whether the accident is recorded as personal injury or property damage. Even if you are injured and the accident is officially recorded as a property damage traffic accident, CALI pays out to you upon your submission of "a written reason on why you could' t obtain a certification of a personal injury traffic accident" which is "人身事故証明書入手不能理由書" in Japanese.    

So, if your injury is not severe, it's no problem if the accident is recorded as "a property damage traffic accident." However, only in the following cases, we recommend you to submit a medical certificate to the police and make it marked as a personal injury traffic accident.  

  • Your opinion and at-fault driver's opinion about how the accident happens were not a match, and both of you argue about the percentage of negligence in the accident. In this case, several reports with a neutral perspective by the police will help facilitate the argument.  
  • You've got a severe injury in the accident, and you might be left with residual disability in the crash. CALI's payout for residual disability bases on the fact that the accident is duly recorded as a personal injury traffic accident. 

 
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