Sunday, October 25, 2015

Are you responsible for damage to the train which killed your family?

There is a tragic, and also suggestive report. A woman in Belgium received a letter from a railway company. Her child was killed by the train of the company. Astonishingly, the content of the letter she read was, instead of the words of regret, a bill for the damage caused to the rail tracks. The amount of compensation was 19,000 Euro (21,000 USD).

International Business Times: Belgium: Mother of 12-year-old hit by train gets £14,000 bill for damaging rail track

It is true that the railway company sustains a large amount of loss from an accident. In addition to the direct damage to the train body and rails, disturbed railway schedule causes severe damage to the company. It is possible that relevant employees get psychological trauma due to encountering the accident.

Nonetheless, it seems odd that the railway company is the victim of the crash to demand compensation to the family of whom killed by the train. Indeed, this incident ignited a rage of some politicians.

In this case, it is noteworthy that the victim, 12-year-old girl, was taking a photo on the rail tracks. I have to say that the girl was too reckless to avoid the tragedy. Also, the mother is unlikely to need the payment actually because her insurance will cover the damage. Perhaps, the railway company considered these factor before sending the bill.

There is a similar case recently occurred in Japan. Some years ago, an old man with dementia was hit by a train, to be dead. The railway company sued the family of the victim for the compensation. The District Court supported the claim of the company, admitting the responsibility of the family to supervise the patient with dementia not to harm others. The amount of compensation fee reached 7.2 million JPY (60,000 USD). Family appealed to the High Court. But the decision of the High Court was also supportive to the railway company, albeit the fee was halved (30,000 USD). This lawsuit was moved to the Supreme Court, and yet to be resolved.

My past entry: Railway accidents, a terrible worry

This case looks like nonsense as well at a glance. An American psychiatrist told me that the family would rather sue the railway company for having killed the old man if the case occurred in the US.

However, there is a crucial difference between these cases. And the difference is well representative for the characteristics in the both societies.

In Belgium, the victim was 12-year-old girl. Generally speaking, European society put a great emphasis on the responsibility of parents for supervising their children. In the UK, if you let your schoolchildren alone, you may be arrested for neglect. On the contrary, in Japan, going out alone for purchasing some commodity asked by the parents is encouraged for schoolchildren. In my opinion, 12-year-old is enough to sense the danger of the rail tracks.

On the other hand, the care for patients with dementia is borne by their family members in Japan. I think it is one of the greatest problems in Japan. There are limited resource to aid the care for aged people. Many families are suffering from the burden to take care of elder people. Supervision by the family never be perfect. This court decision is disappointing, because it means that people with dementia will have no choice other than being locked not to wander outside.

Anyway, a traffic accident is tragic. We should be free from nonconstructive conflicts. The prevention of similar cases in the future should be more emphasized.

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