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Japanese Captain Should Share Some Blame

Date Posted: 2001-03-16

In Japan a collision on the road is never judged by the courts to be entirely one personís fault. Itís always a matter of assessing a percentage of blame to each side. Even if one is struck in the rear while stopped at a red light, one will be made to bear some, maybe ten percent, of the liability. Why? Because, if that person had not been there, he would not have been hit. For a foreigner, if he had not been in Japan, he would not have contributed to the accident. In Japan, as in any country, being a foreigner makes the accident (or crime, for that matter) more serious. What has this to do with a collision at sea? This. In the case of the recent U.S. submarine and Japanese fishing vessel collision, the Japanese courts, if they are to be consistent, would have to agree with a portion of the blame being attributed to the Japanese ship captain. After all. he was, or should have been, aware of previous incidents of collisions between ships and submarines and the increased hazard of operating in the vicinity of a submarine base. Applying Japanese style jurisprudence, the accident would not have happened if he had not been there. Donít complain to me (a thirty-seven year resident of Japan) now. Itís the Japanese way.

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