On Jan 30, a 34-year-old man was flung from a roller coaster car while riding the Maihime (dancing princess) ride at the Tokyo Dome City Attractions amusement park. He was taken to a nearby hospital, but died from his injuries about two hours later.
The victim was described as being of a hefty build, and this may have been a factor in the mishap as it appeared likely the car's safety bar had not been securely locked beforehand -- resulting in his being thrown from the car a height of nearly 8 meters.
The Tokyo metropolitan police, investigating possible professional negligence resulting in death, descended on the operator's offices and carted away boxes of documents.
According to news reports, the investigation is focusing on whether or not the ride's attendant, a part-time employee at the park, followed correct procedures when confirming that the bar was locked in place before the start of the ride.
Well, sighs Nikkan Gendai (Feb 18), the damage has been done. What are the operator's liabilities likely to be in such cases? And considering the situation from the wider perspective, how much coverage do regular insurance policies provide for oneself and one's family for accidents occurring during leisure activities?
The Tokyo Dome operators are not ready to talk to the media. When questioned about the size of compensation for the fatal accident, a spokesperson would only say, "At this time, we must refrain from any comments out of consideration for the family of the deceased."
So Nikkan Gendai turned to Kenta Fukumoto, president of insurance consultancy called Medical Insurance Service.
"In the case of accidents at leisure facilities, three types of insurance policies are usually involved," says Fukumoto. "These are regular life insurance; accident insurance; and liability compensation insurance. The first two are taken out by individuals. The third would be taken out by the operators.
"Theme parks, zoos, sea parks, ski resorts and so on, usually carry liability policies. In general, the amount paid out to an individual claim is usually capped at 100 million yen. The insurance company pays the claim to the policy holder."
While parks operated by private corporations in Japan tend to be fairly consistent about taking out policies, apparently those operated as public leisure facilities vary widely. For instance, the public swimming pools operated by the Tokyo metropolitan government carry no liability insurance, which means a person who drowns, or is injured while on the premises will not receive compensation -- raising the likelihood of litigation down the road.
Fukumoto also provides some insurance advice for people to consider before they engage in sports or recreation.
First, with the exception of activities deemed exceptionally risky, a regular accident insurance policy normally covers most activities as swimming at pools or the beach, camping, skiing, trekking, jogging, marathons, golf, cycling, SCUBA diving, wind surfing, snorkeling and so on.
In the case of mountain climbing, with the exception of scaling sheer surfaces that requires use of ice picks and other specialized paraphernalia, or in situations like climbing Mt Fuji during the off season, regular accident insurance is probably sufficient.
Those considering running in marathons should inquire with the event's organizer, which in many cases would be expected to arrange its own coverage.
Slightly riskier activities such as hang gliding, sky diving, bob sledding, etc, may also be covered by paying an additional premium to an existing accident policy.
While you're at it, check the terms of your life policy, says Fukumoto. It may provide for accident coverage as well.
"When injuries are incurred during leisure or sports activities, even if a person doesn't have an injury policy, there are situations in which a life policy will provide some payout," Fukumoto points out.
"Liability insurance, on the other hand, will be paid out when it is determined that 'injury was caused to a third party' or 'expensive equipment was damaged,'" he adds.
Additional provisions for personal injury liability can also be added to regular policies. The most sensible move, recommends Fukumoto, is to balance coverage so that you are protected while at the same time you're in a position to compensate another party for whose injury you might be held liable.© Japan Today