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Municipal gov't to enter insurance plan to cover wandering dementia patients

YAMATO, Kanagawa -- The municipal government here has decided to enter an insurance plan that provides compensation in cases such as accidents stemming from elderly dementia patients wandering onto railway crossings, it has been learned.

    The local authority plans to include the insurance plan idea in its supplementary budget proposal to be submitted to a municipal assembly session that convenes on Aug. 30, claiming that this is the first case in Japan of a municipal government entering this type of insurance plan using public funds. It is expected that the maximum compensation payout under the plan will be 300 million yen.

    In a related case involving Central Japan Railway Co. (JR Central), the railway firm sued the family of a 91-year-old man with dementia who was killed after being hit by a Tokaido Line train in Obu, Aichi Prefecture, in 2007 -- on the grounds that the collision caused train delays. JR Central demanded about 7.2 million yen from the family. The family lost the case in the district and high courts and was ordered to pay out, in what became an issue that gained attention across society.

    However, in March 2016, the Supreme Court dismissed the liability of the victim's family. Nevertheless, the Yamato Municipal Government has found itself being consulted by concerned families of elderly dementia patients in the city asking, "If there is an accident, who holds responsibility, and to what extent?"

    As a result, the municipal government decided to enter an insurance scheme using public funds that covers compensation for such accidents.

    There are 32 railway crossings as well as eight train stations across the city belonging to three railway firms that operate lines such as the Odakyu Line and the Sagami Railway Line. The city will also enter an insurance scheme covering traffic accidents.

    Elderly people with dementia who are at risk of wandering onto places such as railway tracks, and who have registered with the city's "wandering senior citizens SOS network" are expected to be covered under the plan. As of late July 2017, 237 people have registered with this network.

    It is expected that the local authority will include about 3.2 million yen for this plan in its supplementary budget proposal, and will select an insurance company after a bidding process.

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