Very few people who travel overseas on holiday will ever contemplate the full and often complicated consequences of being involved in a road accident abroad.
But with holidaymakers becoming more adventurous and using their annual leave to visit both near and far flung places, regrettably, it is something that comes into consideration more and more often.
Unfortunately, there are hundreds of UK citizens involved in car accidents abroad every year. Some of these result in serious and life-changing injuries and, in the most serious incidents, fatalities.
Just last month, a group of mainly British and French holidaymakers were injured when the bus they were travelling in crashed into the top of an underpass in Rome because it appears that the driver failed to see the height warning signs.
As an experienced travel litigation and serious accidents abroad solicitor, this incident reminded me how important it is for people to know what to expect before they travel in another country.
It also stresses the importance of one piece of current EU legislation to UK holidaymakers.
Powerful, pro-consumer legislation (including EU Motor Insurance Directives) allow motorists who are not at fault, and passengers, to bring a claim against the at-fault motorist’s insurer in the injured person’s own country. This makes the legal process more straight forward for the injured person, allowing access to a Court system, lawyers and medical experts in their own country.
For example, if you live in England or Wales and have been involved in a road traffic accident in a country in the EU, you can return home and pursue a claim against the foreign insurer of the negligent driver through the courts of England and Wales.
Whether you were the driver, a passenger or a pedestrian, you may be able to claim compensation for:
- a car, taxi or motorbike accident
- a coach or minibus incident
- a bicycle crash
- An accident as a pedestrian
Even if you were involved in an accident which was caused by an uninsured driver, you can often claim compensation from a central fund. In the UK this is known as the Motor Insurers Bureau, and each EU Member State has an equivalent organisation.
But, as with any type of accident abroad, it is important to make a claim as soon as possible because there are different time limits in which you can do so, depending on the country where the incident happened.
Important advice for driving abroad
Although the EU Motor Insurance Directives doprovide holidaymakers with added protection, it is still sensible to know what local rules and regulations must be followed before driving abroad.
Important tips to follow when driving abroad:
- Always carry your driving licence.
- Have the vehicle’s registration documents in your possession.
- Keep your insurance certificate or Green Card to hand.
- Know which side of the road to drive on.
- Be aware of all the road and warning signs used in that country.
- Make sure you have the numbers of the emergency services on your phone.
- Keep your insurer’s emergency contact details to hand.
- Always have the number of the British Consul available.
What to do if you’re involved in a car accident abroad
In most EU countries, the police will attend the scene of a road traffic accident involving an overseas vehicle to assess who was at fault for the accident.
To do this, they use a pro forma “agreed statement of facts” document (called a ‘Constat Amiable’ or European Accident Statement). The aim of the form is to help holidaymakers involved in road accidents abroad exchange information about what happened. This is completed immediately so that the accident circumstances remain fresh in everyone’s mind and can be agreed by the drivers.
You should complete and sign this form if you understand the information given by you and the other party. But, if you don’t understand what is on the form, or you’re not happy with what has been said, do not agree to sign it.
If you’re involved in a road traffic accident abroad you should:
- Call the emergency services and the police if anyone is injured.
- Contact your insurance company immediately to report the accident.
- Make detailed notes about the accident circumstances.
- If possible, take photographs of the accident scene – including the positions of any other vehicles involved and their number plates.
- Take the names, addresses and vehicle and insurance details of the other driver and of as many witnesses as possible.
- When the police arrive, co-operate fully with their requests.
- If you do not understand what the police are saying, ask for an interpreter.
- Produce your driving licence, vehicle registration documents and proof of insurance.
- Complete a ‘Constat Amiable’ or European Accident Statement, but only sign it if you are happy and fully understand what is written on it.
- Keep any documents the police give you as you may need to refer to them in the event of a claim for compensation.
How to get free expert advice after a road traffic accident abroad
Having pursued hundreds of cases involving accidents and injuries of all kinds in various countries around the world, I know how difficult it is to deal with the aftermath of a road accident abroad.
This is largely due to the complex rules which must be followed as well as the complicated and emotional circumstances attached to incidents of this nature.
My ethos, and that of Hudgell Solicitors, is to always deliver the best possible outcome for the people involved. We do this by ensuring that every rehabilitation need is met and securing compensation for the pain and suffering that’s been caused.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a road traffic accident abroad that was not your fault, it is your right to seek justice. If you need help or expert advice to guide you through the process, please get in touch.