Road Traffic Accidents Abroad
Car Accident Compensation
It was case until very recently that being involved in a road traffic accident abroad presented a nearly impossible task to achieve justice or compensation. Only a lawyer with a network of related offices all over the world and with an encyclopaedic knowledge of the laws and time-bar rules of different countries stood a chance.
All that has changed for accidents that occur in certain parts of the word with the Introduction a new system, called the Green Card Scheme.
The Green Card Scheme is a UN system overseen by the Economic Commission for Europe. The purpose of the system is to allow free movement of vehicles across borders and to protect the interests of victims of foreign registered vehicles.
The Green Card is a document which is recognised in over 40 countries, including all the countries of Europe with the exception of Russia.
The Green Card does not offer insurance cover but serves as proof that the minimum legal requirements for third party liability insurance in any country for which the Green Card are valid are covered by the insured's own motor policy.
If you are involved in a road traffic accident in a foreign country, you should contact the local Police. In most countries it is a legal requirement that the Police attend an accident involving a foreign vehicle.
You should remain calm and say as little as possible. You should not admit liability nor sign any documents other than the standard European Accident Statement or "Constat Amiable."
This document is a method of insuring that the parties to an accident exchange relevant information with each other and, if possible, agree how the accident occurred. You should ensure that you are given a copy and that you understand the information written by the other party.
It is likely that you will require to produce your driving licence, the registration document for the vehicle and your insurance certificate or Green Card.
If you do not understand what is happening because of language difficulties, you should try to explain that an Interpreter is required. You should also be aware that in some countries the Police can be responsible for deciding fault at the scene of an accident. In some countries drivers may be arrested and their vehicles impounded to allow time for fault to be determined.
If you are arrested, you should ask the Police to contact the British Consulate or equivalent as soon as possible.
You should contact your insurers immediately in the event of an accident that immobilises your vehicle. If your vehicle is drivable, it is acceptable to wait until you return to the UK so long as that is not more than two weeks ahead.
In the case of emergency you should contact your insurers' local representative. Their details should be provided to you when you advise your insurer of your intention to drive abroad.
If you do not have the details of the representative you should phone your insurers in the UK. Do not contact the local Green Card Bureau as they are not able to provide assistance in respect of your damage.
If your accident was within the European Economic Area (EEA) you may be able to pursue a claim against agents in the UK, using the procedures introduced by the Fourth Motor Insurance Directive which came into force on 19 January 2003.
For accidents in other countries it is essential that you have legal advice so that you know what you can claim for and how long your claim may take. You should not delay in getting advice as there may be a relatively short time in which to make a claim. For example, in Spain, accident claims are subject to a one year limitation period.
Any legal action normally has to be pursued in the country where the accident occurred.
For a small fee, the Motor Insurers Bureau may be able to assist you in obtaining Police and medical reports and other documents from the foreign country concerned.