Until very recently, making a claim for compensation after being involved in a road traffic accident abroad presented a nearly impossible task. 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.
Things have now improved for some of these accidents, thanks to the Green Card Scheme.
What is the Green Card Scheme?
The Green Card Scheme is a European Union 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 road accidents involving foreign registered vehicles.
The Green Card is a document which is recognised in 47 countries, which includes all the countries in the EU, the additional countries that make up the European Economic Area, Switzerland, Russia, several countries located in the Middle East (including Israel and Iran), and several countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea.
The Green Card does not offer insurance cover but serves as proof that the minimum legal requirements for third party liability insurance in the country visited are covered by the insured's own motor policy.
What do I do if I'm involved in an accident abroad
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 be required to produce your driving licence, the registration document for the vehicle and your insurance certificate or Green Card.
You should also try to take photographs of the accident, including the number plates of any vehicles involved, and, if possible, note down the names and addresses of any witnesses.
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, the nearest British embassy, or equivalent as soon as possible.
Contacting your insurer
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 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 you may be able to pursue a claim against agents in the UK, using the procedures introduced by the Fourth Motor Insurance Directive.
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. In Spain, for example, 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.
Make a claim with Thompsons today
Being involved in an accident is always bound to be a very difficult time for you and your family. If the accident happens in a foreign country, it is likely to only add to your stress. At Thompsons, we understand how such a situation can easily become overwhelming. That's why we strive to make the claims process as straightforward as possible for our clients.
So, whether you're a foreign national who's been involved in an accident in Scotland or a Scottish resident who's suffered an injury in an accident abroad, our team will be able to help. We will assist you every step of the way, hopefully achieving you the fair amount of compensation you deserve by the end of the process.