It's never nice to be involved in a car accident, but if it happens abroad, the processes for claiming will differ depending on whether you're in the EU or not.
1 Your rights in the EU
Making a claim within the European Union (EU) used to be a complicated process. But thanks to the introduction of the EU Motor Insurance Directives, it's been made much easier.
These directives aim to make it as easy for you to claim for an accident abroad as it is for an accident in the UK.
2 Contact the police
The local police should be your first port of call if you are involved in a car accident abroad.
Generally speaking, it is the law in most countries that the police must attend any accident involving a foreign vehicle.
3 The documents you need to produce
Do not admit liability, and do not sign any documents, other than the European Accident Statement, or 'Constat Amiable'.
The European Accident Statement is a method of ensuring that the parties to an accident exchange the relevant information and, if possible, agree how the accident happened. Make sure you are given a copy, and understand the information written by the other party.
You should also be prepared to produce the following documentation -
- Your driving licence;
- The registration document for the vehicle to prove ownership;
- Your insurance certificate or Green Card.
A Green Card is an internationally recognised document that proves you have the minimum insurance cover required for the country you are driving in.
Ask your insurer to give you a Green Card. They're not obliged to do this, but many will.
You should also ask them if your full UK policy will be in force in the country you're visiting.
4 Contacting your insurer
You should immediately contact your insurer in the event of an accident that immobilises your vehicle.
If your vehicle is drivable, it is acceptable to wait until your return to the UK. However, this is only possible as long as that is not more than two weeks ahead.
In the case of an emergency, the best course of action is to contact your insurer’s local representative. You should have been provided with their address when you informed your insurer of your intentions to go abroad.
If you do not have the details, or the representative cannot be contacted, you should contact your insurer in the UK.
Do not contact the local Green Card bureau. They are not able to provide assistance in respect to your damage.
5 EU information centres
The main change ushered in by the EU Motor Insurance Directives was to set up information centres in each EU member state to help you make a claim.
These information centres work together to give you details of the insurance company of the other party involved in the accident.
For seven years after the accident, you have the right to request information from either the information centre in your home state; the information centre where the other party’s vehicle is based or the information centre of the state in which the accident occurred.
This information is the name and address of the insurer; the number of the insurance policy; the name and address of the insurer’s claims representative in your home state; and the name and address of the registered keeper (in special cases).
The directives give you a right to take action against the insurer. They also require the insurer to nominate a representative in your own country who can settle the claim.
If the insurer can't be identified, then the directives ensure a compensation body can pay the claim.
At the present time, the cost of the operation of these agreements to the individual motor policyholder is between £15-30 per policy.
However, the Motor Insurance Bureau warns the costs are likely to continue to rise in the light of increasing compensation, legal costs and legislation changes
6 Rights to compensation
Once your case is submitted it should be settled within three months. If it's not, you should receive compensation with interest if there are unnecessary delays.
The UK Information Centre is part of the Motor Insurers’ Bureau. You can contact the MIB on 0845 165 2800 or firstname.lastname@example.org or you can make online enquiries to the MIB.
7 Accidents outside the EU
If you have a car accident outside the EU, then the EU Motor Insurance Directives do not apply.
But you can still make a claim against either the driver or the insurer of the vehicle in the country where the accident happened.
It's essential to check with your insurance company at home before you leave exactly what the insurance arrangements are for each country.