Car crash or road traffic accident in Europe- what to do

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No matter how much you prep and plan for your Europe road trip, sometimes, accidents do happen.

If you're unlucky enough to be involved in a car crash/ motorhome crash/ road traffic accident in Europe, here's what you need to know and do.

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Car Accidents and Road Traffic Accidents- which law?

No matter what nationality you are or where the vehicle is registered OR where you live, normally the rules are the rules in the country the accident happens in. So, if the car accident happens in France, you will be under French law.

However, very occasionally and subject to several other conditions, if two vehicles both registered in the UK crashed together in France, they may fall under UK law.


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What to do at the scene of a car accident in Europe

If you are involved in a car accident in Europe or see one taking place, here's what to do:

  • Stop your vehicle immediately but safely- out of the flow of traffic if possible. Do NOT leave the scene.
  • Stay calm- now is not the time to panic.
  • Check to make sure everyone in your vehicle is ok before going to check on others.
  • Before leaving your vehicle, put on your Hi-vis reflective jackets  (compulsory in most European countries, advisable in the rest)
  • If a vehicle is blocking the road, use hazard lights and put the red warning triangle 30 metres from the scene to warn approaching traffic. You should also do this if you have broken down.
  • If by a busy road, occupants of the vehicle might be safer leaving the vehicle and sitting well behind the crash barrier. Make sure they are all wearing a Hi-vis reflective jackets 
  • Exchange your details with the other involved parties and witnesses. This is often on your green card. Be sure to get:
    • Name and address of all the people involved in the accident. Getting a business card might be a good idea.
    • Vehicle registration numbers of all parties
    • Insurance company details of all parties
    • Take photos of damage using a camera, GoPro or phone

Then do one of the two options below.

Minor Road Traffic Accidents

If the accident is not very serious and no-one is injured then follow these steps:

  • Complete and sign the European Accident Statement form (see below for more details). Be careful- this form is a legal document and may be used as evidence. If parties disagree and the form cannot be signed, the Police may be involved. Do not sign if you are unsure or disagree with what the other parties have written.
  • The form is standardised, so complete it in your native language and the other parties will do the same.
  • The names, addresses and contact details of any witnesses should be recorded, as well as the facts of the accident

Then send the complete claim form to your insurance company; Some countries have a deadline for this; others do not.

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Severe accidents or those involving injury or death

In the event of a car crash or road traffic accident where someone is injured or killed:

  • Contact the police or ambulance: 112 for all of Europe
  • The police will arrive and are then in charge of reporting the facts. They will ask for statements from all parties, including witnesses. They will also take contact and registration details, although you should still exchange these if you can.
  • If the police do not or cannot attend the scene, you must get names, details and addresses of all relevant parties and witnesses. The European claim form may be used and signed by all BUT only if you understand and agree. Remember, the other parties may well be writing in a foreign language, which is perfectly fine.
  • Taking photographs or drawing a sketch of the scene is advisable

If the party responsible for the damage is uninsured or unknown, contact the Police and also your insurer for further guidance.

IMPORTANT: Leaving the scene of an accident without providing your information is considered an offence and you will be prosecuted. This applies even if you are a visitor to the country and don't speak the language- stay at the scene until you are told you can go by the Police or until the other parties leave.


Road Traffic Accident- European Claim Form/ Accident Statement

Your insurance company should provide you with a European Claim form/ European Accident Statement before you go. If not, make sure you ask them to send one (and also make sure you are insured for travelling in Europe!)

In the event of an accident, all parties should complete and sign the form at the scene and then send a copy to your insurer for assessment. You should be able to get one which is bi-lingual, usually English and French.

NOTE: You cannot force another party to sign the form if they are unwilling. Also, you should never sign it yourself if you disagree or do not understand what has been said. You will not be in trouble for not signing, but if you sign and then disagree, you may be incorrectly held accountable.

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If you do choose to sign, be sure to accurately count the number of boxes ticked, so that you can tally up at the end (this prevents other parties marking boxes in your name after the event.)

Read through the Accident Statement carefully before completing the middle column. This is where you select the boxes which shows responsibility for the accident.

If you are involved in a car crash or incident involving several parties or vehicle, complete an Accident statement for each party (one per vehicle or pedestrian.)


I hope you never need the information in this post, but better to have an idea of what to do then not!

Planning a European road trip? Here's what to do if you have a car crash or road trip accident while driving in Europe. Europe Road Trip tips | European Travel guide

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