Dealing with a Road Traffic Accident in Europe

Thanks to the EU’s Schengen Agreement, there are essentially no borders in Europe anymore, which makes it the perfect destination for a hassle free driving holiday. You can drive through France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium and all the other EU countries without having to stop at customs or immigration, which is why thousands of people hire a car and opt to spend their summer break driving between Europe’s major cities and top tourist destinations each year. However, despite the easy nature of driving around Europe, problems can still occur, and nothing has the potential to ruin a driving holiday quicker than an accident.

Driving in Europe - Flickr CC world_domination

What to do

While the legal system varies from country to country, in the event of an accident you should follow the same procedure regardless of what country you happen to be in. Firstly, you must stop and exchange details with the other driver. You may find that the other motorist doesn’t speak English, but most drivers know their responsibilities when it comes to an accident. Make sure you note down the registration number of the vehicle, and also note which country the car comes from; this is normally identifiable by a two letter code on the number plate. Some countries insist you call the police following an accident, others only require it in law if somebody has been injured. However, unless you are certain of the law in the particular country you are in, it is best always to give them a call, as they can also help assess liability, which will aid you in any claim for compensation or damages.

Getting help

Once you have exchanged details with the other motorist, it is time to call the breakdown and recovery company. Having complete breakdown cover is essential for anybody wanting to travel around Europe. Of course, if you have hired a car, the hire car company will provide this service for you, so you should call them first. However, while you may be given another hire car to finish your holiday, you may lose your deposit, in which case you must keep your receipt as if the accident wasn’t your fault, you can claim this money back from the other driver. For this reason, it is important you keep all receipts for any costs that you incur because of an accident.

Claiming compensation

If you have been injured or suffered some financial losses because of the accident and it wasn’t your fault, you have the right to claim compensation. The good news is that thanks to Europe wide laws, anybody in the EU can make a claim for damages using the court system back home. The bad news is that claiming for compensation still isn’t easy, especially with language barriers. Therefore, it is essential to contact a personal injury solicitor when you get back who can handle all of this for you.
If you have suffered in other ways following your accident, such as a case of medical negligence, you are still eligible to make a claim.

Different countries do have different rules on time limits for making a claim for damages against another driver. In some countries, such as the UK, it is three years, while in other nations it is 12 months, so you mustn’t delay in seeking legal help. Some personal injury solicitors specialise in making foreign claims, and often they work on a no win, no fee basis. Not only can you claim for any injury you have suffered, but also you can get back any financial losses, such as any lost deposit to the car hire company, additional costs incurred because of the accident, and also compensation for any pain or suffering the accident may have caused.

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