Road Traffic Accidents in Germany and Europe
The procedure in the event of a road traffic accident in Europe and Germany always depends on the severity of the accident.
We inform you about the necessary steps in case of a car accident, whom to call, and how to fill in the accident report after a car crash.
What to keep in your Glove Box?
When you drive across Europe, you should have the Green Card and the European Accident Statement with you.
We will tell you more about these two documents in the following chapters.
The Green Card: an International Motor Insurance Certificate
The Green Card is an international certificate of insurance, and it is valid in 47 countries.
Whilst not legally necessary within the EU, it may prove practical in case of an accident.
The Green Card is issued by your insurance company and notably mentions information about your insurance company (contact, phone number etc.), and information about your car and yourself.
The European Accident Statement
The European Accident Statement is a harmonized document at European level (the sections are similar irrespective of the language) and some copies are bilingual (e.g. French-English).
Your insurance company can provide you with further information.
Despite not being compulsory, the European Accident Statement is essential to receive quick compensation for your damage.
A first aid kit is compulsory in all of Europe. The same applies for warning triangle and reflective jacket.
Some countries demand additional safety equipment in case of an accident e.g. fire extinguisher or multiple reflective jackets for every passenger.
Before travelling abroad, gather all the relevant information about your destination country.
What to do at the scene of a road traffic accident?
In Germany, it is a criminal offence to leave the scene of an accident without giving contact details.
If no other person is present, you should at least call the police and inform them about what happened.
This also applies if you damage public property e.g. road signs.
In a classical accident with all parties present, you should also note the following:
Checklist: What to do at the scene of an accident
- Stay calm, don’t leave the scene. Secure the accident with the triangle.
- Note the information about the adverse party mentioned on the green card: the full name and address of the driver (verify the driver’s identity!), insurance company, number of insurance policy and registration of the vehicle.
- Note the identity and address of potential witnesses. Ask your witnesses for their business cards so that you can easily reach them even at their workplace.
- Please carefully fill in the accident statement, which should be signed by the adverse party.
- You don’t speak the language of the other driver? Don’t panic! The European Accident Statement is standardized so that the information filled out on this document can be easily understood by your insurance company. Therefore, the box ‘observations’ on this document can be completed by the driver in his (her) own language. As a last resort, two European Accident Statements - in each driver’s language - can be completed and signed.
- Only sign the report when you are certain that you understand the situation, and you agree to the description. If this is not the case, do not cross any box. If the European Accident Statement is not truthfully filled in, you may be unjustly help responsible.
- Carefully read the European Accident Statement before completing its middle column. Then check the boxes relevant to the circumstances of the accident. This is a critical section to clarify the responsibility of the drivers involved in the accident.
- Above all, do not forget to mention the number of boxes you ticked at the bottom of the column. Otherwise, the adverse party might cross other boxes after the fact, which could be to your disadvantage.
- You are not allowed to compel the other driver to sign the document. In case he does not, gather the global information mentioned above. However, also in this case you can send the European Accident Statement to your insurer for information purposes. In case you were involved in an accident with several other vehicles, you should fill in a European accident statement with each of the parties involved.
- Secure the evidences and take photos of the location of the accident and of the vehicles involved.
Compensation after a Road Traffic Accident abroad
The European Union created a simplified procedure for redress following a car accident in another European Member state or involving a driver from another country.
In particular, it enables you to claim compensation in your country of residence as soon as you are back.
Keep in mind that in some countries, you have a rather short delay for submitting a claim.
The European Accident Statement should therefore be sent as fast as possible to the foreign insurance company by informing their representative in your home country.
All European insurance companies must have a representative in every country.
You should also inform your own insurance of the accident.
The Principle of the Procedure in Three Steps
1. Contact the Claims Representative of the other driver’s MTPL Insurance company
Contact the claims representative of the motor third-person liability insurance (MTPL Insurance) company of the other driver(s) involved in the accident in the Member State of your residence; and hand in an application for compensation.
This application should include at least the European Accident Statement and, if possible, a cost estimate for the repair.
All Member States also established information centres that can help you to identify the other driver’s MTPL insurance company and the competent claims representative. In Germany, that is the Zentralruf der Autoversicherer.
2. Receive the Compensation offer within Three Months
The claims representative must make you a compensation offer within three months after your application. Naturally, only under the condition that you handed in all requested documents.
3. Or contact the Compensation Body as a last resort
You can contact the Compensation Body when:
- You do not receive any offer from the claim representative within three months after the submission of your documents.
- The other driver’s MTPL insurance company has not nominated a claims representative in your country.
- The other driver’s car cannot be identified within two months or his MTPL insurance company cannot be identified.
The compensation body must initiate its actions within two months. However, please note, that you cannot turn to this body, if you have already taken legal actions against the driver.
The Council of Bureaux provides information about all compensation bodies in the Member States. The German compensation body is the Verkehrsopferhilfe e.V.
Which law is applicable?
The claims' compensation for car accidents is coordinated to a large extent within the EU.
However, there are still differences, for example, as regards the obligatory coverage level of motor third-party liability insurances (MTPL-Insurances).
Hence, the insurance of the adverse party may not cover your complete damage.
It is therefore important to know which country’s law applies in a situation. The applicable law is also significant if you need to make a claim in court.
In general, it is the law of the country where the accident occurred that is applicable. It lays down the provisions on liability and compensation.
Hence, accidents in France between cars registered in Germany and Hungary fall under the scope of the French law.
However, if the accident only involves vehicles that are all registered in the same Member State, the law of this Member State is applicable.
For example, when two cars registered in Germany have an accident in France, the German law is applicable.
Funded by the European Union. Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Innovation Council and Small and Medium-sized Enterprises Executive Agency (EISMEA). Neither the European Union nor the granting authority can be held responsible for them.