Accidents abroad: what drivers should watch out for

A car accident on vacation abroad is a horror for many people. And the fear is not entirely unjustified: Even for vacationers who did not cause the crash themselves, it can be difficult to get justice and thus money abroad. But you can prepare for the worst case scenario. And within the EU, the scenario is no longer quite so bleak.

The green insurance card must go with you

It is absolutely advisable to have the green insurance card with you when traveling abroad by car. In case of accidents, the document simplifies the settlement of claims. The card is issued by the motor insurers and serves as proof of valid liability insurance. Within the EU, the official license plate number is sufficient as proof of insurance. In some countries, however, the word has not yet got around.

However, the validity should be checked before the start of the journey. This is because the card does not refer to a driver, but to a specific car – anyone who has since changed vehicles or gone on vacation in a different car may not be protected.

Helpful: the European accident report

A second important document is the so-called European accident report, a form for recording data at the scene of an accident, which is similar in all EU member states. Who has a German copy in the luggage, can usually fill out other versions without foreign language skills. Another tip: Have the accident recorded by the police in any case and take photos. This is especially important in the case of language barriers.

Do not sign hastily

Above all, however, you should keep a cool head in the event of an accident, despite stress and excitement. It is therefore important to avoid hasty admissions of guilt at the scene of the accident: Although these are not valid in court in Germany, the situation may be different abroad. Therefore, vacationers should not sign any documents directly after the crash – especially not those they do not understand.

Another issue is the repair of the car. In the case of serious damage, vacationers should make the choice of repair shop dependent on the damage and the vehicle: "With a 15-year-old small car, you might even be better off with a handyman in a village workshop", says Arnulf Thiemel of the ADAC technical center. "But with a new car and complex damage, for example to the electronics, I would definitely visit a manufacturer's workshop." Here, vacationers can be sure that certain standards are met, even abroad.

"The jurisdiction of the country" applies

When it comes to settling claims later on, Volker Lempp, traffic law expert at Auto Club Europa (ACE), warns against simply transferring the German understanding of the law to the vacation country: "Unlike in our country, insurance law in other countries is often clearly to the disadvantage of the accident victim." In France, for example, the insurance company of the person who caused the accident does not cover the costs of lawyers or experts – not even those of the injured party.

"In principle, the jurisdiction of the country in which the accident occurs always applies", Lempp explains. The only exception: If, for example, two drivers from Germany collide in Italy or Holland, they can settle the claim according to German law. For all others the local rules apply.

Lempp recommends getting a local, German-speaking lawyer in such cases. The contact is made by the own legal protection insurance. The settlement representative of the other party's insurance company, on the other hand, can be found by calling a special hotline, the Zentralruf der Autoversicherer (Central Call of Car Insurers). Since the aforementioned EU reforms, it has also been possible to sue foreign insurance companies from Germany, says Lempp. "But who knows how well a local lawyer knows the laws in Italy?"

However, even when a settlement representative has been found, it can take quite a long time in individual cases for money to flow from the liability of the other party to the accident – but according to a regulation of the European Union, it may not be more than three months. So that it goes faster "you should go on vacation only with a good Kaskoschutz", says Lempp. The insurance company will then pay for any necessary repairs for the time being and will later settle this with the liability itself. So the motorist does not have to fear rising premiums, although he has taken the comprehensive cover.

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