Traveling out of the country is an amazing experience, but there are a lot of little details that go into the experience that take months of preparation. There are flights, rental cars, and hotels to book, suitcases to pack, passports to find, and fun activities to plan. But once you’re done with that you’re ready to travel, right?
Not exactly. It’s not a pleasant topic to think about, but what will you do if you have a car accident overseas? Driving laws and customs can be very different than what you’re used to and planning ahead for these sorts of emergencies is essential; once they happen and emotions are high, it’s much harder to process information and make informed decisions.
So what should you do if you are involved in a road accident while traveling abroad? You can save yourself both time and money if you properly prepare for an emergency.
Before you even consider driving abroad, be sure that your car insurance will provide international coverage for injuries, damages, and losses arising from a road accident. Contact your insurance company and inform them about your trip. Tell them about the country you are traveling to and ask if they are authorized to provide coverage there.
If the country you are traveling to isn’t under their jurisdiction, you will need to get your insurance coverage elsewhere. You may be able to obtain coverage under a travel insurance policy, from your credit card company, or from a local company in your destination country. Research your insurance options thoroughly and look for options that are suitable for the duration of your stay. Take your time and compare several quotes; you might even try to get help from a native speaker of the local language when comparing insurance companies and policies.
Have all the legal paperwork
The aftermath of car accidents are chaotic and emotional; just imagine how much more complicated things can get when you aren’t even familiar with the laws.
Your legal paperwork can help with that. Make sure you carry your driver’s license, passport, rental car information, and other forms of relevant paperwork in the car with you at all times. Your preparation list should also contain any phone contacts you may need – your insurance company’s number, for example.
Another thing to prepare for is a potential language barrier. If you don’t speak the local language, you should also take the time to learn a few phrases you may need in the event of a road accident. Safety comes first, so you should ensure you know the common phrases used to ask for help first. You should also make sure you learn specific terms relating to car insurance in case you ever need to exchange insurance details with a local driver. You can also ask the local police for a translator.
Know the local laws
Laws and customs change from one country to the next. That’s why it is essential to learn more about the local laws and customs. How do you file for personal injury? What processes should you follow after an accident? Are there laws that touch on accidents caused by foreigners? These sorts of questions will have varying answers depending on where you travel; put the research in and prepare ahead of time.
The key here is to simply learn the basics. A simple working knowledge of local laws will help you understand your rights as well as aiding you if you require an attorney.
What to do immediately after a car accident overseas
A car crash can be disorienting; here’s a simple checklist of the things you ought to do if you end up in a road accident:
- Safety first – Your own health has to be your first priority. Check on the safety of everyone in your vehicle. Even if no one seems hurt, make sure to call the appropriate emergency services. If there has been an injury, everything else can wait – get them the help they need.
- Check your surroundings – Where are you? Where on the road did the accident occur? Is the area safe? Can your accident cause another accident? If you can safely section off the crash or alert other drivers in some way until the police arrive, do so. You can usually do this by turning on your hazard lights.
- Collect details – There’s a lot of information you’ll need for your insurance company to make a claim. After you’re sure everyone’s safe, you’ll want to collect certain details from the other driver or drivers involved in the road accident. Here’s what you’ll need to collect:
- Names and contact info of drivers and passengers
- Make/model/year of vehicles involved
- Driver’s license and license plate numbers
- Insurance company names and policy numbers
- Contact info for any witnesses to the crash
- Police officer’s name and badge number
- Take photos – Most drivers forget this, but photos are extremely useful when making a claim. Take as many photos as you can of the damage, the positioning of the cars, and where the accident occurred.
- Review the documentation you have – Before making a claim, review all the information you’ve gathered. Try to get a tally of the damage and a report from the police.
- Make a claim – The easiest way to make a claim is to call your insurance provider. Some offer the ability to make a claim online, but it’s easier after something as emotionally taxing as a car wreck to talk to an actual person and allow them to lead you through the process.
Samantha Tung is a contributing author and media specialist for Caliber Collision.