Car accident in Europe

A car accident is never an easy situation, especially when it occurs abroad. You will hereinafter find some advice making your necessary procedures easier in case of accident in another-EU Member state, especially in France.

Car accident: How to react?

  • Calm down, put your high-visibility jacket on, secure the scene of the accident and take care of potential victims (if necessary provide first aid or call the emergency service).
  • Call the police when you are involved in a serious accident (in some Member States the police must always be called), when the adverse party is not cooperative, when you are the victim of an hit-and-run offence or when you are driving a rental car (in the latter case you should also contact your rental car company and ask what to do).
  • Ask the other driver to show you his/her identity card or Green Card. Verify his identity and note his contact details (business cards etc.).
  • Write down 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.
  • Secure further evidence and photograph the scene of the accident and vehicles involved.
  • Please carefully complete two European Accident Statement forms together with the other driver involved in the accident (one form for the insurance company of each driver). Both European Accident Statements must have identical content and must be signed by both drivers. If not only you and the other driver are involved in the accident, complete two European Accident Statement forms with each additional driver.
  • If you do not have a European Accident Statement form, you should at least write down the contact details of the other driver, his registration plate number, his Green Card number and a description of the accident. Also this document should be drafted two times and signed by both drivers.

Tips for completing the European Accident Statement forms

  • Take your time when completing the European Accident Statement forms, especially when checking the boxes in the middle row. These boxes serve to describe the accident. Do not forget to indicate the number of boxes you checked to avoid any manipulations by the other driver.
  • Fill out two European Accident Statement forms with each driver involved in the accident so that each driver can send his European Accident Statement to his insurance company. The content of these European Accident Statements must be identical.
  • If you do not agree with the information included by the other driver, make a note in the remarks section. In the worth case, do not sign the European Accident Statement at all.
  • You do not speak the language of the other driver? Don’t panic! The European Accident Statement form is standardised, so that both drivers can insert the information in their language.
A man is repairing a car, with the hood open, on the side of a country road.

Brochure: Car accident in Europe

A car accident is never a situation, which is easy to manage and let-alone when it occurs abroad. This guideline will help you through the necessary steps in case of an accident in another EU Member state.

Emergency call boxes

Every year, an order of the French Ministry of Economy and Finance fixes the rates for breakdown and towing on the highways.

Note: if you break down or are involved in an accident on a highway or on a French expressway, you must call an authorized service, sent when you call from one of the orange roadside emergency call boxes. There is an emergency phone about every 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) along the motorway. If you cannot reach one, call 112. The rate is regulated by a fixed grid that varies according to scenarios, e.g. towing or breakdown day or night, weekday or weekend, repair on site, on a rest area, towing to the workshop store or tow to a place chosen by the driver etc.

The minimum fee is 131,94€ starting 30 July 2020. The inclusive price covers breakdown and towing on highways and expressways for vehicles with a total weight of less than 1.8 tonnes.

For further information on this topic and an overview of the different fees, please visit the French Motorways companies’ website. Here are the tariffs.

Car insurance in France

In France you insure the car rather than the driver. In principle anyone you allow to use your car will be insured, but always check your contract beforehand. You might bring your “no-claims bonus” from your previous country to France but you will have to check the conditions with different insurance companies when you compare the offers. You will most probably need a written statement from your former insurance detailing the number of years you have been insured and without accident.

So all your vehicles must be insured for collision liability, you can choose third party insurance ("assurance au tiers") or fully comprehensive insurance ("assurance tous risques" also including theft, fire etc.).

Good to know: You always have to show a valid certificate of insurance on your car’s windscreen. When you receive your insurance documents (usually by mail) they will include a small tear-off slip which is the “certificat d’assurance”. In case of police control, you should keep the other part once signed in your glove compartment with your ownership certificate (“carte grise”). But do not leave all your insurance papers in the glove compartment!

Your insurer may also send you another form to keep in your car in case of accident ("constat amiable d’accident") which is supposed to facilitate the description of an accident: you can describe and sketch the details of the accident, write down the insurance details for both parties. The carbon-copied form must be signed by both parties involved in the accident. Before signing, make sure that you agree to the content! Then you will have to send it to your insurance company. For more information, see the brochure "car accident in Europe: how to react?".

You should ask your insurance, when making a claim, to which mechanic (“garage”) you can take your car to for repair. Usually the insurance has an authorised repairer. This will in most cases also facilitate necessary expert visits and hopefully speed up the repair procedure.

You might have to pay an excess (“franchise”) unless you chose a comprehensive policy without it.

This works when you are covered by insurance. However, in some cases, you may be refused insurance by your insurance company, although insuring your car for damages to another person or property is mandatory for the driver of a vehicle registered in France.

You therefore have the possibility, under certain conditions, to compel the insurance company to provide you with the respective insurance through an independent administrative body, called “Bureau central de tarification (BCT)”. This body is responsible for determining the contribution amount you must pay the insurance provider of your choice. The decision of the BCT is binding for the insurance company concerned.

The procedure to follow unfolds into two distinct steps

Attention! The procedure is very formalistic. You must therefore follow it closely and keep a copy of the documents you send as well as any postal receipts.

1. Request to the insurance provider

You must have made a request to complete a contract for civil liability insurance and have received a refusal from the French insurance provider. At this stage, it is advisable to ask your insurance provider for two copies of the document called “proposition d’assurance” (application form), in which the reason for refusal of the insurance provider is specified. If you have difficulties to receive them, the form is available here. You then send one of the copies (by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt), correctly filled out, to the head office of the insurance provider that refused your request for insurance. This letter should include:

  • Identification of your chosen insurance provider,
  • A written statement from your former insurance provider, detailing the number of years you have been insured without any accident,
  • A copy of your registration document (formally known as “carte grise” in France) and of your driving licence,
  • A request for a cost estimate.

2. Submitting the matter to the Bureau central de tarification

The head of the insurance company has 15 days to reply to your request. Once the 15 days have passed, the request is considered denied. You then have the possibility to submit the matter to the BCT during the next 15 days, following the refusal (whether implicit or explicit).

It is advisable to send the correspondence by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt, including:

  • the second copy of the completed form,
  • acknowledgement of receipt of the insurance provider concerning the correspondence you have sent,
  • The estimate, along with the letter of refusal of the insurance company (in case the company has made no response, enclose a letter indicating the lack of response),
  • The photocopy of your registration document (former “carte grise”) and your driving licence,

The statement of information from your former insurance provider

The BCT then determines the amount of insurance contribution you must pay and thus obligates the insurance company to provide you with insurance. This decision is made within a deadline of 2 months and is disclosed to both parties concerned (yourself and the insurance company). You must then transmit your consent to the BCT (by registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt).

In order to insure your vehicle, it is now sufficient to pay the contribution to your originally chosen insurance provider.

Attention: while you are awaiting the decision of the BCT, your vehicle is not insured!

For further information on the conditions and terms of submitting your insurance matter to the BCT as well as its contact details, have a look at the BCT website or at the “fiche pratique” (practical information sheet) available on the website of the Institut National de la Consommation (INC) (information in French).