Association of Personal Injury Lawyers logo
Association of Personal Injury Lawyers

Advice on road accidents abroad

Before you go

Make sure that you are properly insured. If you are driving your own vehicle abroad, you must check with your RTA insurance company to make sure you are covered to drive in the country you plan to visit.

Ensure you have travel insurance as well as you EH1C card.

  • Apply for EH1C free here: www.gov.uk/european-health-insurance-card
  • This card lets you get state healthcare in other EEA countries and Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. It is not a substitute for travel insurance though!
  • EH1C card lasts for five years
  • It is easy to renew your card online here: www.gov.uk/european-health-insurance-card
  • Allow enough time for the card to be posted to you before you go
  • Travel insurance covers more expensive medical treatment and will make up the difference where the cost of treatment abroad is payable at reduced rates

Essentials for the car

In addition to carrying proof of your identity and insurance, many countries have specific rules about what you must have in your car. For example in Europe’s top driving destinations:

France To avoid fines you must have in your car:
  • Reflective jackets (one for each occupant)
  • Warning triangle (compulsory in every vehicle with 4 wheels or more)
  • Headlamp beam deflectors (these can be either deflector stickers or you could adjust the beam manually) if you are driving a UK right-hand-drive car, for example;
  • Breathalysers/alcohol test
  • A GB sticker (or ‘euro’ registration plates featuring the GB initials)
  • Spare bulb kit
  • Motorcycle crash helmets: compulsory for riders and their passengers;
Spain You must carry the following items to avoid the unpleasant surprise of a large on-the-spot fine:
  • Reflective jackets (you can be fined for walking on the road or hard shoulder if not wearing one)
  • Warning triangle (compulsory in every vehicle with four wheels or more) (residents must carry two)
  • Headlamp beam deflectors (these can be either deflector stickers or you could adjust the beam manually) if you are driving a UK right-hand-drive car, for example
  • Motorcycle crash helmets: compulsory for riders of mopeds, motorcycles, trikes and quads, unless they have seat belts
  • Motorcycle lights must be on at all times
  • GB Sticker or Euro plates
  • Spectacles: if you are driving a car registered in Spain (such as a hire car) and you wear glasses to drive, then you must have a spare pair with you
Germany You must carry the following items to avoid on-the-spot fines:
  • Reflective jackets
  • Warning triangle
  • Headlamp beam deflectors (these can be either deflector stickers or you could adjust the beam manually) if you are driving a UK right-hand-drive car, for example
  • First aid kit
  • Crash helmets: compulsory for drivers and passengers of mopeds and motorcycles
  • Motorcycles and moped lights must always be on, even in daylight
Belgium There are big fines if drivers do not have these items in their vehicle:
  • Reflective jackets (must be worn if involved in a breakdown or an accident or alongside a road where stopping or parking is prohibited)
  • Warning triangle
  • Headlamp beam deflectors (these can be either deflector stickers or you could adjust the beam manually) if you are driving a UK right-hand-drive car, for example
  • First aid kit & fire extinguisher (this is not compulsory for vehicles registered abroad but vehicles registered in Belgium (e.g. hire cars) must carry both)
  • Motorcyclists must wear protective clothing, such as gloves, jacket with long sleeves, trousers with long legs or overall, and boots protecting the ankles
  • Children under three are not allowed on motorcycles. Children aged three to eight years can be passengers, but only if they are carried in a special seat and only on motorcycles up to 125cc

What to do if you have a road accident abroad

  • Move your vehicle to a safe place
  • Put on your reflective jacket and if it is safe, you and your passengers should sit away from the vehicle at a safe distance on the verge.
  • Alert oncoming traffic – set up your warning triangle 30 metres down the road to alert oncoming traffic
  • Note down the registration number and details of driver/witnesses;
  • Take photos of the accident scene (preferably before the cars are moved if it is safe) and damage;
  • If anyone is injured or the accident is more than minor, you should call the police and notify them of your location. European emergency call number – 112 (mobile number).
  • Statement of accident: In France, drivers to carry a ‘constat amiable’ which is a form on which each driver gives their details and agrees the version of events/damage etc. You can download an English version using the link below.

    In other European countries, drivers will complete a similar document to the French constat amiable, known as the European Accident Statement.

    Ensure you fill in one of these (keep one in your car) and ask the other driver to sign it. You may find yourself signing their copy too. You can download the English version of the standard European Accident Statement here: cartraveldocs.com/downloads/European-Accident-Statement.pdf
  • Call your insurance company to tell them about your accident.

Medical treatment in Europe

If you are injured in a road traffic accident while travelling in Europe, your EH1C card will enable you to have state healthcare at either a reduced cost or sometimes for free. It is very limited though and is not a substitute for travel insurance.

For example, it will enable you to have treatment to enable you to continue your stay until you return to the UK.

It will not cover the cost of you being rescued (for example, if you need the services of a mountain rescue or coastguard) nor will it pay for you to be repatriated if your injuries are serious enough to require that. Worse, if you or one of your travelling companions dies while abroad, it will not cover the cost of returning the body to the UK.

For everything above the basic assistance provided under the EH1C card, you will need medical insurance, which is usually included in your travel insurance policy.

The Government’s travel insurance guidance contains some examples of what you may find yourself liable to pay if you are injured abroad. An emergency in another country can be very expensive:

  • £100,000: a stomach bug or infection treated in a hospital in the USA with return flights.
  • £25,000: a moped accident in Greece, with surgery and repatriation to the UK.
  • £15,000: a fall in Spain, resulting in a broken hip, hospital treatment and flights.

Medical treatment beyond Europe

If you are injured in a road traffic accident while travelling further afield it is likely that you will have to pay for your medical treatment.

North America

The USA and Canada have some of the highest costs for medical care in the world.

A single trip to the doctors for a few stitches and some antibiotics can cost hundreds of dollars. Even if your treatment is an emergency, the hospital will expect payment for all its treatment costs, including surgery, medicines, ambulance transport and everything else used to treat you.

There are no special arrangements for British visitors – make sure you have insurance to cover the costs of treatment.

South America

Mexico is a popular destination for holidays from the UK. The Government’s advice website says that not all hospitals will agree to deal directly with medical insurance companies. You should be prepared to pay for treatment yourself up front and then seek a refund.