September 26, 2019

What to do if you had a traffic accident abroad

Driving abroad with your personal car has become more and more common – be it a longer road trip or a quick drive to some neighboring country’s airport, supermarket or cultural event. Furthermore, people usually prepare for potential car troubles more thoroughly when they’re going traveling. But accidents are just that – accidents – and they can just as easily occur on a casual errand that you haven’t paid much thought to. In this article, we talk about what to do when you get into a traffic accident abroad and how to protect yourself from bigger problems beforehand. 

If Insurance report shows that 13% of Estonians who have driven abroad have gotten into some sort of a traffic accident. As mentioned before, people usually pay more thought to potential problems on a long journey and buy appropriate travel or casco insurance. Extra protection is always worth considering as it can relieve administrative stress and give an overall peace of mind. Getting into car trouble far from home is usually much more costly and complicated than the same thing happening in your home town or country. Insurance can help cover all sorts of related expenses, e.g. a replacement car or travel interruption costs.


Your mandatory vehicle insurance also applies abroad

What are your rights and options if you only have mandatory motor third-party liability insurance? The good news is, that Estonian car owners are protected in Europe and many of its neighboring countries even without a special travel or car insurance. Estonia is part of two partially overlapping vehicle insurance systems: European Economic Area (EEA) system and the Green Card system.

  • All European Economic Area countries are also Green Card countries. In EEA you can drive around holding a regular vehicle insurance policy.
  • In Green Card countries you have to carry – as you can guess by the name already – a special Green Card with you. These countries are Albania, Andorra, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel, Iran, Macedonia, Morocco, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.
  • A green card is issued free of charge by your insurance provider on your request.

International vehicle insurance isn’t only a European specialty – similar card systems apply all over the world, established on a regional basis. For example, there is Blue Card applicable in South East Asia and Orange Card applicable primarily in the Middle East and North Africa. International vehicle insurance protects motorists and potential traffic accident victims in two ways: 

  • It reduces bureaucracy for motorists who cross international borders and should otherwise obtain insurance cover at each of the countries they visit.
  • It protects the victims in case the accident was caused by a visiting motorist rather than a motorist resident in the same country.

Mandatory vehicle insurance only covers the damage and injuries caused by your vehicle to others  – the cost of your own car’s damages isn’t included. At the same time, damages to or destruction of a vehicle aren’t usually even the biggest risk of traffic accidents. Health damage can add up to hundreds of thousands of euros. In recent years, Estonians have caused traffic accidents with health damages amounting to half a million euros for a single accident.

The Estonian Motor Insurance Bureau manages the international vehicle insurance system and also inform the client of their rights and where to seek damages. They also arrange to solve motor insurance disputes through a conciliation body. Similar to the local traffic accidents, the bureau covers the damage caused by an unidentified vehicle in a foreign country (this can differ in the Green Card countries).

International vehicle insurance cooperation ensures that clients are informed and can do most mandatory paperwork in their home country and in their local language. For example, the damaged party can claim compensation from a foreign insurance company’s representative in Estonia.


What to do in case of an accident

Keep in mind that local regulations apply in case of a traffic accident. Foreign rules might differ from your accustomed conduct – e.g. in Russia, you need to call the police in any case. Even if you don’t know the local rules about every little detail, the following recommendations will hopefully help you in any situation.

  • It’s good to have the European Accident Statement form in your car at all times. It’s used everywhere in Europe and even thought the form’s field names are in different langugaes, the fields are identical. This makes settling the damage much easier. You can acquire this form from your insurance provider or bigger gas stations.
  • Keep all the necessary documents in your car and double-check them before taking off. That includes your insurance policy and possibly a Green Card.
  • Make sure you have your insurance provider’s contact information!
  • If you’ve been in an accident and not sure about the local terms, inform the police no matter what. Don’t move the vehicles or start with the paperwork before you’ve been instructed so by the local authorities. In most cases, where an individual is involved in an accident abroad, the police must be called.
  • Record as much information as possible, e.g. take pictures of the cars, the other parties’ documents, etc.
  • When the police arrive, make sure you get a police report or other written proof about the circumstances.
  • Contact your insurance provider as soon as possible to require information and assistance.


In summary: 

  • Mandatory vehicle insurance helps cover the damage and injuries caused by your vehicle to others in Europe and many of it’s neighboring countries.
  • In Estonia, the international vehicle insurance system is guaranteed by the Estonian Motor Insurance Bureau – they’re also the main information center for clients.
  • Before going abroad, make sure you familiarize yourself with the local procedures of a traffic accident.
  • It’s still a good idea to buy special travel or casco insurance to relieve administrative stress and give an overall peace of mind.