What to do in an auto accident overseas

by Courtney Woodruff
USAA

Experiencing an auto accident is traumatic no matter where you are, but when you’re stationed overseas, foreign driving laws and language barriers add to the overwhelming emotions, stress, confusion, and chaos vehicle owners go through.

To be completely honest, I hadn’t thought much about what I would do in the event of such an emergency until a friend and coworker got into a car accident on the Autobahn during her morning commute. Thankfully, no one was hurt and her vehicle suffered only minor damage, but the incident caused me to take a step back and consider just how prepared I was to handle an auto accident overseas. As it turned out, I wasn’t nearly as ready as I would like to be.

After doing my research, I’ve made a list of actions to take if I find myself in an auto accident overseas. I plan to print it off and keep it in my glove box… just in case.

What to do in an auto accident overseas:

Call for help. Notify local law enforcement, first responders and military police (MP), and direct them to the scene of the accident. Administer first aid to minor cuts and bruises, but wait for medical teams to address serious injuries.

Put on reflective vests and set out warning triangles, if required by local law. In certain countries around the world, including Germany, Italy and Spain, reflective vests must be worn when passengers exit the vehicle on a motorway. It is best to carry as many vests as there are seats to ensure each passenger is covered in the event of an emergency. Additionally, many nations ask that warning triangles be placed along the road in the direction of traffic.

Document what happened. Write down the other vehicle’s license plate number, and take as many photos and notes as you need to communicate what happened as accurately as possible. The evidence you collect will help the insurance companies process claims more efficiently.

Collect contact information of potential witnesses. This will help in the event you need to reach out to someone to prove that the other party was at fault if liability is disputed. Also, it’s important to note that spouses, children or other kin are often not legally accepted as witnesses.

Fill out an International Accident StatementIt is highly recommended that you carry a copy of this form in your glove box at all times. Select the proper country from the list of options, and print the attached bilingual documents that will allow you to communicate with the other driver in the event of an accident. You fill in the English form while the other party completes the copy translated to his or her language. The documents are then submitted to the respective driver’s insurance company for processing.  

Refrain from signing anything except the International Accident Report. If you are approached by someone asking that you sign your name on any document other than the International Accident Report, you have the right to refuse. The accident report form allows each driver to share their side of the story without issuing blame. It is up to the authorities to investigate the cause of the accident.

Contact USAA to file a claim. As soon as you are safe, give the international auto team a call. Member service representatives are there to help you 24/7, seven days a week at 00-800-531-82220.

Do you have any additional tips or bits of information you’d like to share about handling an auto accident in a particular country? 

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