Motoring in France is more often than not a very pleasurable, stress-free experience. However, accidents can happen to anyone, often when you least expect them. Read on to find out exactly what you need to do, should you be involved in a car accident in France.
Legal Requirements for Driving in France
All drivers in France are required by law to be insured (at very least with Third Party Liability).
You must have, by law:
- Your licence
- Proof of Identity
- Insurance documents
- V5/car registration documents
- UK sticker (if required)
- Crit’Air sticker (if travelling in a major city that requires a pollution sticker to be displayed)
- Reflective, high visibility jacket – one for each occupant of the vehicle
- Warning Triangle
Minor Collisions: Filling in the Constat Amiable d’Accident
If you are involved in a minor collision while driving in France, firstly, keep calm. If you are not injured, and it is safe to do so, put on your high visibility vest (which should be kept inside your vehicle and not in your boot) and place your warning triangle approximately 30 metres away from the incident/any vehicles to warn on-coming traffic of a potential hazard.
If both drivers agree on the facts and there are no injuries, there is no legal obligation to inform the police. However, all parties must complete an accident form at the scene in order to benefit from the insurance.
The accident form should be carried in your car with a pen. It is called the Constat Amiable d’Accident, also known as the European Accident Statement and can be downloaded in English here.
There is also an application available to download onto your mobile phone here.
The form should be completed at the scene of the accident. It is a statement of facts and requires names of drivers plus details, names and details of any witnesses, insurance details, licence details and the location in which the accident took place. There is space for written descriptions and graphic representations of what occurred.
Only one form needs to be completed as there are copies for each party involved.
However, if more than two cars are involved, then a separate constat form should be completed.
Both parties sign the document. It is very important that you do not sign if you do not understand what it is you are signing. These forms are used as evidence. If this is the case and you do not understand, do not sign, and it is advisable to call the police.
Conversely, if a driver refuses to sign, make a note of their registration details, make and model of car. Take the details of any witnesses and Police Officers involved.
Making a Claim on Your French Car Insurance
This accident form must be sent to your insurance company within five days in order to make a claim on your insurance – it’s a good idea to send it to them regardless; it won’t work against you if a claim isn’t made. If neither driver has a constat, then a written letter may be submitted to your insurers in its place. The insurance company will then make their decision.
More Serious Collisions/Road Traffic Incidents in France
If anyone is injured, call the police on 17 or 112 (see our guide to who to call in an emergency). The law in France requires you to have a ‘duty to help/rescue’, and it is an offence to not help someone in need if it is safe to do so. You must at very least ring the emergency services.
If it is safe to do so, display the warning triangle as before, wearing your high visibility vest.
If the incident takes place on a motorway, try to use the nearest fixed roadside emergency telephone if possible. Emergency response vehicles will find it easier to locate the accident.
If you are involved in an accident where anybody has sustained an injury, even if it is not your fault, by law, you MUST REMAIN AT THE SCENE until the police give you permission to go.
Once again, you will need to complete the accident form. If the driver is unable to do so, a passenger or a witness can do so. Take the names, addresses and contact details of drivers and witnesses. Make a note of registration numbers and any attending police officers.
If the driver is hospitalised, someone should take care of the paperwork on their behalf.
If you are taken to the hospital, be sure to obtain a medical certificate stating all injuries. Keep any clothes or damaged items.
If you have suffered from shock or loss of consciousness, it is equally important to seek medical treatment and send this medical report to your insurers.
Breaking Down and Having Your Car Towed in France
If your vehicle needs to be towed on the motorway, you must use an approved company and pay a standard government-set fee.
Breakdown assistance fees are slightly different and are calculated based on the weight of the vehicle.
Uninsured Drivers in France
If you have been involved in an incident with an insured driver, you should take down as many details as possible at the scene. Your insurance company should support you with how to proceed – there are strict rules governing payouts, which you can find out more about here.
Car Accidents in France: Useful Phrases & Vocabulary
Un accident de voiture – a car accident
Il/ elle a une blessure – he/she has an injury
Assurance auto – car insurance
Au secours! – Help!
J’ai besoin d’aide – I need help
Driving in France
Whether you own a car in France, travel to France in your UK or EU-registered car, or hire a rental car – FrenchEntrée has all the need-to-know info about driving in France. Our Essential Reading articles will take you through buying, registering, and insuring your car, as well as offering tips and advice on driving and car ownership in France.