If you’re heading on a holiday abroad or even at home, hiring a car can be a good way to get around. It’ll give you the freedom and independence to explore the open road and mean you can do things as and when you want.
In most cases, you’ll have a smooth experience, and everything will go according to plan. But if something does go wrong, even if you are not at fault, you’ll want to know what to do to ensure the safety of both you and any passengers who may be travelling with you.
Nigel Wolstenholme, head of consumer brand marketing at Rentalcars.com, says: “When driving abroad people want to feel confident, just as you would feel when driving at home. It can sometimes take a while to get use to the local driving laws, with things such as speed limits, signage and even which side of the road to drive on causing confusion. Should anything go wrong, it’s important that drivers know what to do to manage the situation.”
There are four key things to do immediately after an accident in a hire car – whether it was your fault or not:
Make sure everyone is safe
If you’re unfortunate enough to end up in an accident, you want to make sure both you and your passengers are safe right away. That said, in the case that you have been in a fairly serious accident, the NHS advises that you don’t move anyone who is in a lot of pain in the case they’ve broken their leg, or back. It may take a moment to process what’s happened but take a deep breath, stay calm and immediately get to safety and off of the road.
Call the emergency services
When travelling abroad, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have emergency numbers to hand. If you’re involved in an accident, calling the police will usually be one of the first things you do, once you’re safe to do so. You should do this regardless of whether you need emergency assistance or not. In certain countries, such as Germany for example, you’re required to call the local police immediately (no more than two hours after an accident). And don’t forget to get hold of a police report, as if you don’t, this could invalidate your insurance. You can check any location-specific terms included in your rental agreement at pick-up, as requirements such as calling the police after a crash will be mentioned.
If you’re travelling in the EU, simply dialling 112 from a mobile or landline will put you through to the local police, ambulance or fire service, free of charge. But if you do go outside of the EU, do your research and make sure you know what number you’d need to call in case of an emergency.
Swap details with the other driver and record the incident
After you’ve called the emergency services and you’re in a safe space, you should exchange details with any other drivers and their passengers who were involved. It’s also a good idea to get the details of any passers-by or other drivers who witnessed the incident. You should still do other if the owner of the involved vehicle is not at the scene, for example you’ve hit a parked vehicle.
Take photos of the scene and both vehicles and make sure to take note of the following:
- Name, address and contact numbers for other parties and witnesses
- Date and time of the accident
- Colour, registration, make and model of any vehicles involved
- Description of the weather conditions, the state of the road and any street lighting
- Any damage caused to any vehicles and property
- Any injuries sustained by drivers, passengers and pedestrians
If you do happen to be involved in an accident with a third party in the EU, the driver will present you with a European Accident Statement form to collect all the information that’s needed – referred to as the Constat Amiable in France, the CIA in Italy and the DAA in Spain. It’s important to note that the document will be in the local language of the country you’re visiting, so it’s a good idea to take an English copy with you or to ask for one at the rental desk, if you are not fluent in the language. The document is available to download here – you only need this for translation purposes.
Call the rental company
Although this is the final step, it is still very important. Ensure your rental company is aware of the incident as soon as you’ve completed the steps above. Their phone number will be in your rental agreement (you should always try to keep this with you). The company will be able to handle recovery, repairs and replacement of the hire car if needed, and can also manage dealing with the insurance companies and third parties on your behalf.
You’ll be able to make a clear case as to who was responsible for the accident, but the ultimate decision on who pays the costs will lie with the rental company so don’t agree to anything at the scene before you have spoken with them.