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What to do in an accident with a foreign vehicle

These days, it is hard to travel any distance on any road without passing a vehicle which is registered outside of the UK. Would you know what to do if you were involved in an accident with a foreign vehicle, that was not your fault?

The question of providing insurance cover for any motor vehicle travelling outside the country in which it is registered dates back to just after the Second World War and led to the introduction of the ‘Green Card’ scheme. The main aims of this are:

  • “To facilitate the movement of vehicles across international borders by the use of an internationally acceptable document proving the existence of insurance (the Green Card or International Insurance Card)”; and
  • “To ensure that the victims of foreign registered vehicles are not disadvantaged.”

Today, there are more than 40 member countries of the Green Card scheme. Qualification for membership includes:

  • Laws that require compulsory vehicle insurance (in the UK, this is the Road Traffic Act 1988);
  • A government-recognised organisation that complies with the Geneva Recommendations: in the UK, this is the Motor Insurers Bureau (MIB);
  • Legal recognition of the validity of the Green Card.

If you are involved in an accident with a vehicle that is covered by the Green Card scheme, you should be able to make a claim for compensation for your injuries and any uninsured losses you have suffered. Details of who belongs to the Green Card system can be found on the MIB’s website.  Thankfully, you do not have to deal directly with the foreign insurer because they must appoint a representative in the UK to deal with your claim.

If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in this type of accident, it is important that you obtain as much information as possible from the other driver. In particular, make sure you obtain their name, address, vehicle details (including make, model and registration number), the country the vehicle is registered in and any insurance details you can. If it is a lorry, ensure you make a note of both the front (tractor unit) and rear (trailer unit) registration numbers if they are different. At least try to get the front registration number, as this is the most important for insurance purposes. The information you collect will assist you, your insurers and anyone acting on your behalf in trying to identify who you need to correspond with about your claim. If necessary (for example, if you cannot understand what the driver is saying), you should get the police involved.

Depending on what information you have obtained, you may be able to identify who you need to contact in this country about your claim. If you know the country of origin of the vehicle and who the insurers are (or you have the Green Card number and country it belongs to), you can go to the MIB’s website and try to identify the foreign insurers’ representative in this country. If you have no details or cannot find who their representative is, you can contact the MIB directly. They will make enquiries with their counterparts in the vehicle’s country of origin and attempt to identify who the relevant insurers and representatives are.

What if the foreign insurers have no UK representative?
If the foreign insurers have no representative in this country, then the MIB will act on their behalf.

What if the MIB cannot identify the relevant insurers?
If no insurance is found and the vehicle and driver can be identified, then the MIB will transfer the matter to the Guarantee Fund, to be dealt with under the Uninsured Driver’s Agreement.

What if I only have the rear registration number?
If you only have the rear registration number, it is likely that the matter will have to be dealt with under the Untraced Driver’s Agreement, as it can be difficult to trace the insurers. The insurers for the tractor and trailer units can often be different and of course there can be no liability in negligence that would attach.

How long will my claim take?
If the accident occurred in England and Wales, and the other driver’s vehicle is registered outside the UK, the claim will fall under the Pre-action Protocol for Personal Injury Claims. If the accident occurred in Scotland or Northern Ireland, any claim will proceed in accordance with their legal systems. The Protocol allows the UK representative for the foreign insurer a maximum of 42 days to acknowledge any letter of claim, then another six months to investigate the claim and make a decision on whether or not they will deal with it. During this period they will contact the foreign insurer to obtain confirmation of whether or not the vehicle was insured and instructions on liability. Court proceedings cannot be commenced before this period is up, unless the insurance cover and the liability position have been confirmed.

What if cover has not been confirmed?
Unless the UK representatives have confirmed that the foreign insurers do insure the vehicle, then county court proceedings are not advised, not least because you will need to serve the proceedings outside of the jurisdiction, which will not only increase the costs (because, for example, you will have to get all the documents you intend to serve translated, unless English is the official language or the defendant is a British citizen) but you will also need to comply with the relevant sections of CPR Part 6. Therefore, you should ask the MIB to make further enquiries with the foreign insurers.

Under UK law, when issuing county court proceedings, it is necessary to either give notice to an insurer (under section 152 of the Road Traffic Act 1988) or to the MIB under the Uninsured Driver’s Agreement 1999, as they will then be obliged to meet any judgment obtained against the negligent driver. If there is no valid insurer or no notice given and a county court judgment is obtained, you will have to enforce the judgment against the (in this case foreign) defendant directly.

Just because you have been involved in an accident with a foreign vehicle, it should not prevent you from making a claim for any injuries or losses you have suffered. The current system and laws are there to help you.

For more information contact our Personal Injury and Accidents Claims team or call us on 0117  904 6000.

Posted on Nov 11th, 2011 by Lyons Davidson

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