What to do in the event of a car breakdown or accident abroad

Tips and guides

12 November 2018

Running into car trouble overseas can be stressful, but a little preparation can take much of the hassle out of accidents and breakdowns abroad.

No-one likes to think about the possibility of their car breaking down (or being involved in an accident) while they’re on holiday, but being prepared can help to relieve some of the stress if it does happen.

This practical guide covers everything you need to know about what to do in the event of a breakdown or accident abroad, from your first safety steps at the scene, to collecting all the relevant information and arranging your car insurance claim afterwards.

Getting into an accident overseas

If you're involved in a car accident while travelling overseas, after attending to any injuries, the next thing you'll need to do is note down some important information:

  • The other party's name and contact details
  • Whether they own their vehicle or just drive it – if they don't own it, ask who does
  • The name and contact details of their insurance provider
  • The vehicle's registration number
  • The country it is registered in
  • The vehicle's manufacturer and its model
  • A brief explanation of what happened
  • The date and location of the accident
  • The names and contact details of any witnesses

It is also a good idea to report the incident to the police, and to get a reference and contact number from them. In the majority of countries, the police have to attend any accident involving a foreign vehicle.

You can record most of this information on the European Accident Statement form. You and the other party fill this in with your versions of what happened, and once it's signed it's legally binding. Before you set off on your travels, it's worth printing one of these off and keeping it in your car just in case.

To back up your statement, be sure to take photos of the scene of the accident and any close-ups of vehicle damage. Avoid getting into discussions about responsibility, though – your insurer should handle this for you.

How to make a claim for an accident abroad

Once you've got all your notes down, phone your insurer to get the claims process started.

If you're an AXA customer, you can make a claim from outside the UK by calling us on +44 (0)1732 376 249. We'll make sure we've understood the circumstances before letting you know what's likely to happen next. This might involve temporary repairs to get your car back on the road, or arranging for your vehicle to be transported home.

It's important to get the ball rolling as soon as possible on your insurance claim, ideally when you're still in the country. EU rules do help to speed the process up by ensuring cooperation between foreign parties.

These include:

  • Insurers have to provide an English-speaking representative
  • EU countries must have organisations that insurers can go through to find the other party's insurer
  • EU countries must have sanctions they can apply if a claim goes on for over three months, encouraging speedier settlement

One thing to note is that, unlike in Britain, it won’t be possible for us to arrange a courtesy car for the rest of your holiday. Unfortunately we can only insure you to drive your own car overseas, so we also won't be able to cover you if you take a courtesy vehicle abroad.

Breaking down overseas

If you break down overseas, take care of your safety first by:

  • On major roads, pulling over onto the hard shoulder
  • Activating your hazard warning and side lights
  • Putting on a reflective jacket
  • On quieter roads, placing your warning triangle around 50 yards behind your vehicle
  • Getting out of the car on the side facing away from the road, and standing a reasonable distance away

Next, contact your insurer. If you have AXA European Breakdown cover (an optional extra for our policies), we’ll always attempt to repair your vehicle at the side of the road. If that's not practical, we’ll tow your car to a nearby mechanic. If they can’t fix it within two days – or a reasonable amount of time considering the fault – we'll get you, up to six passengers, and your vehicle back to the UK. Please see your policy wording for full terms and conditions.

Of course, it's always sensible to take a few precautions before setting off to minimise the risk of a breakdown. As a basic measure, for example, you might want to get your car serviced a week or two in advance of your holiday for peace of mind.