Road Traffic Accident in France

Traffic accident on French roads? Find out who to call and how to fill in the accident report (constat amiable d'accident) after a car crash...

It is obligatory for all cars in France to have third party liability auto insurance (other motor insurance: fire, theft, vandalism is optional).

If involved in an accident or car crash, this insurance covers any injury or damage that may be caused to another party and may include cover of any legal costs that may be incurred. (Check details with the insurer.)

On signing for motor insurance, the agent will provide the insured with a green card (carte verte/pastille) which must be displayed in the car windscreen. This serves as proof of valid liability insurance and is accepted throughout Europe in countries which are signatories of the Green Card System.

The insurance agent will also provide an accident report sheet - the constat amiable d'accident - which should always be kept in the car, along with a pen.

An English translation of the constat amiable d'accident is available online.

In the event of an accident with no serious injuries, and if both drivers agree on the facts, there is no obligation to contact the police, however all parties must still complete the accident report in order to benefit from insurance.

The constat is an agreed statement of terms. It is to be filled out at the scene of the accident; it is purely a statement of facts not an establishment of blame. Information required includes: place of accident, names of witnesses, names of drivers with driver licence details (drivers should always carry their licence), and details of the insurers.

The Accident Report Sheet

If there are any injuries, contact the police: call either 112 or 17. Do not sign any paperwork if what is written is not understood; if you do not understand the paperwork, contact the police.

A Minor Incident

  • Move to a safe place and alert oncoming traffic by placing your red warning triangle 30 meters down the road.
  • If two cars were involved, use either the constat amiable d'accident or that of the other party (only one form needs to be filled out as there are carbon copies for each party).
  • If more than two cars are involved, a separate constat form should be completed with each party (and if your vehicle was pushed on to a vehicle in front, mention it).
  • Both drivers fill out the constat, agreeing the basic circumstances surrounding the accident. There are written and graphic descriptions of the accident.
  • Both parties then sign the completed document; this is a very important document and can be used as evidence.

If a driver refuses to sign the form, make a note of the registration number and take the details of any witnesses or police officers.

Once the form has been successfully filled in, you have five days to return it to your insurer. If neither driver has a constat available then the report can be done by letter and sent to the insurance company within five days. The insurance companies will then analyse the evidence to assign responsibility.

Note: The French insurance industry has a "no claims bonus" structure so it is possible for drivers to agree to pay independently for the damage to protect their "no claims" status and avoid further long-term costs. Even if this is agreed at the scene, it is still advisable to complete the constat as a back up.

A Serious Accident

  • Move to a safe place and alert oncoming traffic with the warning triangle
  • Contact the police or the gendarmes as soon as possible.
  • Fill out the constat amiable d'accident. If this is not possible due to driver injury, passenger or witnesses can do it.
  • Take the name and addresses and insurance details of all parties involved and the registration numbers of the vehicles.
  • Take the names and addresses of any witnesses. Try to obtain as many as possible.
  • If you are hospitalised the authorities will deal with the paperwork on your behalf.
  • If you are not hospitalised get a medical certificate stating your injuries.
  • Keep any clothes or items damaged as a result of the accident.
  • If you are not injured but have suffered a shock (loss of consciousness, nose bleed) then seek medical advice after the accident and send the report to the insurance company, the social security and the medical insurers.
  • If a third party is responsible then their insurance company will contact you.