So a tourist just hit your car? Managing a crash with drivers from abroad

<B>CRASHING WITH TOURISTS:</B> Do you know what you should do if you have to be involved in a car crash with tourists?<i>Image: iStock</i>
<B>CRASHING WITH TOURISTS:</B> Do you know what you should do if you have to be involved in a car crash with tourists?<i>Image: iStock</i>

Cape Town - South Africa's roads are fraught with danger; high-crash rates year after year, poor infrastructure, hazardous conditions and of course, bad drivers.

Crashes are sadly commonplace but matters become a lot more complicated when tourists are involved.

Nthabiseng Moloi, MiWay head of marketing and brand, says: "For tourists looking to explore our country by car, there’s a fairly steep learning curve involved and one that isn’t always easy to grasp before it’s too late. As a result, it’s not unheard of for visitors from further afield to cause the occasional accident.

"And while most locals may have some experience in dealing with the aftermath of a collision, it’s important to bear in mind that an accident involving foreigners isn’t as simple as you might think."

READ: Been in a crash? How to get a copy of an accident report

Not only are visitors likely to be driving a hired car – something that already complicates matters from an insurance perspective – but they’re also likely to be spending limited time in South Africa, meaning that it’s going to end up being doubly difficult to follow up on any claim you may have for damages, claims Moloi.

READ: How to apply for an International Driver’s Permit

International Drivers Permit 

Traveller24 editor Selene Brophy says: "For any traveller who intends driving in a foreign country it is an imperative to apply for your International Drivers Permit (IDP). 

“With that said, foreigners would need to produce their IDP, if involved in an accident as these details are needed in order to report the case as well as make an insurance claim. 

“South Africa’s Automobile Association advises that the IDP needs to be obtained in the country of origin, in accordance with the laws of the country the traveller intends visiting - since permit requirements vary from country to country.

"For South Africans this would be done at an Automobile Association office. It’s a 20 to 30 minute application process that requires two ID photos, a current SA licences and passport as well as a payment of R265.

"Added to this, you will not be able to apply for a car-rental if you do not have this IDP."

What you should know...

So what should you do if you’ve incurred vehicle damage or injuries in an international collision?

Moloi offers a few easy steps to follow if you want to emerge unscathed:

Safety First

While there are a few key discrepancies between accidents involving locals and foreigners, the safety of all passengers should always be top priority, no matter their nationality. If you are able to assist, make sure to attend to any injured passengers, and attempt first aid if you have experience.

Once you’re sure that all parties are unharmed, notify emergency services where necessary and make sure to give your insurance emergency helpline a call so as to arrange suitable towing. It can be easy to panic in this type of scenario, but make sure you don’t accept help from opportunistic service providers, unless you want to incur unnecessary expenses. 

READ: Countries where you can't afford not to have travel insurance

Vital Statistics

When involved in a collision with a foreigner, particularly one you haven’t caused, it’s important that you leave nothing to chance and secure all their relevant details so as to be able to file your claim.

Over and above their names, passport details and driving license details, you’ll need to jot down the make, model and registration number of the car, the rental agency, as well as the person’s work and residential addresses and contact details, both in South Africa and abroad.

It’s also important to note the details of the police officers, ambulance personnel and tow truck drivers on the scene, and if you can, to take photos to supplement your claim. Remember to report the incident to the nearest police station within 24 hours, and make sure not to issue any official statements admitting fault, as these could be used against you at a later stage. 

File your claim

While the process of claiming from your insurer doesn’t differ, there’s plenty more for them to do, as they’ll need to recover damages from either the rental agency or the foreign driver, depending on the nature of their insurance.

READ: Insurance claims - Know the 'no-claim bonus' fine print

The good news is that foreigners are governed by the same set of laws as you are while  on South African soil, meaning they will be liable to pay for any damages incurred. That being said, recovering these funds can be a very lengthy and difficult process, as summons can only be served at the driver’s home or work address, which is likely to be outside local borders.

Nonetheless, it is possible to achieve success in these cases, so it’s important to make sure you’re equipped with all the relevant vital statistics, so as to give yourself a fighting chance in the case of a claim. The more information you can provide to your insurer, the better your prospects of achieving cross-border success.

Know your rights

According to Justice Project South Africa's national chairman, Howard Dembovsky, if you are comprehensively insured, the process of recovering losses from the other party is the job of the insurance company and not yours.

Dembovsky stresses: "Preferably get a clear photograph of their driving licence. You will then need to report the collision to a police station within 24 hours.

READ: Do you make these 7 common tourist mistakes?

"It is my understanding that car hire companies offer insurance packages to all persons who hire their vehicles. I am not sure whether this is optional or mandatory, but I should imagine it is the latter. Obviously, if insurance is held, then the insurance company will be responsible for any claims arising out of a collision."

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