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Kindlustus - 22.07.2020

How to formalise a traffic accident so that the victim would not be left without indemnity?

How to formalise a traffic accident so that the victim would not be left without indemnity? Photo:

According to statistics, on average, a car is involved in a vehicle insurance case every three years and in a traffic accident once every six years in Tallinn; elsewhere in Estonia, the frequency of a traffic accident is once every 10 years per car. Therefore, it is not surprising that people have no experience with how to behave at the scene of a traffic accident. Here are some tips by Jaanus Tanne, Head of Motor Claims at PZU Estonia.

In the event of a traffic accident without casualties, commonly known as a fender bender, the circumstances must be recorded in writing at the scene pursuant to section 169 of the Traffic Act and the person who caused the accident must confirm their responsibility with a signature. If the parties cannot reach an agreement, they must contact the police and follow their instructions. This means that the police must come to the scene and determine the person who caused the accident. If the person who caused the accident cannot be determined at the scene, the police will initiate a misdemeanour procedure to identify the person who caused material damage.

Unfortunately, many people do not know how to behave at the scene of the accident: often, the parties merely exchange contact information and agree verbally that the details will be discussed later. However, this gives the person who caused material damage the opportunity to change their testimony and refuse responsibility later. While it is usually possible to establish the circumstances of a collision with a stationary car at a later time, it is difficult to ascertain the person who caused the traffic accident the next day in the case of a side collision during changing lanes.

Do not hesitate to take photos and film the scene

If the parties stop at the scene of the traffic accident, it is usually easy to determine who drove onto the wrong lane or otherwise caused the accident. However, if the vehicles are moved, it is later impossible to identify the causes of the traffic accident on the basis of oral testimony alone. Therefore, cars involved in a traffic accident should not be moved until all the facts are clear. If the reports are not properly drawn up at the scene, the victim might be bereft of or receive only partial indemnity in the absence of evidence. Written admission of responsibility at the scene is treated in law as a declaratory acknowledgement of obligation, which in turn means that if the ‘obligor’ starts questioning their guilt later, the obligation of finding testimonies and proving their innocence lies with them.

Naturally, the insurance undertakings also review the evidence presented to them thoroughly. However, if nothing is recorded at the scene, the evidence will be lacking, as they will rely solely on the testimonies of the two parties, who tend to have radically differing versions in the event of a dispute. The existence of dashcams, which have become popular in recent years, is very helpful in solving the disputes more easily. Additionally, most people have a smartphone that allows taking photos and filming. So if you end up in a traffic accident – whether it concerns vehicle insurance or traffic damage – make sure to take as many photos of the scene as possible. Photos of the placement of the cars, road signs, road markings, and vehicle damage are usually helpful in resolving later disputes fairly.

Do not leave the scene without the signature of the person who caused the traffic accident

Great attention should be paid to filling in the traffic accident form ‘Traffic accident notice’, making sure that all fields are filled in correctly, the diagrams are drawn properly, the circumstances of the event are ticked, and the document is signed by the person who caused the accident. Filling in this notice is probably quite complicated the first time and distraught people might not be able to fill in all the fields immediately after the traffic accident. Honestly, though, it is not obligatory to use an official form: write it on a cardboard plate or a napkin, if need be. Just make sure to record the date and place of the traffic accident, the data and contact details of the vehicles and drivers, description of the accident, the diagram of the event, and the signatures.



Gerli Ramler
Freelance journalist


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