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Traffic accident law - claims settlement -

The traffic accident

Annoying - time-consuming - energy-sapping

One moment of not paying attention and it happens. A road accident. Lucky are those who have not suffered serious damage or seriously injured third parties. Regardless of who is at fault, an accident is a nuisance for everyone involved. As a rule, the police must be called in so that they can record the accident and, if necessary, take measures to preserve evidence.

I. Own measures to preserve evidence

Recording a road traffic accident is part of the daily business of every patrol officer. The recording of the accident is often limited to the officer filling out the accident report and interviewing both parties.

Please note the following:

- Do not rely on the police to secure evidence for you. Take photos/videos of the accident scene and the accident vehicles. Leave your vehicle stationary for the time being, do not move it for the time being. Once you have secured sufficient evidence, you can drive your vehicle to the side of the road if it is still roadworthy.

You do not have to make a statement to the police about the circumstances of the accident. This applies in particular if you might have to incriminate yourself. It is sufficient to state your personal details and the fact that you were involved in the accident. The police may not ask you for anything more.

- If the police officers ask you - and they usually will - how the accident happened, you do not have to provide any information. If necessary, insist on your right to refuse to provide information and take care of other matters, such as organising a towing company or similar. Stand firm if the officers repeatedly ask questions and try to force you to make a statement.

- If the police impose a fine/warning fine on you at the scene of the accident, you can refuse to pay it immediately. In principle, there is no obligation to pay any fine/warning fine immediately.

- If you have suffered personal injury, have yourself thoroughly examined and treated by a doctor. Do not forget to keep all documents (findings, operation reports, receipts for co-payments, etc.), as they are relevant for the assertion of the claim.

II. Contacting a Lawyer Immediately

Immediately after an accident, you should contact a lawyer to discuss how to proceed. It is advisable to do this before reporting the damage to your own insurance company.

Your lawyer will take care of the claims settlement and assert your material and immaterial damage against the opposing insurance company. As the victim of the accident, you will then have nothing more to worry about for the time being.

Theoretically, it is possible to make a claim against the insurance company yourself without consulting a lawyer. However, you must be aware that the insurance company will usually try to squeeze you for the "price". An insurance company does not earn money by generously settling claims.

III Notification of your own motor vehicle liability insurance

Regardless of whether you are at fault for an accident or not, you must report the damage to your own motor vehicle liability insurance. It is advisable to speak to your own lawyer beforehand. In some circumstances, it may be advisable for your lawyer to take care of the claim report for you.

IV. Procurement of a replacement vehicle or hire car

It is not uncommon for people involved in accidents to be dependent on their vehicle in order to be able to drive to work every day. If your accident vehicle can still be repaired, you can hire a vehicle. Talk to your lawyer beforehand about the period for which you would like to hire a vehicle and which vehicle category you need. This will prevent you from being left with part of your hire car costs afterwards.

V. Patience in claims handling

The claims settlement process can take time. Case law grants insurers a certain amount of time to process a claim. This means that your lawyer cannot file a claim immediately.

If legal proceedings are necessary because, for example, the insurance company only accepts part of the claims asserted, it can take months before the court proceedings are concluded and an enforceable title is obtained. If a court expert report is also required during the court proceedings, everything will take even longer.

Unfortunately, a lawyer cannot speed up this process, at best they can try to reach a quick out-of-court or court settlement. It is not uncommon for accident victims to rely on a quick settlement from the other party's accident insurance in order to be able to pay for a replacement vehicle at all. Not every injured party can simply advance a large sum of money.

Tolga Topuz

October 2023 - Düsseldorf -

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