Accidents on the road are an all-too-frequent occurrence, particularly in Turkey where the combination of poor roads and a scant regard for the traffic laws leads to a higher-than-average accident rate.
In 2016, there were 1,182,491 road accidents in Turkey, of which 185,128 involved death or injury. Some 7,300 people were killed and 303,812 were injured. This is the equivalent of 8.9 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants – that’s compared with 2.9 in the UK, 4.3 in Germany, 5.1 in France and 10.6 in the US.
See our other guides about accidents (Accidents on the Road, Accidents at Work, Accidents Due to Defective Premises) depending on your situation, but the advice below is good for almost any accident.
Video guide to dealing with an accident in Turkey
You can learn about the aftermath of an accident in Turkey by watching this full-length interview (below) with Turkish lawyer Başak Yıldız Orkun, or by scrolling down and reading the detailed guide that she has written with us.
The video guide below is a playlist – split into several parts. One part will play right after the other.
How can a foreigner deal with an accident in Turkey?
As soon as the accident happens there are some obvious things that you need to do.
This is not a first aid manual (though it’s always a good idea to have and read one) but the most important thing to do at the scene of any accident is not to make it worse. Generally, this means not moving the person who has suffered the accident unless it is vital: for example, if they are in the middle of the road or in a burning building. Moving them can make minor injuries life-threatening.
In most cases, you will need to call an ambulance. In some cases, you will also want to contact the police and the fire department. Call 112 for all of these services. When you do phone, you may well find that the operator does not speak your language. If you speak English, there is a reasonable chance that someone can be found who will speak it to some extent but if you speak another language the odds are not good. Therefore, it’s a good idea to find a person at the scene of the accident who is able to speak Turkish and make the call on your behalf.
Use your judgement about calling the police. In the case of road accidents where there is some injury you have the legal obligation to do so, but otherwise and in the case of most general accidents it is not necessary.
Whatever the type of accident, you should also try to take photographs of the scene of the accident before anything is moved. Fortunately, most of us now have mobile phones capable of doing this. Take lots of photographs from different points of view. If there is any obvious cause of the accident, photograph that both close up and from a distance.
Also try to make a rough plan of the scene of the accident. Show on the plan approximate measurements. As you are unlikely to have a tape measure to hand, remember that a long step is about 80cm and the height of things can be shown by having a person stand in front of them.
Some accidents directly involve two or more people. Others happen because of some failure where there is no other person present. If there is no other party, the insurance company may seek a police report as proof that you were not drunk.
If your accident involves two or more people, you are likely to encounter your first problem. They will speak Turkish and you may not. In this case, it is very important that you neither say, nor could be understood to have said, anything accepting responsibility for the accident. Even if the accident was your fault it is probably not a good idea to make any formal admissions at this time. This does not mean that you are going to try and wriggle out of responsibility; just that these things are better done when the situation is a little calmer. In fact, it is if things are getting a bit too excited that you will normally think about calling the police in the case of an accident where it’s not compulsory to do so.
Bear in mind that when the police turn up they, too, are (in many parts of the country) unlikely to speak your language.
If there are any people who have witnessed the accident and you are able to do so, it is a good idea to take their names and addresses and – if you speak their language – to ask them what they think happened and write it down in brief form.
If the accident was not your fault
If you do not think that the accident was your fault and that it was not a pure accident – just one of those things that happens where nobody is to blame – go to see a lawyer as quickly as possible. The sooner you do this the higher your chances of success in making any claim.
Before you see your lawyer, write down, to the best of your memory, exactly what happened immediately before, during and after the accident. Do remember that witnesses are very unreliable. There is lots of evidence that shows that three different people seeing the same event will have three very different accounts of what they saw, so don’t be surprised if your version differs from the accounts of the other witnesses. This does not mean that they are lying or out to get you.
Take this account to your lawyer. Take also the accident report, photographs, sketch plan, names and addresses of witnesses etc. that you took at the scene.
Take also copies of any insurance policies that you think might be relevant to your case. These could include your motor vehicle insurance, if a vehicle is involved, your healthcare insurance and any travel insurance that you might have.
Your lawyer will then be able to advise you on whether there appears to be any possibility of obtaining compensation for your accident. Do not expect this advice to be immediate. It will often require some research and investigation before the lawyer can form an opinion.
At the same time as the lawyer gives you an opinion, they should be able to give you some sort of estimate as to how long it is likely to take to deal with your claim and the likely cost of doing so. Expect these estimates to be very imprecise. This is not because the lawyer is being difficult but because it is impossible to give you much idea at this point.
This is because, occasionally, the other person involved might immediately accept responsibility and offer compensation. In other cases, you might have to go to court, the loser might appeal and the process could take years. Clearly, these things have an impact not only on the length of time the case will take but also the cost of pursuing it.
From this point on you will be guided by your lawyer as to the steps that will be needed. Some of them will be very different from the steps that might be required in your own country. It is human nature to think that something done differently from what you’re used to is something done worse. This is, usually, not the case. It is just different. It is part and parcel of being in another country.
If you think the accident was your fault
Go to your lawyer. Lawyers love accident work because both sides need their services!
Take all the items referred to above.
If you think the accident was your fault, then it is important to establish whether this is, indeed, the case as quickly as possible and, if it was, to pass the case to your insurance company or settle it without delay. Delay makes the whole thing much more expensive and frustrating.
You may well require ongoing medical treatment following an accident. You will need to tell the lawyer about the progress of such treatment and to give the lawyer the details of the doctors who are treating you.
That could be treatment in Turkey, treatment back in your own country or both.
Lasting disabilities or scarring
If you are unlucky enough to suffer either of these, you will again need to liaise closely with your lawyer, as medical and other reports will need to be prepared.
Unless you and the other person involved (or your lawyers and insurance companies) can reach a friendly settlement of any claim, the questions of who was responsible for your accident and how much compensation should be paid has to be dealt with by the courts. See our Guide to Court Cases & Disputes in Turkey.
How long will it take to settle my case?
These cases take time. There are two main reasons for this.
If the case involves injury, it often takes quite a long time for the true extent of the injuries or long-term consequences of them to become clear. You would not want to settle the case and then find that there was some hidden, but serious, problem for which you could have received substantial compensation.
The second reason there is often delay is that the court system in Turkey, like in most other countries, is overworked and under-resourced. This is particularly so if (as will often be the case with a foreigner) the accident occurs in some rural or seaside location and not in a major town. The courts responsible for that location may have almost no resources at all as the staff allocated to them were allocated, perhaps, 15 or 20 years ago: before the tourist boom and when the local population was measured in hundreds, not thousands.
As a general estimate, if your case is serious and must be settled through the courts, it will take a minimum of two to three years. Unfortunately, the culture in Turkey (and many other Mediterranean countries) is that a very large percentage – perhaps 75% – of the people who lose court cases go on to appeal against the decision. This can add a further two years to the process.
Bringing your case to a conclusion
As I’ve already said, this will take time – it will also take some commitment from you.
This can be a particular problem if you are a tourist rather than a resident, as you may have to take legal steps when you are no longer in the country. It is worth discussing this issue with your lawyer at an early stage and get a rough and very provisional timetable for what is likely to be necessary and when.
You may need to return to Turkey at some point: for example, for medical examination or to appear before the court.
Levels of compensation
The legal system in Turkey has a number of rules governing the compensation that the victims of accidents are likely to receive.
Broadly speaking, if the accident was not your fault but can be shown to be the legal responsibility of some other person, you will be entitled to compensation for your direct losses (e.g. damage to your car or clothing); compensation for loss of earnings (though this is often subject to a cap imposing a maximum daily amount that will be awarded – tough if you’re a banker or a pop star!); and compensation for any injuries that you have suffered.
The compensation for injuries is often calculated by reference to scales and/or age.
For example, if the movement of your right arm is limited by 10%, you receive TRY X, if the movement is limited by 30% you receive TRY Y and if it is limited by 70% you receive TRY Z. This makes the preparation of medical reports of great importance. These are normally prepared by court-appointed experts but your lawyer will feed information to the expert to help them decide the appropriate level for your case.
Of course, if the accident was your fault then it will be you or your insurance company who has to pay this compensation. It is important to have good insurance when living in or travelling to Turkey. See our various guides on insurance for more information about this.