Road Accidents in Spain

Accidents on the road are an all-too-frequent occurrence and, even though the rate of accidents has been significantly reduced by increasing safety regulations and by creating stricter rules, there is still a high number of such accidents in Spain. In 2016 there were over 100,000: 9,755 involving hospitalisation and 1,810 fatal.

This guide is only about road and traffic accidents in Spain.

This guide describes, in particular, how to deal with an accident in the area of Andalusia/Andalucía – which contains the Costa del Sol.  Please note that certain aspects of the law in Spain vary from one “autonomous community” (comunidad autónoma)  to another. See a map here. We have – or soon will have – specific guides covering some of the individual areas of Spain.  See the side bar for what is available.

There are three main components to dealing with a road traffic accident in Spain:

  • Dealing with any injuries
  • Complying with your legal obligations
  • Dealing with any claim for compensation

In this guide we will deal in detail with only the last two points, but we do mention first aid briefly.

It is worth remembering that dealing with even a simple accident in Spain is a lot more complicated if you do not speak the language. In Spain you have a reasonable chance that the other driver will speak some English, but you will also find many drivers that will not speak any other language apart from Spanish… or Russian or French. Additionally, any police officer attending will probably only speak Spanish (especially in the smaller towns and away from tourist areas).

Video guide to traffic accidents in Spain

You can get a quick overview of accidents on the road in Spain by watching this video interview (below) with Spanish lawyer Antonio Manzanares. Learn more by scrolling down and reading the detailed guide he has written with us.

First aid and injuries

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 injury cases, you will need to call an ambulance. To do this in Spain phone 112.

Once you get contact through this number, you will receive instructions on what to do next. An ambulance is likely to arrive very quickly so, in most cases, there is no need to take any potentially dangerous steps to treat any casualties. Unless they are in serious danger, do nothing. Make sure they’re breathing, try to stem any major loss of blood, stop them being run over by other vehicles and then wait for the experts to come and do their job.

If you dial 112 you will not need to call a separate number for the police or a fire engine (fire truck), as this is a general number for emergencies for ambulances, police and the fire department. If you wish to contact the police only, dial 091.

Please be aware that, if you are the one being taken away in an ambulance, they will automatically take you to a public hospital unless you specify that you have private insurance.

You may also need to make arrangements for your vehicle to be recovered. For this you need to contact your insurance company, as they will arrange this for you.

Your legal obligations in Spain

“Duty to rescue”

In many countries, it is your legal duty to help others in peril if you are capable of doing so. This is the case in Spain.

This does not mean that you should attempt first aid if you are not trained in it (see above). Your duty is to do your best for the person who is injured. In the case of a road accident, if you are not a professional first-aider, this usually means removing the person from immediate danger and calling the emergency services.

Can you move your vehicle after a road accident in Spain?

In some countries it is illegal to move you vehicle after an accident until the police have attended the scene. This is not the case in Spain. You can do it to avoid any other accidents or – in the case of minor accidents – if you and the other people involved agree that you’re not going to involve the police and each agree to the vehicles being moved.

In any case, in the case of a serious accident where injury has been incurred, it is a good idea to leave the vehicles in place if it is possible to do so. That way the Spanish police will get a better idea of what has happened.

If you do think that it’s necessary to move your car you should try to get the consent of the other driver before doing so. This is not a legal requirement in Spain but can avoid lots of accusations later on.

If you do have to move your car, you should always 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.

Do you have to call the police to a road accident in Spain?

It is a legal requirement that you call the Spanish police in the following circumstances:

  1. If any person involved in the accident has suffered any “serious injury”. This means if they are bleeding (other than superficial scratches), have a suspected broken bone or have any other symptoms that mean they cannot immediately continue with their journey (such as concussion).
  2. If any damage has been caused to any property other than the vehicles involved in the accident and the person who owns the property is not present. For example, if you collide with the wall of a house and damage it you need to call the police if the owner of the house is not present.
  3. If any damage has been caused to any property (even if the owner is present) and there is a risk of ongoing danger. For example, if a wall might collapse onto the road.
  4. If the road is blocked and cannot be cleared quickly.

In all other cases – which means in the vast majority of minor traffic accidents in Spain – there is no need to call the Spanish police and doing so can prove counter-productive. This is because, if the police attend, a whole chain of bureaucracy and paperwork is set in motion and can take a long time to deal with.

Whilst you’re waiting for the police to arrive – or if you don’t call them:

  • Get the names and addresses of any witnesses
  • Take photographs
  • Prepare a plan of the scene
  • Write down why you think the accident occurred

Accident report forms in Spain

In your car you should have an “accident report” form Declaracion Amistosa De Accidente This is a legal requirement. You can download a sample Declaracion Amistosa De Accidente here.

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In Spain, the accident report form is provided by your insurance company as part of the annual renewal process. It is in a standard European design, but is only written in Spanish. Some companies also provide a translation into your language, but that is not a legal necessity.

The form contains spaces to record the essential information about the accident. This way nothing is forgotten.

The information includes items such as the registration numbers of the vehicles, the names and contact details of the drivers, the names and contact details of any witnesses etc.

It also provides a space for you to make a sketch plan of the scene of the accident. This is quite small but there is nothing to stop you making additional sketch plans and attaching them to the form.

The form also contains a place where you and the other people involved can make an agreed statement of who you think is responsible for the accident. Equally, if you can’t agree who was responsible, there is a place for each of you to state your opinion of what caused the accident.

You can record your opinion in any language, but it will later need to be translated into Spanish.

The form is a multi-part form, which produces four copies of what you write. This allows you to give copies to any other drivers and to the police, if they are involved.

Most lawyers in Spain would advise you never to admit responsibility for an accident on this form.

However, if the accident was clearly your fault – for example, if you pulled out of a side road and ran directly into the side of a passing vehicle or you ran into the back of a vehicle that was stopped at a red traffic light – it can create a lot of good will if you admit your responsibility at the scene of the accident. It also minimises the time and expense of later dealing with any claim.

If you are going to admit responsibility – or if you think the accident was your fault but don’t want to admit it at the time – it is important to take photographs of any damage that has been caused to your vehicle and any other vehicles or property. If you haven’t got a camera, make notes but (obviously) this isn’t nearly as good.

As always, never sign anything you don’t completely understand.

If the Spanish police attend

They will make sure nobody has been injured and call for any medical assistance necessary.

They will ask you for a copy of the accident report form. If you have not finished filling it in they will wait for you to do so but will not get involved in that process.

They will take down the details of any witnesses.

They will take their own measurements of the scene of the accidents and, these days, will probably also take photographs.

They will make arrangements for the road to be cleared.

They will take a statement from you and any other drivers and witnesses still at the scene.

They will ask for proof of your insurance, particularly if you are insured overseas. They should be able to find details of any insurance policy you have in Spain on their computer system.

Expect this to take a long time, particularly if anybody has been injured.

What happens next?

If the police think that the conduct of any driver deserves criminal prosecution, they will report the facts to the prosecutor for a decision as to whether charges should be brought. This will usually involve you having to attend the prosecutor’s office for interview. Fortunately, very few accidents are reported for prosecution and those that are usually involve drink, hugely excessive speed or serious injury. See Drinking and Driving in Spain for more details.

If you are prosecuted (and convicted), depending on the offence with which you are charged, you are likely to be fined and/or banned from driving for a period of time. More serious cases can result in a sentence of imprisonment.

Reporting the accident to your insurance company

You only need to report the accident if:

  • You are going to make a claim against the other driver
  • You think that the other driver is going to make a claim against you
  • You’re going to try to recover from the insurance company the cost of the damages to your own vehicle

If in doubt, report it.

This is where you discover the benefit of dealing with an insurance company with a claim line in your own language.

Remember that, even if you don’t report the accident, you will (in most countries) have to declare the fact that you had the accident when you apply for the renewal of your insurance. If you do not do so, the policy is likely to be void – i.e. of no effect.

Seeing your lawyer

Dealing with the aftermath of a road accident is not something you should do yourself, even if you speak good Spanish.

You should see your lawyer as quickly as possible. The sooner you see him the more satisfactory the outcome of the case is likely to be.

See our General Guide to Accidents for more details.

Other consequences of an accident

If you cannot prove your ownership of your vehicle and/or that it has insurance, the vehicle will be impounded. Getting it back can take weeks.

For this reason (and because the law requires it anyway) you should always carry with you your driving licence, the vehicle registration documents showing that you own the vehicle (or a copy showing who does own it and a letter authorising you to us it) and proof of your insurance.

If you are convicted of any motoring offense arising out of the accident, your insurance premium will rise dramatically.

Expats’ Tips

Have you got experience with road accidents in Spain? Tell us about it by emailing office@guides.global.

Conclusion

Like elsewhere, when you have an accident it is of major importance to keep calm, take every step carefully, and do your best for trying to document everything, so you avoid confusion or contradiction play against you on a later stage.

And always seek legal advice to ensure that you are covered and compensated when you must.

You may also want to read:

Information about Driving in Spain  a useful guide from Spain.info

Código de Tráfico y Seguridad Vial: The Spanish highway code. Only available in Spanish, as far as we can tell.

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