Road Accidents in Turkey

Accidents on the road are a sadly common phenomenon, particularly in Turkey where the combination of badly-maintained roads and a tendency to ignore for the traffic laws leads to a higher-than-average rate of collisions.

See our Guide to Dealing with an Accident in Turkey for some general advice about this subject – this guide covers special points to do with road accidents.

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

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

We will deal in detail with only the last two points.

It is worth repeating that dealing with even a simple road accident in Turkey is a lot more complicated if you do not speak the language. In Turkey, you have a reasonable chance that the other driver might speak some English but very little chance that they will speak any other language apart from Turkish. Except in main tourist areas, you have almost no chance that any Turkish police officer attending will speak anything but Turkish: or, at least, that they will speak it to the extent that they will be able to deal with you effectively.

Your legal obligations after a car crash in Turkey

Can you move your vehicle after an accident in Turkey?

In some countries, it is illegal to move your vehicle after an accident until the police have attended the scene. This is not the case in Turkey, unless injuries have been caused by the accident.

Even if you are legally permitted to move your car, if you do think that it’s necessary to do so you should try to get the consent of the other driver before taking any action. If you are going to move the vehicle, you should not do so until after the accident report form has been completed (see below).

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.

If you move your car before you call the police or without the consent of the other driver you may find it impossible to make a claim against your insurance.

Do you have to call the police to an accident in Turkey?

It is a legal requirement that you call the Turkish police if any person involved in the accident has suffered any “significant injury”. In practise, 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.

In all other cases – which means in the vast majority of minor traffic accidents in Turkey – there is no need to call the Turkish 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.

While you’re waiting for the police to arrive:

While you are waiting for the police – 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
  • Complete the accident report form

Accident report forms in Turkey

In your car, you should have an ‘accident report’ form. The law requires you to carry a copy in the vehicle at all times.

In Turkey, the accident report form is provided by your insurance company as part of the annual renewal process. It is in a standard design and – very importantly – the instructions are always written in both Turkish and English. Some companies also provide a translation into other languages 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, names and contact details of the drivers, 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 rather meagre and 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. This is not a perfect solution because it means that the other people involved in the accident will probably not understand what you’re saying and therefore they won’t be able to comment on it in their version of events.

Once you have completed the accident report form, you may move your vehicle. Once again, it’s a good idea to get the consent of the other driver(s) involved beforehand.

Most lawyers in Turkey 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 to any other vehicles or property. If you haven’t got a camera, make notes but (obviously) this isn’t nearly as good.

When (if) the Turkish police attend

  • They will make sure nobody has been injured and call for any medical assistance necessary
  • They will take the remaining people to the police station: both the driver(s) and any witnesses
  • 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 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 will prepare a ‘fault report’. This will indicate whether, in their opinion, the accident is all the fault of one driver or whether – for example – it is 80% the fault of one driver and 20% the fault of the other. They might also conclude that the accident was the fault of neither driver: perhaps the fault of the road’s surface, or the weather, or an animal crossing the highway

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 (or other person) deserves criminal prosecution, they will report the facts to the prosecutor for a decision as to whether charges should be brought. This will usually mean you have to attend the prosecutor’s office for interview. Fortunately, very few accidents are reported for prosecution. Those that are usually involve drink, hugely excessive speed or serious injury.

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.

If you are convicted, the court will not notify the authorities in your own country about your conviction. It has, at the moment, no mechanism for doing this.

If the police do not report the accident, the parties will be left to sort out the question of any compensation payable. This will usually be done by their insurance company or lawyers.

Reporting the accident to your insurance company in Turkey

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 may want to make a claim against your own insurance company for what would otherwise be irrecoverable losses. An oddity of the Turkish system is that you can claim compensation for the loss of value of your vehicle even if it is repaired by the insurance company. This is because vehicles that have been damaged often have a lower post-accident value (even when repaired) than a vehicle that has never been damaged

If in doubt, report it.

If you are going to report the accident, do so by telephoning your insurance agent or, if your company has one, use its claim line and then follow their instructions. 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 ‘back home’. If you do not do so, the policy is likely to be void: i.e. of no effect. This will make you guilty of the criminal offence of driving without insurance and, of course, be catastrophic if you are later involved in an accident which is your fault and which injures someone or damages property.

Seeing your lawyer after a road accident in Turkey

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

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.

What compensation can you claim after a traffic accident in Turkey?

You can claim compensation for:

  • Material loss, e.g.:
    • The loss of an arm or ongoing restricted movement in your neck
    • Damage to your car
    • The reduction in value to your car, even when repaired
    • Time off work
    • Future losses such as loss of earnings as a result of injuries sustained
  • Psychological damage, e.g.:
    • Pain and suffering
    • Family problems caused by the accident

Payments for psychological damage tend to be small.

Other consequences of a road accident in Turkey

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.

If you are convicted of any motoring offence arising out of the accident, your insurance premium will rise dramatically. This is because, in Turkey, only the most serious conduct is prosecuted.

How long does this take?

If there is a criminal case, it could well take two to three years to be resolved, plus another one or two years if the person is convicted and chooses to appeal.

A civil case for compensation will be started at about the same time as any criminal case but is likely to take one or two years from the filing of any expert’s report in the criminal proceedings.

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