For British motorcyclists road traffic accidents on France’s less crowded roads are quite rare. However, before you set off for France print off and place in a sealed freezer bag a form called a constat amiable d’accident.

French police expect you and the other driver (provided neither of you is too busted up) to complete this document. You also need your insurance certificate and proof of ownership, which the French police can demand upon pain of seizure of your bike, plus your photocard and counterpart driving licence. The French police are not that different to the British police and once they are satisfied you are legal they tend to leave you alone. The French hospital may well require sight of your passport to ensure you are an EU citizen entitled to treatment.

If you are unlucky enough to be involved in a minor collision in France try to pick up the discharge note from the medical practitioners. It is a procedural requirement in France to produce these before you bring a claim over there. However, if you live in Great Britain you will bring your claim under British procedure, which means you will be dealt with through the French insurer’s agents.

French insurers have a high-handed way of dealing with injured British motorcyclists. They may demand you travel to France for expert examination, even though the law is clear they have no such right. Even more frustratingly there is a very easy method of obtaining interim payments if you bring the claim in France, but there is no similar method for you to do that from England unless you are prepared to commence court proceedings. A solicitor who is familiar with the process is able to bring proceedings in a British court. I am struggling to think of one claim I have dealt with arising from a French accident where I have not had to issue court proceedings in England.

In France there was a general rule that the vulnerable road user is not at fault. If you have ridden in a way which is close to reckless, then in French law your damages can be reduced. French damages for minor injuries tend to be lower than UK equivalents, but for serious injuries the French system is more generous. Keep proof of any expenditure, do your best to stay calm and be cautious before you sign any document. The only one you need to sign is the constat amiable. Finally, try and find out where your motorcycle has been recovered to. French storage and recovery charges are lower than in the UK, the difficulty can be finding out where your bike is.

Andrew Dalton
Bike Magazine May 2014