There are 3 levels of cover available to insure a vehicle:
- third party only ( “Au tiers” ),
- third party fire and theft ( “Au tiers + vol, incendie, bris de glace”),
- and fully comprehensive (“tous risques”).
Car owners must carry with them the registration documents of the vehicle, a valid insurance certificate: the green card, from which the square vignette has to be displayed in the window of the car, and the bottom part kept, that confirms the subscriber’s name and address, etc, and finally their driving license.
Breakdown assistance is almost always included in the insurance. In case of break down, the insured must call the assistance provider as it is them who organise the recovery. They will recover the vehicle to the nearest garage, and organise to take the driver and passengers home, or wherever they were traveling to. If the insured organises his own recovery, the assistance provider will not pay up. In case of breakdown on the motorway, the assistance provider cannot operate, the motorway services have to be called so that they can rescue the vehicle. The assistance provider still needs to be contacted as soon as possible so that a claim file is opened and a refund is sent out. Break down in France covers most of Europe, and unlike services such as the RAC in the UK, they do not repair your vehicle. However they provide other services such as worldwide assistance in case of illness or injury even when the insured are not traveling with their vehicle. They can organise the patient’s repatriation; advance hospitalisation costs and reimburse medical costs that have not been reimbursed by the social security. The amounts covered should be checked as they are often fairly low; this service is not a substitute to a travel insurance.
The no claims bonus in France is expressed in coefficient, and not in percentage. It starts at coefficient 1 as a new driver. The coefficient that is earned is multiplied by 0.95 each year without claim at fault until it reaches 0.50 which is the maximum entitlement. For instance with a coefficient at 0.72 year 1, it will reach 0.72 x 0.95= 0.68 year 2. In case of a claim at fault, the coefficient is multiplied by 1.25, for instance with a coefficient of 0.68, the new coefficient further to an accident at fault would be 0.68 x 1.25 = 0.85. After several claims at fault, it can reach a maximum of 3.50. The no claims bonus allowance is heavily regulated by government law. They also record any claim you declare, which affects your bonus. If the maximum of 0.50 has been earned for 3 years without any claims, the bonus will not be affected on the next claim. All insurance companies have to abide with these rules.
In the event of an accident, the accident statement form (constat d’accident) has to be filled in and signed between the parties involved. This is the only binding and legal document; once it is signed, it is not possible to alter it in any way. It is therefore extremely important to be really careful about what is declared on the form. Except very serious accidents involving a police report, the claim will be handle according to the information given on the front page of the form signed by the parties, and ONLY from this information. The names of eventual witnesses have to be written on the front page or their report will not be receivable. An accident form should always be kept in the car. It is best to fill it in at the time of the accident as, from experience, people often change their mind as to the responsibility of their own act if they are given time to think about it for too long. Drivers should NEVER sign a constat if they don’t understand it or if they don’t agree. If one of the parties refuses to sign, it is likely to be a 50/50 responsibility situation. These forms have an available English translation; insurance companies should be in a position to provide all their customers with a copy.