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Car accidents in China: How to handle them

There are lots of new drivers on the roads in China, and some of them are pretty foolish. In the cities, you’ll see lots of minor bumps, and it’s possible that you could find yourself involved in one of these. So what happens if you get into an accident while driving (or cycling) in China? Here’s a primer on what to expect, how minor accidents usually play out, and how to handle the situation.


Step-by-step guide

1. Firstly, make sure you have car and health insurance – and understand what you are and are not covered for. 

2. Be prepared. Always carry the following:

  • Copies of your driver’s license, your passport and housing registration form.
  • Your health insurance card, if you have one.
  • A note in your wallet/purse, in English and Chinese, saying which hospital you’d prefer to be taken to if you need medical treatment.
  • Contact names and numbers for anyone you would like to be informed if you needed urgent medical attention.
  • A first aid kit.
  • Small road cones.

3. Your cellphone (if it is a smartphone) will also prove invaluable if you get into a minor accident. Use it to:

  • Take pictures of car locations and damage at the scene of an accident.
  • Exchange contact information with other drivers involved.

4. When an accident happens, the first thing you should do is try to compose yourself. You may be in shock. Breathe deeply. Check whether you are able to move – if you are injured, or movement is difficult, do not force yourself. Seek help from someone else.

5. If you are able to move freely, consider the positioning of your car. If you are in the middle of the road or another location that may be dangerous, pull over if possible. Park by the side of the road where you are out of harm’s way. Switch your hazard warning lights on if necessary.

6. If it is safe, get out of the car, and get off the road. Call the police and your insurance company as soon as possible.

7. With the exception of moving your car away from dangerous situations, keep the scene of the accident as intact as possible. Any disruption of the scene may make it hard for the police to determine responsibility. 

8. If you’re injured, get yourself to a hospital as soon as possible. Do not try to brush it off and carry on, as injuries like whiplash can start off as a minor pain and become worse if left untreated. Also, a full doctor’s report will bolster your insurance claim.

9. If anyone else is injured, you should try to avoid moving them. Any injuries could be made worse by moving the person. If they must be moved to prevent further serious injury, paint or chalk out their exact position (if possible), or take a photo – but call an ambulance first!

10. If you must move your vehicle to the side of the road, mark its original position.

11. Take photos of the scene, from as many angles as possible. Take photos of both vehicles, including closeups of damage. Take photos of any debris strewn around the scene. Get wider shots of tire tracks and brake marks to indicate car movement.

12. Exchange insurance and personal information with other drivers involved in the accident, including:

  • Name.
  • Address.
  • Phone numbers.
  • ID card or passport numbers.
  • Driver’s license numbers.
  • License plate numbers.
  • Insurance company and policy numbers.
  • Descriptions of other vehicle(s) involved, including make, model and color.
  • If possible, photos of the other driver(s) involved.

13. Locate any witnesses. Get names and phone numbers written down. Record your conversation or make a video – again, a smartphone will be useful. 

14. When the police arrive, they will inspect the scene and draw their own conclusion about responsibility. They will likely encourage you and the other driver to settle on the spot. Stay calm. Do not get angry, but don’t admit fault readily. Try not to assign blame or admit fault or liability, even if you think you made a mistake. Let the police and insurance companies do their jobs and use their tools to come to a conclusion. 

15. If your car needs to be towed, remove any personal valuables or other things you don’t want to lose.

16. Before you submit your insurance claim, make sure you have your medical bills and, if possible, a doctor’s report, as well as an accident investigation report from the police.


Useful Chinese words and phrases

车祸 chē huò  car accident
交通事故 jiāo tōng shì gù traffic accident
肇事者 zhào shì zhě the liable party
车险 chē xiǎn vehicle insurance
责任 zé rèn liability/responsibility
理赔 lǐ péi seek compensation
赔偿 péi cháng compensation
拖车 tuō chē get towed








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