What To Do in the Event of a Car Accident in Panama
We have all said it, as we have driven by a car crash either here in Panama or back in our home countries. "Wow, thank goodness we left 5 minutes later / 5 minutes earlier", or "I hope that never happens to me". Then it does happen to us, here in Panama and I can pretty much guarantee the 3 things that will go through your mind: "Are we ok?", "Is the other driver ok?" and "what do I do now?"A few weeks ago, this happened to Allan while driving back from Chame during independence week at 6:45pm. Another car going the opposite direction on the highway hit a car on their side of the road then flew over the median and broadsided Allan pushing him into a billboard. Allan was and still is physically ok. He called me and then proceeded to call a Panamanian friend who was able to come to the scene and help in translation.
The purpose of this article is to inform those that do get into a bang up what the procedure is or was as we went through it and some tips on how to make the process easier for all concerned.
1. If you don't speak the language, do try and get someone that does to come and meet you at the scene.
2. Call the police, however more than likely someone will have already done that.
3. Call your insurance company. This is really important as the police will not finish your report until representatives from your insurance company come to the scene, take pictures and make arrangements for a tow truck. Unlike our North American insurance companies, here in Panama they are involved from the start
4. Make sure you keep the tow truck receipt and get their phone number.Your insurance company will have to track your car down at some point and you need to know where your car is at all times. This is very important and we learned this the hard way.
5. The police officer will give you a stub with your hearing date. Whether you are or not at fault you and/or your insurance company will have to attend on the given date and time. As I have since learned you actually do not have to be there and it is the responsibility of your insurance company to legally represent you. Allan went to court as he wanted to see the process and in fact he was extremely impressed with how organized the system was. Complete with diagrams and 2 representatives from our insurance company.
6. Keep all medical receipts so you can submit this to your insurance company.
7. Local residents near the crash site will appear out of nowhere, asking you for money to be a witness in your favour. In Allan's case, he had just climbed out of the car and a man asked him for $20 to provide Allan with a plastic chair to sit down. Another local, told him he would be a verifiable witness for $10. Just tell them to go away.
8. Most importantly stay calm. Have someone bring a camera to the crash scene and take pictures before your car and the other vehicle are towed away.
Drive safely, drive sober and always keep your eyes on the road. If Allan had not seen the car flying over the median, he would not have swerved to try and avoid the crash and the outcome would have been very different, and definitely not as favourable. We do want to once again thank our friends and the community for their support. This meant more to us than you will
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