What to do if you are involved in a traffic accident in Portugal

Traffic accident in Portugal ? Stay calm. Police and insurance companies will deal with it. Use safety equipment, get driver and vehicle details. Call 112.

Call the Emergency services

If anyone has suffered death or an injury, you must by law wait at the scene of the accident for a Portuguese 'agent of authority' to arrive. If you fail to do that, you incur a fine of €500-€2500 if not more. Call the emergency services number 112 and they will notify the police and possibly the ambulance service. You can expect the 112 operator to speak good English and be well-trained. Stay calm and answer all the questions the operator may ask.

Render medical assistance yourself only if absolutely essential. For example if someone:

You should never give medical assistance you are simply not qualified to give. Wait for the ambulance service to arrive and administer first aid.

Even if there is no visible injury (e.g. no-one is bleeding or complaining of pain), you might want to get the police involved. This will add to the time before you move on from the accident, but your insurance company will prefer an official police report of an accident in addition to the evidence you provide.

Use safety equipment

Switch on the hazard lights in your vehicle and put the headlights on. See the safety equipment section. Then you and the passengers in your vehicle should put on safety vests and one of you must deploy a warning triangle (danger sign) in the road at least 30 meters behind the vehicle.

Exchange driver/vehicle details

See the documents section for paperwork you are legally obliged to carry in your vehicle.

You must provide other persons involved in the accident - and the police - with your details: 1) your personal identification, 2) proof of the owner and insurer of the vehicle - including the insurance policy number. Failure to do this incurs a fine of €120-€600. Other parties to the accident have to provide their equivalent details to you. You may inspect the documentation they provide and make note of it and take photographs (e.g. using your mobile phone) of it, but must always return it.

You may take photos of the scene of the accident to support your insurance company claim - as long as you do not interfere with the scene of the accident or risk the accident getting worse. You may take note of the vehicle registration number of any emergency services (police, ambulance..) vehicles that attend the scene, but should not demand that those officials provide you with their personal identification. Your insurance company can get those details later if necessary.

Other issues

The police have the right to test anyone at the scene of an accident for possible alcohol/drug abuse. See this section for the legal limits. They also have the right to seize the vehicle identity documents if in their opinion the onward journey of the vehicle is unsafe.

You should move vehicles after an accident only if 1) you first get some evidence of the actual position of all vehicles/people involved in the accident, 2) you are instructed to do so by the police.

Particularly if you are a foreigner driving in Portugal, try to behave reasonably if you are involved in an accident. You are then far more likely to get a fair outcome. Leave it up to the police and insurance companies to sort things out. You have the right to get as much evidence of the accident if you wish, but be reasonable and not aggressive. Remember if you are a native English-speaker that you may be dealing with local people whose second language is English. Respect the fact that you may not know local traffic laws 100%.