By guest writer Rob Gordon

If you’re driving a car in France, don’t have a crash. If you do, don’t do what I did.

While driving down a small French village road, I stopped to allow a Clio coming the other way round a corner. In a spectacular display of bad driving, the Clio smashed into the front corner of my Porsche 996 Carrera 4S. Due to worrying about getting my family home on our booked EuroTunnel crossing the next day, I made a number of errors.

The Loss

If you have an accident in France, you are obliged to complete a form called a Constat Amiable. The purpose of this is for both parties to declare their views on the accident. Once completed and signed by both parties, it becomes a binding document for the use of the insurance companies involved.

Error number one: not being aware of the rules when driving in France. The Constat Amiable document took me by complete surprise and I did not understand the importance of it.

Error number two: the document was entirely in French and my O-Level ability was not up to translating it properly. I was not entirely sure what I was declaring when ticking the various boxes.

Error number three: the Clio driver had already filled in part of the form when he produced it, and he had ticked some boxes on “my half”.

Error number four: the accident had been a great shock and so we were more concerned about getting the family home than paying attention to the paperwork. It was foolish to assume that everyone is honest and would not make false claims. He claimed I was on the wrong side of the road – false.

In hindsight, I should have:

a) refused to complete a document that was already marked by the third party and demanded a new blank one.

b) been more careful about understanding what was written on the page.

c) not assumed that everyone would tell the truth.

d) expected the shocking rise in my insurance renewal – even though my “no claims bonus” was protected.


The Gain

Having sent photos of the crash to my insurers, they informed me that their engineers considered it would be a write off. They offered a bizarrely paltry settlement with the explanation that they expected the 14 year old Porsche 911 to have around 54,000 miles on the odometer. Since mine had 118,000 miles, they had hacked away at the settlement figure and decided they could only offer £11,000 to close the claim. I had originally bought the car at £15,000, but nearly all Porsche 911s had increased in value since that point.