Car accidents happen, especially in Mexico where people always seem to be in a hurry. The truth is that people often pass when they shouldn’t. Yellow traffic lights make people speed up to beat the red light rather than slow down. Many accidents are caused by driver distraction, lack of experience or ignorance of the rules. It’s important to drive carefully and not expect other drivers to follow the rules. Always drive defensively.
It is unpleasant being involved in a car accident, and even more upsetting when you’re not in your home country. The first thing to consider is that it is extremely important to have auto insurance when driving in Mexico. Insurance is mandatory and pays for damages, medical costs and other expenses arising from an accident. It’s also important to remember that foreigners who have car accidents in Mexican territory are subject to Mexican laws and have the same rights and obligations as any other citizen of Mexico.
If you are involved in a minor car accident that does not involve injury, the parties should first agree on who caused the accident. If the party who caused the accident acknowledges responsibility, then you should park your cars and call your insurance agents. The insurance agents will arrive promptly to inspect the cars and the scene of the accident. They will talk to the parties involved, take photos and give you forms to sign. After they are finished, you can drive away and the insurance companies will process the incident.
If neither party acknowledges fault, you should leave your vehicle on the spot of the accident, and let the insurance representatives or traffic authorities determine who is at fault.
If the accident results in serious damage or any injury, then you should follow these recommendations:
Do not move your car. Stay where you are and notify the traffic police, or wait for them to arrive at the scene of the accident. Both parties should immediately report the accident to their insurance companies, which will send representatives to the scene. When there is serious damage to any vehicle, the best outcome is that the insurance representatives will determine who is at fault. If the insurance representatives are unable to agree, then the case will be referred to the courts, and a usually long and expensive legal proceeding is required.
If one of the cars involved is not insured, you should wait for the traffic officer and he will prepare an accident report that you must sign. If you do not speak Spanish, you should ask for someone who can help you with the translation before signing any document that may be filed in a legal proceeding. Read the report and make sure it describes exactly how the event occurred. If it does not, you should amend the report in your own handwriting.
The traffic authorities will attempt to make the parties arrive at a settlement. They will tell you that even if you are not guilty, both vehicles will be impounded and the drivers will be taken to the police station for drug and alcohol testing. This happens particularly when one of the parties is not insured and not likely to accept an agreement. You should be calm and patient, since most of the time, the guilty party will acknowledge responsibility and procure a means of repair, even if they are not insured.
When one or more persons suffer minor injuries in the accident, the driver(s) are brought before the public prosecutor for matters relating to the injuries. The prosecutor will determine the liability of the drivers involved in the accident. As a foreigner, you must inform the prosecutor of your nationality and request a translator who will inform you of your rights and assist you in the proceedings.
In the event of an injury, the guilty party must pay restitution. This includes medical expenses plus an additional amount determined by a sliding scale, depending on the extent of the injury. If someone is killed, restitution also includes funeral expenses, and is paid to the family.
The accused must present evidence, including eye-witness testimony, traffic reports and medical reports to defend themselves until the authority resolves the case according to law or the injured party drops charges. Once all the evidence has been presented by the parties, the authority will issue a resolution.
The resolution can have three possible outcomes:
- The case is sent to criminal court as an indictment against the accused
- The case is dismissed
- The case remains on file indefinitely, but no action is taken
Indictments are issued in cases of possible criminal negligence, such as drunk driving, hit-and-run, etc. If you are found guilty, the authority will notify your lawyer that you are subject to arrest.
Yucatan Expatriate Services can help you with information and guidance to choose car insurance, assist as translators and arrange legal counsel. If you have any question please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you want to know more about different types of insurance, we invite you to download our Insurance Guide.
Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the writers and does not constitute legal or accounting advice. It is recommended that before taking any action, you should consult with your own accountant or lawyer who is familiar with the laws and customs in Yucatan and in Mexico, and the circumstances surrounding your particular situation.