Traffic Accidents, Korea
The following is general information and is offered as such. In no way, should any of the following be considered legal advice.
When driving in Korea, it is advisable:
- To have the name of a Korean friend or staff person from your company who can be contacted to help with the language should you be involved in an accident.
- To have the name and contact details (including personal cell phone number) of a Korean lawyer on you at all times – in your wallet and in the glove compartment of the car.
- Always have a disposable camera in the glove compartment even if your cell phone is camera equipped.
- Stop immediately in case of an accident, otherwise the incident will be considered a hit and run – even if you stopped a few meters away and you remained on the scene. You can eventually pull over to the side of the road, but make sure that the placement of the car, etc. has been recorded.
- Make sure that you have the maximum insurance coverage available. (see liability and insurance)
- Always have the following in your glove compartment: disposable camera, proof of insurance, paper, pencil and the pone numbers of the police as well as your company’s appropriate contact person and an English-speaking Korean lawyer. You should also keep original copies of your car registration and driver’s license in your car. You may also want to have a can of spray paint or chalk on hand to mark the position of each vehicle in case of an accident.
Fender benders are commonly settled on the spot in order to avoid higher insurance premiums. (Note: even when reported to insurance companies, there is a tendency for the companies to share blame and therefore, costs – even if one party is clearly responsible for the accident. If a tailgater hits the car in front, the costs may be split between the two parties by the insurance companies and/or the police). It’s a good idea to write the agreement down right away and each sign it on the stop, thus avoiding possible future problems.
You may wish to contact a Korean employee of your company to assist you or a Korean friend. Communication will be better and the other party (and police should they be involved) will likely be more comfortable dealing a Korean national.
Accidents resulting in injury:
- Do not move the vehicle(s).
- Contact the police
- Take photos if you can.
- Get as much relevant information as possible from the other driver:
name, address, driver’s license number and vehicle registration.
- Contact a Korean friend or employee from your company.
Accidents resulting in serious injury or death:
- Do all of the above, plus
- Contact an English-speaking lawyer prior to detention in an effort to settle
immediately and to register any relevant witnesses.
- Contact your Embassy
It is vitally important to get a Korean-speaker o n the scene as quickly as possible, especially if someone has been injured, since much of the negotiating power seems to extend from how quickly each party is able to tell his or her side of the story to the police. This can be especially important when a foreign driver is involved. (Note: There was a time, not too long ago, when the foreign driver was automatically at fault sometimes regardless of the evidence. Things have changed in recent years, but it can still happen.) Taking all of the steps outlined above may be difficult and appear exaggerated, but they are important. By following them, you are likely to still have to pay a settlement, but the amount may be less than otherwise and your detention time reduced, or maybe even avoided altogether.
In case of an accident, the Korean government advises all drivers to:
- Take Care of the Injured: If the injury sustained is not serious, take the person to a nearby hospital. If the injury is serious with heavy bleeding, try to stop the bleeding and either get help from a passing vehicle or call an ambulance by dialing 119 (not 911 – in Korea it’s the opposite to North American). No area code is needed even with your cell phone.
- Record and Maintain Evidence: It is recommended that drivers always carry a disposable camera. The configuration of the vehicles involved in the accident should not be changed unless they are blocking traffic, or if moving the vehicles is absolutely necessary for other reasons. If the vehicles have to be moved, their positions should be marked by spray paint, white chalk or nails.
- Warn Passing Vehicles: to prevent a second accident, you should use a flag, light or sign to wan approaching vehicles of the accident.
- Call 112 to Report the Accident to the Police: You are required to report accidents to the police within 12 hours if the incident occurred in the city or in other areas. You can have a Korean-speaker call the police on 112 or you can go in person to a police station. Having a Korean-speaker with you is helpful here as well.
- Notify your Insurance Company immediately not only to give them the necessary details regarding the incident, but also to get their help in ensuring you do not inadvertently be perceived to have destroyed ‘evidence’ and therefore incur additional charges and costs. Insurance companies provide pick-up service for their policy holders.
Stay calm and in control of your emotions regardless of the circumstances, of whether the situation is being handled to your satisfaction or not, of procedures and questions that appear to be illogical, biased or a waste of time. You will gain nothing by pointing any of this out or getting angry. In fact, it could cost you – money and even detention/jail time.
Fingerprinting: Some people have reported being fingerprinted by the police following even a minor accident. According to our research, police are not required by law to fingerprint the parties involved in an accident, guilty party or not. However, there is no law against it so doing so depends on the individiual officer or on the local practices.
If you cause the accident you may not be charged if you have comprehensive insurance coverage. (For help finding an English-speaking agent, check out the Korea4Expats Directory. However, as stipulated in the special law governing traffic accidents, you will be charged if the accident involves any of the following situations:
- violating a traffic signal
- crossing the median line
- illegally passing
- improper passing through a crossing
- violation of a pedestrian crosswalk
- driving without a driver’s license
- driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs
- starting a vehicle while the door is open
- driving onto the sidewalk
- a hit-and-run
- a fatality
K4E Editor: Korea4Expats.com tries to be as complete and accurate as possible, so if you notice any omissions or errors in the information above, please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated on 2013-08-11
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