Know Your Rights: What to Do If You Get Into a Car Accident in Taiwan

Know Your Rights: What to Do If You Get Into a Car Accident in Taiwan
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Why you need to know

Call 110 and file a report with the police, no matter the severity of the accident.

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When people have car accidents, it is standard practice to report the incident – regardless of whether or not you are at fault. In Taiwan, making this report by calling 110 and notifying the police is crucial. We asked a lawyer to explain what you should do if you wind up in an accident, whether you’re a driver or merely a pedestrian on one of Taiwan’s dangerous crosswalks.

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Read More: Pedestrian Nightmare: No 'Refuge' on Taiwan's Dreadful Crosswalks
What reporting an incident involves and why you should do so

Many people think notifying the police of a car accident helps authorities make a fair judgment on the incident. However, when you notify the police, all they can do is follow Taiwanese regulations to record, investigate and check for evidence at the scene of the accident.

Police do not make judgments on who is responsible for an auto accident.

According to Articles 9 and 10 of the Regulations Governing Road Traffic Cases, when police receive notice of a car accident, they will:

  1. Survey and record the time, location, persons, and vehicles involved in the incident.
  2. Investigate and photograph the scene of the accident, including the vehicles and roads, the impact on the vehicles, and whether the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

When you report an accident to the police, you are basically notifying them and waiting for them to arrive on scene and make a record. The document they produce, however, is only the initial draft of a traffic accident report and has no legal standing.

For example, the police may see serious damage to a car’s bodywork and report “heavy impact, possibly caused by speeding.” However, this is only a judgment from their first impression and it won’t hold up in court.

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Credit: Depositphotos
Sure, the police may have agreed at the scene that the other driver was at fault, but the judge has the final word.

If you really want an official accident liability appraisal of a traffic incident, you must apply to the city’s Traffic Adjudication Office (交通事故裁決所) or Traffic Accident Investigation Committee (行車事故鑑定委員會), depending on which city you’re in. Liability appraisals made by these organizations have legal effect and can be used by judges as references on which to base their decisions.

However, applying for an accident liability appraisal costs NT$3,000 (US$96.85). That may not seem like much on its own, but when compared with the damage caused by a car accident, it’s worth considering whether paying the fee is worth it!

Do you have to report a car accident, or can you settle the matter yourself?

It is best to report a case to the police whether it is serious or not. There are two reasons for this:

  1. Even though you wouldn’t apply for a liability appraisal after reporting a minor accident, you can still apply for the police report from the department after the accident. This way, if your settlement unfortunately ends up going to court, you will have one extra piece of evidence available.
  2. According to Article 3 of the Regulations on Vehicle Accident Liability and Reconsideration, if in the event that you want to apply for an official accident “liability appraisal” from the "Traffic Adjudication Office" or "Traffic Accident Investigation Committee," then the case must have been handled by the police. This means that if you have a car accident, make a record of the accident yourself, and try to privately negotiate and settle, then should those negotiations later fall through, you will not be able to ask those government organizations to help you evaluate liability.

Private settlement negotiations may encounter disputes about who was at greater fault, which often results in a breakdown of negotiations. If you must negotiate a settlement anyway, it is better to report the case first and apply for the appraisal so both sides can discuss terms knowing negotiations are happening on a fair and credible basis.

How should you make a record? What are the benefits of making one?

Police do not have to record all incidents. They are only required to record car accidents resulting in injury or death.

The police make records in accordance with requirements from both Article 41 and Article 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. When making an inquiry and examining someone accused of a crime, they must make a record of their statement and their behavior.

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Make sure you tell the police to make a record of your auto accident. They may not be required to.

You may find it strange to use the word “accused” to refer to a car accident. However, as long as a car accident causes injury, as mentioned in Article 284 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of China, then it comes under “criminal negligence” and can result in prison time.

For example, if the accused ran a red light or made an illegal left turn, causing an accident involving others on the road, a victim can press charges if they go to the police station and make a statement.

These records are admissible in court. If the prosecutor later decides to sue, the judge overseeing the case will check witness accounts in the record to make their judgment. Therefore, when giving evidence to the police, always be very careful and cautious when answering questions!

What are the police examination procedures? Can you have your lawyer present?

What if you are the accused? In that case, this is how police examinations usually work:

  1. You are given an identity examination, simply to confirm your identity.
  2. You are given a summary of the case filed against you, explaining why you have been summoned to make a record – usually for the crime of causing negligent injury.
  3. The part everyone sees in the movies: “You have the right to remain silent…” telling you that you do not have to make a statement against your own will.
  4. Finally, the line “You have the right to an attorney…” to remind you that you may retain a defense lawyer.

The examination will then begin. After you read over the transcript, they will ask you to confirm its content by signing the document.

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Credit: Depositphotos
In trouble? Don't make your statement to police until you have a lawyer present.

Article 100 of the Code of Criminal Procedure states that this entire process shall be recorded in full without interruption in audio and, if necessary, in video. You should not have to worry about someone tampering with audio or video evidence.

As for having a lawyer present – the police have already read you your rights to one, so there’s no need to be anxious about it! According to Article 27 of the same Code, it is not only a "defendant" in court who can retain a lawyer. You also have the right to an attorney at any time, even when being interrogated or examined by the police!

Your accompanying lawyer in the examination cannot answer the questions for you. But having a person who understands legal procedures sitting beside you will boost your morale as a defendant. Your lawyer can also protect you from interrogations meant to induce a confession and advise you on anything that may be unfavorable to you.

The police can provide you with the information about the accident

After a car accident, you can apply for the accident scene report draft from the police department!

According to Article 13 of the Regulations Governing Road Traffic Cases, the parties involved in the accident as well as benefactors or family members may obtain the following information from the police:

  1. At the scene of the accident, you can ask the police for the accident scene report draft so that you can later use it to apply for the official report and the accident liability appraisal.
  2. Seven days after the accident, you can apply for the Accident Scene Draft (Sketch) and Accident Scene Photographs from the police department.
  3. 30 days after the accident, you can apply for a preliminary Analysis of Accident Cause (however, this is not a useful document).

All these documents (aside from the last) are incredibly important. They will help you whether you are registering your insurance claims, using them as bargaining chips in settlements, or even deploying them as evidence in court. This is why it is recommended that you report the case to the police regardless of the severity of the accident!

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Credit: Depositphotos
You have the right to the accident files and photos kept on file by local police.

Therefore, if you ever find yourself in a car accident, do not panic.

The first step to take, once you have come to a stop, is to confirm whether there are injuries or casualties. The next step is to call 110 to notify the police so they can come to the scene to record the accident and re-direct traffic if necessary. You can apply for this report draft and other documents later on, after the statutory deadline, so that you will have those details if you need to obtain evidence or when you need to arrange a settlement.

Of course, if all of this still seems far too complicated to remember, that’s not a problem. Just ask your friendly neighborhood lawyer for help!

Read Next: CONFESSION: How I Became Complicit in Overworking Taiwan's Bus Drivers

This article first appeared on the Chinese-language Taiwan edition of The News Lens and can be found here.

Translator: Zeke Li

Editor: Nick Aspinwall (@Nick1Aspinwall)

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