Being injured while far from home is no one’s cup of tea. There’s the pain, the inconvenience, the cost and the sheer frustration. Why couldn’t it happen back home, where you at least have health care, sick leave and someone to look after you?
If you’re an Australian citizen injured while overseas, your rights will depend on the nature of the injury, the country you’re in, the standards of that country and the other parties involved.
Standards vary from country to country. For example, stairs that are deemed safe in one country may not meet the standards of another.
Let’s say you trip on some uneven stairs and break your leg while holidaying in Morocco. In this scenario it will be the Moroccan standards that are taken into consideration, not the Australian standards.
If you’re injured overseas due to the negligence of a company registered in Australia, you may be able to take action against that company in an Australian court. For example, if you sign up with an Australian tour group in Kenya and you were involved in an accident due to the tour company’s breach of duty of care, you may be able to claim against them.
For companies registered overseas, you need to go through that country’s legal system.
For accidents that occur in public places, the laws of the country you were in will generally apply. This includes what is recoverable and how much can be recovered.
Your lawyer will generally have the choice to litigate in that country or, if applicable, in the country where the defendants live or are registered. Your lawyer’s decision will be based on which jurisdiction is the most appropriate for your claim.
The best way to protect yourself while overseas is to take out adequate travel insurance. Don’t skimp: make sure your policy covers all your holiday activities. This will ensure that, at the very least, you can recoup your medical expenses.
Remember to read the fine print. Travel insurance does not usually cover:
- illness or injury caused by a pre-existing medical condition
- pregnancy-related costs
- injury from extreme sports, like bungee-jumping or white-water rafting
- loss or injury from acts of terrorism, war and some natural disasters
- claims for travel to areas where an official travel warning has been issued
- loss or theft of unattended luggage
- losses incurred due to the financial failure of an airline, hotel, travel operator or travel agent.
If you incur losses due to the financial failure of your travel operator or agent, you may be able to sue them if you can prove that the arrangements, understanding and responsibility were with an Australian company.
Help from home
No two cases are alike. Once you’ve sought medical attention, get in touch with a personal injury lawyer in Australia to obtain advice specific to your injury.
Some lawyers specialise in personal injuries sustained overseas. They can help you deal with foreign companies and maximise your travel insurance claim. They may also be able to help you find an overseas solicitor or agent.
When travelling overseas, a good rule of thumb is: if you’re not prepared to take the risk in Australia, don’t take the risk abroad. Chances are the laws in other countries are more relaxed than here, which means fewer protections for you.
So enjoy your holiday, but play it safe. Sightseeing is best done out and about on the street – not from the confines of a hospital bed.