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What to do if you're injured abroad


Suffering an injury while travelling overseas can be extremely stressful. Being far from family and friends, it can be daunting to seek medical treatment in an unfamiliar country where language barriers may arise.

In addition to disrupting your travel plans, sustaining an injury abroad can see you facing enormous bills due to the cost of medical treatment and possible need for an evacuation. It’s important to have travel insurance to cover yourself for these costs. If your injury overseas was caused through no fault of your own, there are some important steps to take to ensure the best outcome for yourself and your compensation.

Injured abroad? Here's what to do next:

1. Seek immediate treatment

Whether you’re affected by a life-threatening condition or your injuries are less severe, your first step should be to seek appropriate medical attention as soon as possible.

Some people are reluctant to obtain medical treatment whilst injured overseas and feel uncomfortable seeking help, which can impact your health. If language is an issue or you’re unsure of where to seek medical attention, ask a travel companion, your tour guide, hotel concierge or hostel manager.

If you have travel insurance, you should contact your insurer quickly to advise them of your injuries and seek guidance as to where you should go to receive the appropriate care. Depending on your coverage and policy, it may also give you comfort knowing that your travel insurance company will be covering your medical costs while you are injured abroad.

The Australian Government also has a 24-hour emergency consular line that you can call or text to receive advice on local English-speaking hospitals or medical professionals in your area. Call +61 2 6261 3305, or SMS +61 421 269 080 for advice.

2. Document your injuries

If you do have a legal claim, it’s important that you have sufficient evidence to prove your claim. It is therefore important to document in as much detail as possible where and how you were injured overseas and any other information relating to the cause of the accident. If you can, organise for photographs to be taken of the accident site and obtain the names, addresses and contact numbers of witnesses to the incident. In the event that liability is disputed, having photographs of the accident site and/or witness statements supporting your version of events could be the deciding factor in your claim.

It’s important to obtain this information as soon as possible, so your legal team can obtain statements and other evidence to support your claim.

3. Request copies of any medical documents while abroad

If you do have a legal claim in relation to an overseas injury, your lawyers may also need copies of your medical and hospital records relating to the treatment you received for your injuries.

Obtaining documents relating to injuries that occur overseas can be a long and drawn-out process. Asking for a copy of your file to be printed while you are there can save months of delay. You should also obtain copies of any medical records relating to your treatment, such as general practitioner records or hospital records, before leaving the country, preferably before checking out of the hospital.

4. Keep all of your receipts for out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of your injury overseas

As part of your claim, you should be able to recover compensation under various categories of damages, including special damages such as compensation for past out-of-pocket expenses. This may include receipts and invoices for medical treatment, medical investigations/tests, medication, medical-related travel, extra accommodation due to your injuries, rescheduled flights and the hire of medical equipment.

It’s vital to keep all relevant receipts and paperwork so copies can be provided as evidence to substantiate your claim.

5. Report the accident to the relevant authorities/parties

It’s important that you notify the relevant authorities of the incident when you're injured abroad, whether it be the local police to report the incident or notifying your resort that you sustained on injury on their premises. Ensuring that the incident is properly reported at the time it occurred will assist you in the future. It’s also a good idea to obtain copies of any incident reports that are completed.

6. Visit your own doctor when you get home

As soon as you return home, it is crucial that you consult your own doctor and advise them of the incident and the injuries that you sustained whilst overseas. This will give your doctors the chance to check on your progress and continue your treatment if needed.

Contact Shine Lawyers

Injured while travelling overseas? You may have a claim for compensation. Shine Lawyers' travel law experts can assist. The travel law team will be able to advise you on your rights regarding your injuries abroad and help you navigate unfamiliar legal systems.

It is important to note that many countries have different limitation dates stipulating when you must commence your claim in the Courts. If you miss your limitation date you may be barred from pursuing your claim at a later time, so it is important that you get the right advice as soon as possible.

Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: February 5, 2020.

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