If you’re planning a trip overseas, then the last thing you’ll want to think about is what to do if something goes wrong.
Unfortunately, it’s a sad fact that each and every year, thousands of people are injured in accidents abroad – and these can be caused for a number of very different reasons. That said, however they’re caused, they’re never pleasant to deal with so it’s important you know what to do in the unfortunate event that you need to make a claim.
Thankfully – and much like here, in the UK – there are certain laws in place to help those people who have suffered loss reclaim any damages they may have suffered, together with any associated compensation.
In this article, we take a look at what you might need to claim for and more specifically, how to do it.
How do the laws work?
If you’re travelling abroad, then you usually have two ways of doing it – either independently or as part of a package holiday.
If you’ve travelled as part of a package holiday, then it’s most likely you’ll be able to make a claim against your tour operator since these are protected by the Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992.
In order to qualify as a “package holiday” you must have booked at least two separate elements of your travel with the same operator – for example, flights and accommodation.
To bring a successful claim against your tour operator, your accident needs to have happened either at your hotel complex or alternatively, during an excursion or through an alternative holiday service that was provided as part of your package (for example, an evening cruise or coach trip to a capital city).
If you’ve travelled abroad independently (i.e. by booking the flights and accommodation yourself), then you’ll still be protected by general consumer law.
What will I need to prove to bring a successful claim?
To make a successful claim you’ll first need to prove that the accident wasn’t your fault.
For example, if you’ve suffered a cracked skull whilst diving into the hotel’s swimming pool which clearly displayed a sign saying “No diving” then neither the hotel nor the holiday operator can be held responsible since you broke the hotel’s safety rules which were adequately and clearly communicated to you.
On the other hand, if you’re able to prove that another party was responsible for your accident – for example, the hotel complex that you stayed in – then you should be able to bring a perfectly valid claim and be compensated for your loss.
If you suffer an accident abroad there are certain requirements you’ll need to comply with. These include the following:-
- Firstly, seek any medical assistance you might need and ensure you keep full details of this – for example, the name and address of the hospital or GP you went to, what type of treatment you received and what (if any) prescriptive drugs were given to you. Also be sure to keep a note of any expenses incurred for the treatment, even travel expenses to and from the hospital, since you’ll be able to claim these back in due course.
- At the earliest opportunity you should report the accident to your tour operator (either via their nominated representative at the resort, or through their head office in the UK). If you’re travelling independently then you should direct this communication to the hotel’s management and ask them to acknowledge the same in writing (since this can then be produced in evidence, if necessary). If the accident happened on the hotel’s premises, then ensure that an appropriate note is made in their accident book and obtain a copy of it for your own records.
- If the accident was due to criminal activity (for example, mugging or theft) then also be sure to report it to the local police station and again obtain evidence of having done so.
- You should also report the incident or accident to your travel insurance company who, in turn, will be able to assist you with any subsequent claim, even whilst you’re still abroad. For this reason, it’s always advisable to print a copy of your insurance certificate off before you leave the UK and keep a copy with you at all times, together with a note on how to make a claim and who to notify.
- If there are any witnesses to your accident then ask them, at the very least, to provide their full contact details so that either you or your insurer can contact them for a statement once you return to the UK. Alternatively, if the police get involved they might take their own witness statements. If this is the case (you know the rule!) – get a copy of them!
- Where applicable, you should also take photographic evidence to support your claim, ideally be backed up with rough sketches, so that your insurer has a very clear picture of where you were at the time the accident occurred. If your accident was caused by a trip, slip or fall, be sure to take photographs of whatever caused the accident and, where possible, get a clear measurement of it. If you don’t have a ruler or tape measure (which you most likely won’t!), then make a simple comparison by using an everyday object such as a lighter, box of matches or even your own thumb. The main thing is to be clear on the size of the object(s) in question.
What types of accident can I claim for?
You can generally claim for any type of accident, regardless of how it might have occurred. These include (but are certainly not limited to) the following types of accidents:
- Slips, trips and falls
If you sustain any type of injury as a result of a trip, slip or fall (for example, at your hotel accommodation, on public transport or a cruise ship) then you should be entitled to make a claim.
- Sporting accidents
Whilst it perhaps goes without saying that most type of sporting activities carry at least some element of risk, you should be able to expect standard precautions to be in place. Consequently, if you have good reason to suspect that the organiser of your sporting accident failed to take adequate precautions to ensure your safety, then you should consider filing an accident claim if this causes any manner of injury.
NB: If you’re going a holiday specifically with a sporting activity in mind (for example, skiing, abseiling or horse riding), then you should notify your insurer of this before you travel to ensure that you’re adequately covered should anything go wrong.
- Road traffic accidents
- Accidents at sea
Claims can also be brought against any water sport activities, such as jet-skiing, deep sea diving, power boat rides and self-hire vessels.
- Medical negligence
Given the rising cost of certain surgeries within the UK, more and more people are now being drawn to other countries for certain medical procedures (including cosmetic surgery). However, these operations can often go wrong and claims can be duly be brought for medical/professional negligence.
- Assault, theft, muggings, robbery and terrorist attacks
In the unfortunate event that you’re attacked whilst on holiday, then you may be able to claim for assault, theft, robbery, sexual assault and so on. Without doubt, any type of assault can prove to be a life-changing experience and can even result in a serious injury; hence you may be able to make a claim for this and gain the associated compensation to help you get your life back on track once you return to the UK.
What can I claim for?
Once you get home you’ll need to start pursuing your claim and negotiating a settlement deal.
If your accident was caused either by the tour operator or local holiday staff then you may be able to claim compensation for loss of enjoyment of your holiday, together with out-of-pocket expenses (such as prescription charges, transport costs and so on) and, if your accident was serious, then you may also be able to claim loss of earnings for any time you might have to take off work as a result of the accident.
Since most people travel abroad for personal enjoyment and a bit of relaxation it can be quite frustrating if you need to make a claim; particularly during a time when you might not speak the local language or be familiar with your surroundings.
Put simply, having an accident abroad (of whatever type) doesn’t just spoil your holiday but can also cause serious financial hardship – especially if you need to pay for any medical treatment up front, as can often be the case, particularly in most parts of America.