If you suffer an injury abroad knowing what to do might help to alleviate your stress and worry. In the most serious of cases, it could prove to be the difference between life and death.
Dealing with a personal injury can be traumatic at the best of times. When you’re travelling abroad and not quite sure what to do, it only makes matters worse.
Hopefully, this article will give you practical advice and tips to follow so that you know what to do if you’re injured abroad.
Who should I contact in an emergency?
The emergency services: In most countries, dialling either 112 or 911 will connect you to the emergency services.
Most mobile phones now have 999, 112, and 911 pre-programmed as emergency numbers which are always available. If a country has a specific emergency number that is different from these, some SIM cards and mobile phone operators will automatically divert emergency calls from 999, 112 or 911 straight to the relevant number.
Before travelling, it is a good idea to research the local emergency number and save it in your phone’s contacts book before you arrive.
The nearest embassy: If you suffer an injury abroad and are admitted to hospital, ensure that the nearest embassy is notified as soon as possible.
If you’re in hospital because of an assault or another crime committed against you (including a motoring offence), expect a representative to visit you as soon as possible. Also ensure that you report the incident to the local police.
Otherwise, the embassy will usually contact you within 24 hours of your admittance. If appropriate, someone should also visit you within 48 hours.
If necessary, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) will contact your family or loved ones on your behalf. Where needed, they will also liaise with your insurance company.
Will I pay for healthcare?
When on holiday in the European Union (EU), you’re entitled to receive healthcare for free or at a reduced cost with a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
Under the EHIC, you’ll receive treatment as if you were a national living in the country where you suffered your injury. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that you should expect to be treated as you would be in the UK. Often you will have to pay for some part of your treatment.
It is always advisable to also take out travel insurance because an EHIC, which is usually valid for up to five years, does not always cover the entire treatment costs. It definitely won’t cover the cost of getting you back home – known as repatriation.
Hopefully, you will never need to use medical facilities abroad. But if you are injured or involved in an accident, expect to pay the full cost of any medical treatment yourself – even if you have insurance.
The usual process is to pay for treatment and claim it back later, which is why it’s important to know what level of care you’re entitled to under your insurance policy.
If you are seriously injured, the insurance company will take care of the repatriation process to minimise any hospital stays.
What should I do next?
Once you have received appropriate medical attention, it is important to take a two-step approach to help discover the exact circumstances of what happened.
Step 1: Gather evidence
- Write down what happened to cause your injury in as much detail as you can.
- If possible, try to take photographs of the scene of the incident and evidence of any damage.
- Get the names, addresses or contact details of any witnesses so they can be contacted in future.
- If possible, take photographs of your injuries before and after medical treatment.
- Record the dates when you visited a doctor, clinic or hospital.
- Obtain a copy of the doctor’s official written report, including details of your injuries.
- Make a note of any days where you changed plans because of the accident.
- Keep any receipts for accident-related expenses, including medical expenses.
Step 2: Report the incident
- Report your incident to the package holiday organiser or their resort representative.
- If there is no rep, contact the organiser’s UK head office to report the incident.
- Always report the incident and any injuries suffered to the accommodation provider or hotel where you’re staying.
- Ensure the incident is properly recorded in the accident book and ask for a copy of the entry.
- If you’re involved in a road traffic accident abroad, always report the incident to the local police.
- Contact your travel insurance provider, if you have one. They will advise about your medical and legal situation.
- Never admit liability or engage in any correspondence without the advice of a qualified solicitor or lawyer that specialises in this area of the law.
Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)
What they do: The FCO will provide contact information for the nearest British embassy or consulate and may liaise with local police and emergency services. If required, the FCO will arrange emergency travel documents for your safe return to the UK.
Tel: 020 7008 1500
Address: Room K4.10 – K4.13, King Charles Street, London, SW1A 2AH
Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA)
What they do: ABTA provides support to holidaymakers who have booked through their members, who must abide by a Code of Conduct about how customer complaints are handled.
Tel: 020 3117 0599
Address: 30 Park Street, London, SE1 9EQ
Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO)
What they do: AITO represents independent tour operators and members are required to arrange financial protection for all holidays and other arrangements.
Tel: 020 8744 9280
Address: 18 Bridle Lane, Twickenham, Middlesex, TW1 3EG
What should I do once I’m home?
Sometimes the full impact of an injury abroad only becomes apparent once you’ve returned home to the UK.
Often, an injury can leave you unable to work and facing a potential loss of earnings. Sometimes you incur further expenses in order to receive essential rehabilitation or ongoing care.
In the most serious cases, you might need to pay for adaptations to be made to your home as a result of the injury’s impact on your health and lifestyle.
If your accident was caused by someone else’s negligence you may be entitled to compensation for the pain and suffering you’ve been forced to endure. You can also claim compensation for loss of enjoyment if an injury left you unable to appreciate the rest of your holiday.
To bring a successful holiday claim, you must be able to prove that your injuries were caused by the negligent actions or behaviour of another party, such as the tour operator or hotel staff.
This could have been as a result of your hotel or accommodation being badly maintained or in a dangerous condition, or if you were not sufficiently warned about possible accident risks by an event organiser.
Obviously, you cannot claim any compensation if an injury or accident was your fault. But on some occasions the victim is left so shocked by the incident that they are actually unsure who was to blame until they’ve got home and had chance to reflect on the circumstances.
Once you’ve returned to the UK after an injury abroad, it’s important to get legal advice from an experienced solicitor as they can help you carefully consider whether to take legal action based on the strength of your case.
Holiday injury claims can be complex and each different country has its own rules and regulations in relation to personal injury cases. There are also time limits for making a claim, ranging from within a year of the accident up to 10 years.