Sophie Hamilton Senior Associate
What to do if you suffer an accident or illness whilst abroad
As the world starts to open up again following the pandemic, for many of us our thoughts are now turning to holidays abroad, whether for an adventure like climbing or skiing, or simply to sit on a beach or by a pool in the sun.
With the UK no longer part of the EU and travel restrictions easing, it seems like a good time to remind you about preparing to be safe while away and what to do if the worst happens.
What to do before you travel:
- It is now more important than ever to think carefully about travel insurance and what would happen if you were injured abroad. The requirements have always varied depending on the country you are visiting outside the EU, but post-Brexit it may also vary depending on which country in Europe you are visiting. Also, remember that if you are planning to do ‘adventure activities’ on holiday, or if you are older or have a chronic health condition, you may need specialist travel insurance.
- If travelling in Europe any existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will remain valid until the expiry date on the card. If you have rights under the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement you can apply for a new EHIC. If not, you can now apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). Both are free of charge and can be applied for up to six months before your current card expires. You can use your card to access medically necessary state-provided healthcare in any EU country or in Switzerland. This covers emergency treatment and A&E visits. However, it is important to remember that not all state healthcare is free within the EU and Switzerland, the scheme does not cover repatriation costs, and of course your EHIC or GHIC will give you no rights in non-EU countries. You must therefore always make sure you have travel insurance as well, whichever country you are travelling to.
- If you are taking your car abroad, or hiring a car whilst overseas there are a number of requirements you need to be aware of:
- You must remember to take your driving licence with you, checking that it has not expired and will not expire whilst you are away;
- If you are taking your own vehicle, you need to take your logbook (V5C) and your motor insurance certificate. Remember also to check what your insurance covers whilst you are driving abroad and whether you need a green card;
- Depending on which country you’re visiting and for how long, you may need an international driving permit. You don’t need one for driving in the EU or some other European countries if you have a photocard driving licence issued in the UK, but you might if you only have a paper licence or a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man;
- Finally, check the driving rules for the country you are visiting. For example, they may require you to have extra equipment such as a reflective jacket and/or warning triangle. Even if you are hiring a car, it is your responsibility to check that you have the equipment you need.
Organisations such as the RAC or Greenflag have a lot of very useful information and checklists on their websites, as does the GOV.UK website.
What to do if you are injured in an accident or get ill abroad:
Should the worst happen and you are injured or get ill whilst abroad, the help you are entitled to and the compensation you can claim may differ depending on how you travelled:
- If you booked a package holiday you will be protected by The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018. This potentially allows you to bring a claim against your package holiday provider in the English and Welsh courts.
- If you travel independently, booking flights, accommodation and activities separately, you will have to use the legal system of the country where the injury happened. This may mean having to use a local lawyer and conduct proceedings in the local language. This will not only increase costs but may mean you are entitled to a lower level of compensation than in English and Welsh law.
Furthermore, there are some general steps you can take which will be helpful if you need to make a legal claim irrespective of which way you travelled:
- If you need help getting medical treatment, you should contact your insurance company immediately. If you are on a package holiday, there should be someone at your hotel or resort who can help. Sometimes, it may be appropriate to contact the local British Consul where staff can offer practical advice and help with things such as finding a doctor;
- If you need medical treatment for any injury or illness, try and get copies of your medical records and note down the name and address of the hospital and the dates of your treatment. Also, keep receipts or invoices for any treatment and medication and for any travel expenses such as taxi fares;
- If you think your accident or illness was caused by your hotel or accommodation and you want to make a claim for personal injury, as soon as practicable start gathering detailed evidence for the claim; this information will be much harder to get once you have returned home. This could include the date and time of the accident, photographs and/or video of the accident location, measurements if appropriate and witness contact details;
- Similarly, if you are involved in a crash abroad, it’s important to gather as much information as possible. Make sure you exchange details with the other party involved, including the other driver’s vehicle details, registration and a contact number. Take photographs and/or videos of the scene if safe to do so and gather the contact details of any witnesses. Also make a note of the date and time the accident happened. Finally, if appropriate, contact the local police and get a copy of their report or reference number.
- If you fell ill with food poisoning or similar, note what you ate and where for the days leading up to the illness. If possible, find out if anyone else at the same resort or hotel was also ill and take their contact details.
- It is important to report any accident or illness to a representative of your tour company and/or hotel staff as soon as possible. They should record the incident formally and provide a copy of this for your records.
- Finally, make sure you keep your booking details for the trip and any receipts or invoices for the cost of the holiday.
It is important to get legal advice as soon as possible. We can advise you on the information to be gathered and any time limits which apply to lodging a claim, which could be shorter than the time limit under English law (usually three years from the date of the accident).
Our team of Personal Injury solicitors have expertise in dealing with accidents and illness abroad and can guide you through every step of your claim, so please don't hesitate to contact us today for an initial free consultation.
Please note that this article has been prepared for informational purposes only. The information above is not and should not be taken to be legal advice. You should not take action or omit to take action based on this information.