Getting injured is pretty awful. What can make an injury even worse is if you’re alone in a foreign country when it happens. You might be completely lost about what you need to do, who you can turn to for help, and what this help is going to end up costing you. Every country has its own medical standards and system, and even in situations where you don’t need medical attention, you might still need a place to rest and recover. The following will explore a few key components of injuries that take place in a foreign country through a legal lens.
Don’t Sign Things
First and foremost, if you’ve been injured in a foreign country, do not sign anything. Don’t sign a sheet given to you by the trekking adventure company that you were with when you got hurt. Don’t sign anything from your travel insurance or health insurance provider. Don’t sign anything from law enforcement. You need to speak to personal injury attorneys before you take any action. This is especially important if you’ve been presented with a document in a foreign language. It doesn’t matter if a translator sits beside you and verbally walks you through what the document contains. Don’t sign it.
In almost every legal situation, people have several options. Once one of these options is pursued or accepted, a person is often legally unable to change their mind and take an alternative route should they discover it’s more suited to them or their situation. For this reason, you need to speak to a legal professional who can outline every possibility for you before you take action. Yes, you might be eager to have a solution quickly, but rushing isn’t going to help protect you and your best interests.
Document The Injury
As soon as you are able to, take photos of everything related to the injury—wide shots, medium shots, and close-ups of each aspect of the whole. Feel free to ask someone nearby for a full body photo if that’s needed, but please don’t ask someone who could be at fault for the accident that caused the injury; look for another tourist who happens to be nearby. You also want to take photos of the injury itself, getting up close to any details like redness, swelling, or discoloration, and write down any symptoms that occur, even if they feel unrelated. This evidence might be needed for legal purposes at some point, and you don’t want to be without them.
Call home as soon as you’re able and explain the situation to family or friends. You also want to contact a lawyer from your home country and ensure that your emergency contact and the lawyer are able to contact one another.
An attorney from your own country can provide a recommended course of action depending on the severity of the injury and what needs you have. They may simply walk you through the insurance claims process to help ensure you get appropriate compensation (insurance companies are famous for trying to give you as little as possible). They might put you in contact with a lawyer in the country you’re in that’s trustworthy and able to communicate in the language you most prefer. They might have additional recommendations for your own safety that you need to follow depending on the type of injury and how it was sustained.
Speak To Your Accommodation Provider
Depending on what kind of accommodation you have, you might be able to get some support from your accommodation as you make your plans. Hotels tend to have staff who have experienced a wide array of tourist problems in the past. They might be able to provide things like extra pillows or room service that can help make the situation easier for you. There might be a staff elevator that you can use if the stairs are too much for you. Sometimes hotels also have connections with local services like a doctor who is multilingual. There’s no harm in asking, but again, don’t sign anything with anyone until you’ve talked to a lawyer.
Seek Medical Attention
You likely will have to pay for medical attention out of pocket. Even in situations where your private health insurance covers the injury, and you wish to use your policy after speaking to a lawyer, you can often expect delays as money is transferred and moved. There are some countries, of course, that offer free medical care to everyone, even tourists. Vietnam is one example of this. This being said, you need to keep detailed records of all expenses accrued as part of your injury. This could include travel time, medications purchased, and any medical appointments attended. Take notes throughout the whole process, and don’t forget to ask for copies of anything the doctor writes down. You might need to prove that you sought medical attention and were given a diagnosis and treatment plan.
The above information should help you take the right steps if you’ve been injured while in a foreign country. Injuries are never fun, but they’re made a whole lot worse if you haven’t received the proper care or compensation for them, extending the negative repercussions of them into the future.
Look Up Your Home Government’s Travel Site
Most governments have a location online where they post details about traveling, like restrictions and recommendations. These pages are updated regularly—sometimes even daily—and so they can inform you of what’s going on internationally if your injury was the result of a large-scale event. These sites often have step-by-step instructions for dealing with certain kinds of emergencies. Often there are helplines and contact information you might need as well. This is particularly important if you’ve sustained an injury due to a political scenario or a natural disaster.
The above information should help you deal with an injury sustained abroad. It’s important to reiterate that every nation is different, and this means the services available and legal standards are going to vary wildly from country to country. No amount of online research is going to replace legal counsel from a professional who has been made aware of the details of your situation.