Summer is here! If you are making travel plans, don’t forget to plan for safety first.
According to the World Health Organization, globally, there are 1.24 million road traffic deaths per year. For every person that dies in a road traffic crash, there are at least 20 others that sustain non-fatal injuries. Only 28 countries, covering 7% of the world’s population, have comprehensive road safety laws on five key risk factors: drinking and driving, speeding, and failing to use motorcycle helmets, seat-belts, and child restraints.
An injury can throw a serious wrinkle in your vacation. If you are traveling abroad, it is especially important to know what to do if you are hurt in a car wreck. Once you return home, you won’t be able to easily return to collect records or tie up any loose ends without incurring enormous expense.
- Luck favors the prepared.
No one wants to think that something bad will happen, but a little preparation can go a long way. Here are a few things to think about as you plan your trip:
Travel health insurance. Did you know that most health insurance plans don’t cover you once you leave the United States? If you’re planning a trip abroad, you should call your health insurance company and inquire about your international benefits and coverage. Your health insurance company may even offer an international plan that you can add for the dates you will be out of the country. Travel health insurance plans typically cost a few dollars a day for a single trip, and they may include coverage for things like emergency dental and pre-existing conditions. Travel health insurance can be very important in the event of a serious injury because international claims can be very complicated and it may be your best bet for relief.
911 Abroad. Not every country uses 911 like we do in the United States. Make sure you know the emergency number in the country you are visiting. For a handy reference list of emergency contact numbers in foreign countries, visit https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/students-abroad/pdfs/911_ABROAD.pdf.
Learn the Language. If you are going to be traveling to a non-English speaking country, you should take the time to learn a few key phrases in your host country’s primary language. It won’t do you any good to call emergency services if the operator doesn’t speak English. Before you leave, you should learn how to say the following emergency phrases. Write them down on a sheet of paper with the English translations and keep it in your pocket in case you forget them in an emergency.
- “I need a doctor.”
- “I need the police.”
- “I am hurt.”
- “My name is…”
- “I am located at…”
- “I am allergic to…”
- “I am lost.”
Educate Yourself. Before you leave, take a few minutes to do some research on your vacation destination. For example, if you are going to do a lot of walking, you should know the traffic laws and signals ahead of time. Know where the nearest hospital is located and which “bad areas” you should avoid. If the subway or bus maps are available online, you may consider researching your routes in advance.
Identification. Lastly, make copies of your driver’s license, passport, insurance cards, and a list of your medical providers. Put the copies somewhere in your luggage in case you lose your wallet. If you have a smart phone, you can also take pictures of them and keep them on your phone.
- Document, Document, Document!
Discovery is expensive in every lawsuit, but it can be doubly so if you have to conduct international or interstate discovery. Due to distance, language barriers, and different laws, it can be very difficult to collect the records you need to pursue your claim after you return home. This is especially true for photographs and witness testimony. You may not have the opportunity to return to the scene of the wreck to take pictures or talk to witnesses. If possible, take pictures at the scene of the wreck and take down the names, phone numbers, and email addresses of witnesses. You need to get the name, contact information, and insurance documentation from the at-fault party just like you would here in the United States. If the police arrive, ask them how you can get a copy of the report and try to get it before returning home. If you are taken to the hospital, ask for copies of your medical bills and records before you leave. Records collection can take months even for local injuries. Even if you have travel health insurance, you may have to pay for your medical services out of pocket and ask for a reimbursement. You will need copies of your bills and receipts to provide your insurance company and lawyers once you return home. Ideally, you will be able to collect the following information:
- Police report;
- Name and contact information for at-fault party;
- Witness names and contact information;
- Insurance information;
- Receipts for any out-of-pocket expenses for cutting your trip short (nonrefundable tickets, hotels, etc.); and
- Medical bills and records.
- Call Your Lawyer
If you were injured while on vacation, call a personal injury attorney. Many countries have laws that will allow you to receive compensation for your injuries, but international claims are very complicated. Foreign injuries can cause complex jurisdictional issues that an experienced attorney can help navigate. That means that, even though you are an American citizen, foreign laws may apply to your claim. If you have to file a lawsuit in a foreign country, it can be a complicated and costly process. You should seek an attorney who has a connection to the place where you were injured and who is familiar with the laws there.
- Sources and Helpful Links
911 Abroad: https://travel.state.gov/content/dam/students-abroad/pdfs/911_ABROAD.pdf.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Travel Insurance: http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2016/the-pre-travel-consultation/travel-insurance-travel-health-insurance-medical-evacuation-insurance
U.S. Passports & International Travel; Your Health Abroad: https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/health.html#healthy.html
International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers: https://www.iamat.org/
Association for Safe International Road Travel: http://www.asirt.org/
World Health Organization; Global status report on road safety 2015: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2015/en/
World Health Organization; The Current State of Global Road Safety: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2015/Section_1_GSRRS2015.pdf?ua=1
World Health Organization; Data: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2015/GSRRS2015_data/en/
World Health Organization; Drinking and Driving Laws by Country: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2015/TableA5.pdf?ua=1
World Health Organization; Mobile Phone Laws by Country: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2015/TableA8.pdf?ua=1
World Health Organization; Road Traffic Deaths and Proportion of Road Users by Country/Area: http://www.who.int/violence_injury_prevention/road_safety_status/2015/TableA2.pdf?ua=1