Being in an accident is always a traumatic experience. Being injured abroad is still more frightening, because it means going through all that stress without the usual support network, and without being able to go straight home to recuperate. In this situation it’s easy to feel overwhelmed, but panicking doesn’t help. There are practical things that can be done to make things better. Armed with knowledge of what to do, it’s much easier to manage the situation and come out of it as well as possible.
Just in case
Although getting injured abroad is unlikely, it’s always worth preparing before setting off on a trip, just in case. Knowing that this has been done makes it easier to relax and enjoy the trip.
The most important thing to be certain of before leaving is insurance. Individual insurance policies can take quite different approaches to foreign travel, so it’s important to make sure that adequate provision is in place. Sometimes this will mean buying an extension to an existing policy. This isn’t usually very expensive and it’s a great deal cheaper than meeting medical costs directly if something serious goes wrong.
Alongside this, it’s useful to learn a few phrases suitable for use in an emergency, like the local words for help and I’m hurt. Travelers with medical conditions should learn the words they need to describe them and the generic names for any medication they need, as brand names vary between countries. It’s also a good idea to carry a doctor’s letter explaining what the medication is and what it is for—this can help to reduce delays in customs.
How to get help
If an accident happens and it isn’t so serious that an ambulance is summoned immediately, it’s important to know how to find medical help. Most hotels can recommend someone and larger hotels will usually be able to find a doctor who speaks English or arrange for a translator to assist. Alternatively, travelers can look out for the Red Cross symbol that indicates a clinic or hospital, the green cross that indicates a pharmacy or the Red Crescent, which is the equivalent of the Red Cross in Middle Eastern countries.
Most countries provide urgent medical assistance without requiring payment up front, though it’s a good idea to have a credit card in case. It will usually be possible to cover the cost of any treatment not covered by insurance later in installments if necessary.
In some countries, small, local pharmacies are very unreliable and may try to pass off fake drugs as the real thing, so it’s always best to get prescriptions filled at a hospital or a large urban pharmacy.
If further assistance or language support is required, the best thing to do is to contact the nearest embassy.
Managing the paperwork
When treated for injuries abroad, it’s important to save related documents. The doctor in charge should be able to provide a medical report and it’s normally possible to get copies of any scans or x-rays, though there may be a charge for this. It’s also advisable to get receipts for any related expenses, such as prescription charges or transport to and from a hospital, as it may be possible to reclaim money spent on these things.
People who are injured abroad in accidents that are other people’s fault can claim for compensation just as they could at home. To stand a good chance of success, however, they will need to collect all the evidence they can straight away. This could include a police report on the accident, the contact details of any witnesses and, if possible, photographs that help to show what happened or simply show the place where the accident took place. This will allow a solicitor to investigate later and build up a good compensation case.
It isn’t necessary to use a foreign lawyer in order to claim for an accident abroad—an ordinary Las Vegas personal injury attorney can do the job. Time limits for claims vary by country so it’s important to get the case moving as soon as possible after getting home.
A successful compensation claim can cover not only damages and any earnings lost due to not being able to go straight back to work on returning home, but also the costs associated with cutting short travel plans. This could potentially make it possible to have a replacement vacation, making up for much of the distress caused by the accident by providing a fresh opportunity for enjoyment.