Your Legal Options for Accidents & Injuries Overseas

Many Australians are now electing to spend their holidays abroad rather than holidaying in Australia, with flights more affordable and frequent than ever, why not? Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that a record number of 9.2 million Australian residents travelled overseas in the year ended June 2015. But what happens when not all goes to plan and you are involved in an accident overseas? We examine your rights should your injury be a result of negligence, the complication that exists with injuries overseas, and the importance of having travel insurance.

In the last 10 years international travel has seen to be on the rise, with Queensland residents recording the 3rd highest portion of travellers when compared to other states. The top 5 destinations for Australian travellers are, New Zealand, Indonesia, USA, Thailand and the UK.

Australians travel to these countries, and many other countries, for fun, adventure, and excitement. Accidents do occur however and many Australians are injured while on holiday overseas each year. For example, a few years ago, four people died, and 18 people were sent to hospital, after a whale watching vessel sank off the coast of British Columbia in Canada.

So, what are your rights if you have been injured overseas?

If you have taken out travel insurance you should be able to claim against your provider for them to cover the costs of your medical expenses. The Financial Ombudsman Service reports that in the 2012-13 financial year more than 200,000 travel insurance claims were paid, while less than 20,000 claims were declined, many of which boiled down to a misunderstanding of the policy by the person who bought it.

For those who do not elect to take out travel insurance you become personally liable for covering any medical or other costs resulting from unexpected incidents or accidents. Overseas medical costs can reach hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Depending on the circumstances of how your injury occurred you may also be able to bring a claim for negligence against the person/company that caused your injury. The difficulties with this is that you are subject to the laws of negligence of the country where the accident occurred. So for example, if you are injured in a car accident in Thailand then whether you are entitled to any compensation or not will depend upon the negligence laws of that country.

Despite your injury occurring overseas, and your claim being made against an overseas defendant, you may still be able to have the claim heard within the state in which you reside in Australia.

Some options for bringing a claim under Australian law for an accident that occurred overseas may include bringing a claim against the following:

  • Claim against the tour operator;
  • Claim against the company that organised an event you attended;
  • Claim against your employer if you were overseas as part of your employment.

Injuries overseas are a traumatic event not only for the people involved but their families back here in Australia as well. It is important to ensure that you are always covered for travel insurance, especially when travelling abroad. Accidents can happen and without travel insurance many Australians have faced financial hardship to cover the costs of their medical expenses.

When purchasing travel insurance you should ensure that the insurance covers you in the following circumstances:


  • Where you plan to go and what you plan to do;
  • Medical expenses for injury or illness;
  • Theft of valuables;
  • Damage to baggage;
  • Cancellations or interruptions to flights;
  • Covered for pre-existing medical conditions.

By ensuring your insurance covers these circumstances, you can travel with the knowledge you are covered in the event of something going wrong. This includes everything from losing luggage through to serious injury.

Often, especially on quick trips away, travellers weigh the need for travel insurance – it can seem like an expense extra that you may not even use. However, it is always better to be safe than sorry – especially in the event of something going seriously wrong.

We would encourage you to always purchase travel insurance, and to pay attention to the cover you select to ensure you are fully covered. In the event that something has happened to you or a loved one overseas, our lawyers are always available to have a chat about your rights and the best path forward. You can give us a call on 07 3009 7000, or submit any form on our site and we will call you.


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