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Monday, 7 March 2016

What do I do if I have an accident while backpacking?

Every year thousands of young (and not so young) people set off on far-flung travel adventures toting only a backpack and a passport, hoping to return with a collection of travellers’ tales and anecdotes of adventure. And while it’s an incredible experience travelling to another country and exploring another culture, it still carries risks.

Every year a significant number of backpackers come back from their travels – sometimes before they’d planned to – with a broken bone, sunstroke or food poisoning instead of just the usual souvenir t-shirts and interesting batik scarves.

Research carried out in 2015 revealed that 4.4 million Brits had been injured on holiday in the previous 3 years.

Planning ahead can reduce the likelihood of an accident. Knowing what to do if you or someone you’re travelling with is ill or injured can be a lifesaver.
If you or someone you are travelling with is hurt in an accident, you should seek medical assistance before you do anything else.

Contact the local emergency services. If this is not possible, go to a hospital or other medical centre to get yourself checked out. There may be reciprocal agreements in place between the country you are visiting and the UK enabling you to receive treatment without paying. It would be worth checking out the locations of hospitals and health facilities before you go, so if something were to happen, you know where you need to get to.

1. Contact your insurance provider
You should inform your travel insurer about what has happened as soon as possible. Often the small print includes an obligation to notify the insurer of the accident with minimal delay. Some insurers stipulate that you must notify them within 24 hours. Failure to do so can disqualify you from making a claim on your insurance. 

2. Contact friends or family
You may feel that you don’t want to worry your friends or family unduly. However you may need assistance and putting others on notice will help them help you if you need it.

3. Contact the British Embassy
Depending on the severity of the injury, you may wish to establish contact with the relevant British Embassy. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office are able to contact your insurer and family if you are unable to do so. They can even help with repatriation flights if necessary. The government maintains a list of country specific travel advice that includes contact details for all Foreign and Commonwealth Offices.

4. Get copies of everything
This is very important if you are to have any chance of seeking compensation.
At the hospital, get copies of all documents, receipts etc. It’s particularly important to get a copy of the report from the doctor or other medical practitioner, confirming what has happened and the nature of your injury. Get a copy of the hospital admission report if you are admitted. 

Getting compensation
If you are injured as a result of somebody else’s negligence or recklessness, most countries have a legal system that will allow you to seek financial compensation. You may have incurred significant medical and other expenses as a result of the accident. You may even need ongoing care or medication. Compensation is typically awarded to help injured people to recover and pay for any ongoing treatment.

In the UK, an injured person can usually initiate a compensation claim up to 3 years after the date of discovery of the injury. Many other countries operate on a different basis. For example if you have an accident in Malaysia you can claim up to 6 years after the accident, where in China you would only have 1 year.
This handy injury claim time calculator can calculate time limitation dates in different countries.
Whichever country the accident occurs in, the process of seeking compensation will be broadly the same. It will be necessary to demonstrate that:
  • Another party was negligent in some way,
  • That an injury was sustained and;
  • That the injury was as a result of the other party’s negligence.
It is therefore critical that, if you can, you collate as much evidence of the accident as possible.
Examples of supporting include evidence photographs of the accident scene or cause of the accident, police reports and photocopies of accident books. These will greatly assist your case.
You should also keep all bills and receipts for costs you incur as a result of the accident as these will be reclaimable as part of the claim.

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