Personal injury claims are complex because they may involve unique instances and intricate legal rules. Before making a claim, the injury must be evaluated to determine its nature and extent. Attorneys proceed with this indispensable first step with the support of medical chart review companies that have the expertise to review the injured person’s medical chart and arrive at important conclusions regarding the seriousness of the injuries. A concern many Americans have is whether a personal injury claim can be made if they are injured while traveling abroad on business or pleasure. They may, in fact, have a remedy and the right to compensation for the injuries sustained if the accident is the responsibility of a third party. Moreover, in some countries they may even have the right to have at least some part of their attorney fees and expenses reimbursed by the responsible third party.
How Injuries Occur
Now, international travel has become easier and every year an increasing number of U.S. residents are traveling to places abroad for work and pleasure. You cannot rule out accidents during such travels. That is why people must be aware of the legal options they have in case such a situation arises, and take appropriate precautions before future travels.
Many Americans work overseas on oil rigs and vessels and may get injured in some foreign location. They may be able to file a claim in a United States court if they can show that they are not able to obtain a fair trial and adequate compensation in the country where the accident occurred. Maritime workers onboard an offshore drilling rig, barge, tugboat or ship may be injured in many ways such as the following:
- Falling objects
- Harsh weather conditions
- Lack of safety regulations
- Equipment failures
- Fires or explosions
- Human error
Maritime workers may be able to file their Jones Act maritime claim in the United States.
Now, let us consider the broader group of Americans injured abroad. They may be involved in auto accidents, slip and fall injuries and medical errors among other things. The following types of injuries and accidents almost certainly require a lawyer’s help.
- Severe injuries: The extent or seriousness of injuries is determined by the amount of the patient’s medical bills, the type of injury sustained, and the time required to recover.
- Exposure to toxic substances: Contaminants in the air, water, soil, and food products consumed make people sick. Claims based on exposure to contaminants are difficult to prove and may require sophisticated scientific data.
- Medical malpractice: If a person suffers an injury or illness following unprofessional, careless, or incompetent treatment from a doctor, nurse, clinic, hospital, lab or other medical provider the claims involves both medical and legal aspects.
International injury claims brought to the United States may be governed by either local laws where the injury took place, or by common tort laws in the U.S. The responsible third party in the foreign location may request forum non conveniens relief (i.e. the selected legal forum is not convenient for the company.) Forum non conveniens is a discretionary power that allows courts to dismiss a case where another court or forum is better suited to hear the case. This is typically requested with a view to get a dismissal. However, you cannot in all cases dismiss such claims. Businesses that have a local office in the U.S; or promotes its products/services in the local market; or meets other criteria may be asked to address the claim within a U.S. court. If a traveler suffers an injury associated with an American-based business operating abroad, he/she can file a claim against the business under applicable U.S. laws regardless of the jurisdiction where the incident took place.
Common Challenges to Filing Foreign Claims
- It is difficult to investigate and build a case that occurred beyond borders. Foreign witnesses cannot be forced to come to the United States for the claim. It is challenging even to identify foreign witnesses to an accident. Since accident reporting standards and the way police functions vary across countries, it will be difficult to obtain meaningful accident reports.
- The U.S. attorney handling the claim must understand the location of the accident, courts, and the laws that are relevant in the case.
- Another difficulty stems from the legal waivers traveling Americans may have signed with tourist companies and foreign excursion businesses. Legal indemnity clauses included in the waiver and the particular nature of the circumstances may make it difficult to file a claim.
Personal injury attorneys work hard to establish the severity of the injury with expert opinion from providers of medical review solutions, and secure maximum compensation for their clients. An experienced international attorney can help the injured party understand the laws that apply in his/her situation. Injury laws are different in different countries, with some offering more recovery options than others. Meanwhile, Americans traveling abroad should ideally invest in international travel insurance for both business and leisure trips. They must also have a clear idea regarding how their health plan would cover an injury, and if necessary consider additional coverage to be on the safe side.