When you get hurt in unfamiliar legal territory
This guest post is provided by our friends at the U.K. personal injury practice Smith Jones. We hope you enjoy the perspective they bring on accident law for when you are traveling outside the U.S.!
Traveling abroad can be both an exciting and stressful experience. First, there’s all of that packing, and you have to make sure that you haven’t forgotten anything. You’ll probably check hundreds of times and still forget something.
Once you make it to the U.K., you want to make the most out of your trip, so you try to see everything.
But while you are having the time of your life, you suddenly hurt yourself -- what do you do now?
Look at the facts first. Were you hurt because of the negligence of another party? Did you slip in a store and there was no “wet floor sign” present? The United Kingdom has a “duty of care” law similar to that of the United States.
The first element of negligence is the legal duty of care. This concerns the relationship between the defendant and the claimant, which must be such that there is an obligation upon the defendant to take proper care to avoid causing injury to the plaintiff in all the circumstances of the case.
There are two ways in which a duty of care may be established:
- The defendant and claimant are within one of the recognised relationships in which a duty of care is established.
- If outside these relationships, according to the principles developed by case law.
The principles set in Caparo v. Dickman specify a type of test:
- Was the harm reasonably foreseeable?
- Was there a requisite degree of proximity between the claimant and the defendant?
- Is it fair, just and reasonable to impose a duty of care?
- Are there precluding public policy concerns?
There are a number of distinct and recognisable situations in which the courts recognise the existence of a duty of care. Examples include:
- One road-user to another
- Employer to employee
- Manufacturer to consumer
- Doctor to patient
- Solicitor to client
- Teacher to student
When a property owner fails in his or her duty to assure that guests aren’t unnecessarily harmed and as a result a person lawfully upon the property is injured, the property owner becomes liable for the injured person’s medical bills and related costs.
There is a condition to this. While property owners may be liable for injuries and resulting damages caused by their negligence, an injured person must be able to show the following to establish negligence:
- The property owner had a legal duty to protect the guest from undue harm or injury from dangerous defects in the property.
- The property owner knew or should have known the dangerous defect on the property existed.
- With that actual or constructive notice, the property owner failed to repair or remove the dangerous defect.
- The guest was injured, and that injury resulted in medical bills and related damages.
Damages can include the following:
- Medical bills, including diagnostic tests such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computer Axial Tomography (CT Scans).
- Out-of-pocket expenses for items such as prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, bandages, costs of travel to and from treatment, parking fees, prorated gasoline costs, slings, crutches, wheelchairs, etc.
- Lost wages from being unable to work.
- Pain and suffering
On the other hand, if just minutes before you slipped, a worker spilled some water and was about to clean it up, then it can be said the business was not negligent, as within a very short time after the spill the employee was taking measures to clean up the spill.
However, if you heard about the establishment from an advertisement or brochure, then it can be successfully argued that the business that advertised the establishment can be held responsible for your injuries and resulting damages. In the alternative, if the restaurant advertised they were affiliated with the business, then they would also be liable.
Most resorts offer on-site activities in order for the tourist to have a good time and enjoy their stay. However, the physical sides of these activities could be a liability for the establishment.
Some danger zones include:
- Hotel swimming pools/hotel beach
- Boat and other watercraft trips
- Guided city tours
- Tourist attractions
- Hunting and fishing sites
Even if you voluntarily participated in an activity and signed a waiver, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are (solely) liable for any injuries. It’s also up to the resort operators to make sure the activities are safely operated.
Suing the hotel/resort
If you feel the need to sue the hotel you are staying in, there are two things to keep in mind.
The first has to do with differences between the law from the country in which you are from and the international law that applies where you were injured. Depending on where and how your injuries occurred, the law can affect who is held accountable. For example, countries that depend heavily on tourism may favour the defendants in personal injury cases so as not to cause a backlash.
The second main challenge has to do with contract law. According to some attorneys, the fine print in your purchase agreements for airline tickets, resort stays, excursions and rental businesses may stipulate that the operators are not responsible for any injuries their customers sustain. While you might not be entirely bound by these clauses, they can certainly present a barrier to a lawsuit after injured on vacation.
If you are seriously injured while on vacation and the injury justifies legal action, it is best to keep all of these things in mind while also consulting the law from the country from which you hail. Your own personal lawyer will need to know all the facts when working on your case.
If you do not have a personal lawyer, it may be preferable for you to hire a good personal injury lawyer. Those types of lawyers specialize in these kinds of cases and will be familiar with a lot of the practices inside and outside of your country. For an idea of the amount of compensation someone could claim because of an injury whilst on vacation in the U.K., go to the Smith Jones Injury Claims Calculator site.