Irwin Mitchell | Focus on Spinal Injury | Accidents Abroad

While it is not a topic that many of us want to think about, what happens if, after packing your clothes, meticulously labelling your luggage, and arranging for someone to feed the cat, you are in an accident abroad and find yourself having to make a claim for compensation? As the world gets smaller with cheaper and more accessible travel, it might seem that travelling is less of a risky endeavour and that you might have the same protection legally as you would in England. Whilst specialist solicitors can often find a way to ensure that your claim is brought in the English Courts, bringing the benefits of cost recovery and knowledge of procedure, it is often the case that the law in respect of responsibility for an incident, as well as in respect of how much compensation you might be awarded, is governed by the country where you have the accident. And once you start taking foreign laws into account, the world becomes a very big place again indeed.

Even while we remain within Europe for now, the rules that apply to minimum amounts of insurance coverage to cover payments of compensation for personal injuries or material losses can vary wildly. Some countries, such as France, provide that there must be unlimited insurance to cover claims for personal injury, i.e. a lump sum payment to compensate you for the injuries that you have suffered, but there are more often than not restrictions upon the funds available under an insurance policy to cover your financial losses. In Poland, minimum insurance levels are set at €1,000,000 for ‘material losses.’ These are the elements of compensation that quite quickly stack up and are intended to cover things such as the future loss of earnings (if you are no longer able to work as a result of an injury); future care and general expenses for rehabilitation and medical treatment. When you think of it that way, €1,000,000 is not much money at all, if it is meant to cover decades of loss of earnings of treatment.

Of course, not everyone is injured whilst on holiday, so wherever you are travelling to, please do enjoy a great and safe holiday.


While these levels are minimum levels of cover, it is worrying that some countries have no set minimum insurance cover requirements. Very few countries require insurance companies to have unlimited cover. Short of demanding a global-wide change in insurance law, what can or should you do? At Irwin Mitchell, we have devised some tips to help you travel safely:

  • Before travelling, ensure you have travel insurance with good medical assistance cover for the whole duration of your trip. If you are holidaying within the European Economic Area (EEA), an EHIC card will enable you to secure access to state healthcare in other EEA countries. You can get one online or at your local post office for free, but you shouldn’t rely on this alone as this would not cover the cost for you to be repatriated by air ambulance back home if you were seriously injured.
  • It is important to read the fine print of your travel insurance policy to make sure that it gives you the right level of cover. Look out for policy limits and exclusions.
  • Before booking your trip, do a background check on the company carrying out your trip, including how long they have been in service, and look at any reviews.
  • Before signing up to a trip or excursion read all of the terms and conditions of the contract carefully and ask questions if points are unclear. Ask for these if they are not sent to you automatically.

More on our International Personal Injury team