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Compensation Recovered For Volunteer Injured Abroad

Expert travel lawyers at Irwin Mitchell secured compensation for a Dutch woman seriously injured in Trinidad and Tobago while working for an English company, Coral Cay Conservation Limited, as a volunteer medical officer.

Our client, Raina, had concluded her academic studies to become a doctor in the Netherlands and, before starting the next phase of her career, decided to do some volunteer work. She was offered a post by Coral Clay Conservation Limited, who were looking for medical staff with diving experience to work in Trinidad and Tobago.

Traumatic Crush Injury

Raina was resting on the beach with her group at Bloody Bay, Tobago, after a morning spent diving when a boat came to collect them for their afternoon dive. As she walked out to the boat, a number of large waves struck, trapping her left leg between the underside of the boat and the sand. When the boat moved off Raina’s leg, she could see that her leg muscle was visible, with a wound from her left knee to the ankle. The gash cut through to the bone. The other members of the group gave Raina oxygen and supported her leg – and, as the medical officer she had to tell the expedition members what to do.

The isolated location made it impossible for an ambulance to get Raina, so she had to be taken by some local fishermen to a spot on the bay where she could be reached. She was eventually taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital where she was given initial treatment, then transferred to a larger hospital on the island of Curacao. There, Raina’s wounds were cleaned, dead tissue removed and a number of operations performed. She was then put on a plane home to the Netherlands.

Neurological Damage

Raina suffered a serious traumatic crush injury to her left lower leg which led to muscle wastage, neurological damage and soft tissue damage. She still endures daily pain in her leg, likely to be lifelong. She’ll most likely more surgery on her leg in the future. Even though Raina has forged a successful medical career, her injuries have meant that she hasn’t been able to pursue work in gynaecology.

Legal Complexities

The fact that the accident took place in Trinidad and Tobago, Coral Cay Conservation is an English company and Raina is a Dutch national meant it was tricky for our solicitors to find the law which would apply to all issues.  Coral Cay Conservation denied any blame, arguing that Trinidad and Tobago law should apply to the case – this might have limited her compensation to just a few hundred pounds. In spite of these troubles, we worked hard to secure a significant six-figure sum for Raina, giving her some financial peace of mind.

Philip Banks, a Partner in our International Travel Litigation Group, said of Raina’s claim: “This is a case involving a horrific accident to a young lady who was about to embark on what I am sure would have been a long and successful career as a gynaecologist.  

“Throughout the claim, lawyers acting for Coral Cay Conservation refused to accept responsibility for the injuries that she sustained, despite compelling evidence of a breakdown in health and safety procedures.

“I am pleased that, following a long and hard legal battle, we have been able to secure compensation for Raina to help her face the future with more certainty.  She has been very determined and courageous throughout the accident and this litigation.

“I also hope that, as a result of the legal action that Raina has brought, changes will be made to the way Coral Cay Conservation operates so as to prevent other volunteers from suffering serious injury, as I am aware of other incidents involving this organisation."

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