How does the law work if you are an Australian injured overseas?

Many Australians are injured on holidays in accidents involving cars, motorbikes or other limitless scenarios. If your injury was the result of someone else’s error or negligence, you may be able to bring a claim in Australia regardless of where the injury occurred.

Recently, Edwards Michael Powell Lawyers acted for two travellers who were injured in a boating accident in the Republic of the Maldives. The couple were staying at the Shangri-La Hotel in the Maldives when their sailing boat was hit by a passenger ferry on sunset cruise.

Both travellers suffered considerable injuries, both mental and physical. Neither of the companies that are allegedly responsible for the accident are Australian.

Proceedings were commenced in Sydney against large and well resourced opponents. International insurance companies argued that it was inappropriate to bring the claim in Australia and requested the Supreme Court deny the injured clients the right to continue their claim in Sydney.

Counsel for the two defendants attempted to argue that NSW was a “clearly inappropriate forum” for the action to be heard. However, the Supreme Court found that the matter could appropriately be heard in NSW.

The Courts reasoning may be summarised as follows:

  • It is possible to attain evidence from witnesses electronically in Australian Courts;
  • Continuing the claim in the foreign jurisdiction would be unduly restrictive;
  • There was evidence from psychologists saying that it would have an adverse psychological effect on the complainants to go back to the Maldives; and
  • As a well known, world wide group, Addu Investments (aka the Shangri-La Hotel) “advertises for and seeks to encourage Australians to make bookings at the resort and to visit there”.  Therefore, the company must envision that if a guest sustains an injury, the likelihood is that they will return to their home country to obtain treatment.  His Honour stated that “the notion that there might be litigation in a foreign country is…. not an unexpected integer of the business plan and enterprise of Addu.”

Your travel insurance will usually only cover medical expenses incurred after the accident and the cost of getting you home.

Very few people contemplate the possibility of engaging local lawyers to represent them in overseas accidents, however, it is definitely possible to have such matters dealt with by the Australian Courts.