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Catastrophic Injuries Abroad

The worst-case scenario is not something to dwell on, but it is something to consider. Whether it’s a car accident, skiing injury, or a slip and fall, serious injuries are possible and can be even more challenging while travelling abroad. When embarking on an international trip, it may not be top of mind to consider a catastrophic injury. However, it is vital to understand how to handle an injury to ensure peace of mind.

Travel Insurance

While Canadians may have coverage from their provincial healthcare plan, this coverage likely does not follow residents where they go. Obtaining travel insurance is an effective way to insulate yourself or your family members while travelling internationally. Travel insurance can be obtained through a benefits provider, a bank or credit union, or even through private travel insurance companies.

Since the cost of hospital stays and emergency medical expenses can add up, it is vital to obtain coverage for such costs prior to your trip.  It is also important to determine what a particular policy covers and how it would apply in the circumstances of your trip.  Unlike OHIP, private insurance plans usually include exclusion clauses which would relieve an insurer from paying claims, for example, in the event that the injury is caused or contributed to by intoxication.


Carrying a first-aid kit is helpful for smaller injuries. Pain relief, bandages, or antiseptic wipes are easy to take along on your travels and make a world of difference if you or someone you know gets injured. In many popular tourist destinations, a hospital or medical service provider is not nearby.

If you are able, obtaining Standard First-Aid and CPR could be a life or death difference while travelling abroad. Courses might be costly, but this invaluable knowledge is carried with you around the globe.


Ensure that you obtain a copy of all relevant documents ahead of your travel. It might also be helpful to leave an additional copy at home with a family member in case of an emergency. Having copies of all of your personal documentation can help prevent delays in case you are injured.

If you obtain any medical or hospital services, it is prudent to obtain documentation from the service provider. This will be helpful if any disputes arise regarding travel insurance or the extent of the injuries.

If possible, it is helpful to get witness statements from any bystander who saw the accident occur. During traumatic events, the brain processes information very differently and it can help to get another person’s perspective on the events. The narrative of a third party can help substantiate claims arising from the injury and support the injured person in getting compensation.

While obtaining documentation is important, this task can become even more difficult if you do not speak the language of the place to which you are travelling. Finding someone who is able to translate a foreign language might be difficult, but it is not impossible. By asking around, it may be beneficial to have someone available to communicate with local medical service providers and advocate for you during treatment.

Catastrophic Injuries

Life-changing injuries such as spinal cord injuries can happen on vacation. The best course of action would be to remain calm, keep diligent documentation, and make loved ones aware of your injury. Transportation concerns, documentation and translation can be overwhelming for the family of an injured person. Contacting a Canadian government consulate office in the country that you are travelling to might be helpful in navigating logistics and planning for Canadians seriously injured abroad.

A serious injury at home can be traumatic, but the added challenges of an injury abroad require great care to navigate. While travel insurance can help with costs and medical documentation supports the injured person, the best way to navigate a catastrophic injury abroad is to retain a personal injury lawyer.

Complex legal issues can often arise when faced with an injury away from home. Recovering damages can be possible, and a personal injury lawyer is well-equipped to guide you through the process. Even the best-planned vacations can go wrong. Rest assured that the personal injury team at McKenzie Lake Lawyers is here to help if you or a loved one experiences an injury while travelling.

This blog was written by Articling Student Olivia Pomajba and Personal Injury Lawyer Sarah Kirshin-Neilans.

Feb 09, 2023