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A bus transporting Australian tourists was involved in a fatal head-on motor vehicle accident with a local commuter bus in Vanuatu on Monday. Ten Australian passengers are alleged to be seriously injured. Three Australian passengers were flown to a hospital in Noumea yesterday as they required specialist care for head injuries. Other Australian patients have been airlifted to Brisbane hospitals. Three locals have allegedly died as a result of injuries sustained in the accident.

This accident brings to light the somewhat complex issue surrounding your rights to compensation for personal injuries suffered when travelling overseas.

If these same passengers were involved in a similar motor vehicle accident in Queensland they would be able to bring a Compulsory Third Party (CTP) claim to compensate them for the pain and suffering they have experienced, lost income (both past and future) and expenses that have been, or are likely to be, incurred. Their claim would undoubtedly succeed given that they were passengers and did not cause or contribute towards the motor vehicle accident in any way.

Vanuatu appears to have a similar CTP insurance scheme as the one that exists in Queensland. This means a person who operates a motor vehicle in Vanuatu must have third party insurance otherwise they will be held personally liable for any death or injuries they may cause. There may, however, be some exceptions to that rule. For instance, if the vehicle is unregistered or the driver’s actions void their insurance policy (eg by driving whilst drunk), then the injured party may not be able to claim through the defendant’s third party insurance.

How much compensation persons injured in a motor vehicle accident in Vanuatu may recover will depend upon the severity of the injuries and also the laws that govern the claim. In this case, the applicable laws are likely to be the laws that apply in Vanuatu, but there may be some exceptions to that rule. You would need to seek specific legal advice about that complex issue from a personal injury law expert.

If the injured tourist makes a claim for compensation through their travel insurance policy, their travel insurance policy may dictate that the injured party reimburse the travel insurance provider if the injured party is subsequently awarded compensation (whether that be through the court system in Vanuatu or even in Queensland / Australia). In some cases, the injured party may even be prevented from making a claim with their travel insurance provider if it is possible that they can make a claim through the defendant’s CTP insurer.

What happens if you are injured overseas in a motor vehicle accident?

In the unfortunate event that you or one of your family members are injured overseas in a country that does not have the same compulsory motor vehicle insurance scheme or the motor vehicle insurance is void because of the actions of the driver, these are some of the avenues that may be open to you:

  • Travel insurance policy
  • Income Protection Insurance
  • Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) insurance

Travel Insurance: If you have purchased travel insurance, your travel insurance policy will determine what you and or members of your family are covered for in the event of an accident. Most international travel insurance will cover overseas medical and dental expenses, accidental death or total and permanent disability.

As the travel insurance policy is a contract between yourself and the insurer you must make sure that you review the terms and the conditions of the policy very carefully before entering into the contract.

In particular, we suggest reviewing the policy’s terms in relation to pre-existing conditions, what type of activities you will be covered for and if you need to look for an additional insurance policy to cover you for income loss resulting from your injury.

The Australian government provides some useful information via their Smartraveller website: http://smartraveller.gov.au/guide/all-travellers/insurance/Pages/default.aspx

Income Protection Insurance: In the event that your injury or illness renders you unable to work and thus unable to earn an income, income protection insurance could cover up to 75% of your normal income until you are able to return to work or until the end of the policy’s benefit period (sometimes for only 2 years, other times up to age 65).

As with any insurance contract, we thoroughly recommend reviewing the terms and conditions of the contract before entering into agreement with the income protection insurance provider. For example, review carefully your particular insurance policy’s definition of disability. These definitions do vary from policy to policy.

Some superannuation funds offer income protection as part of their superannuation policy.

Total and Permanent Disability (TPD) Insurance:Most superannuation policies include benefits in the event the policy holder becomes sick or injured. In almost every case, the sick or injured person will need to be totally and permanently disabled (TPD) and unable to ever work again in any occupation for which they are reasonably qualified. These policies may also include benefits for the family in the event that the policy holder dies.

As the TPD insurance policy is a contract between the insurer and the policy holder, it is very important to review the terms and conditions of the policy before entering into contract with the insurance policy provider.

Contact East Coast Injury Lawyers if you have any questions in relation to a claim for compensation resulting from a motor vehicle accident. Contact us now for an obligation free consultation with one of our accredited specialists in personal injury law.