Injured while travelling? Know your legal rights
Any right to compensation will depend on a number of factors
Travellers who book travel accommodation online and are injured overseas may be able to make a claim against a website under the Australian Consumer Law, or may be entitled to compensation through the laws of torts or contract.
When the dream holiday turns into a nightmare
We often hear of Australian holidaymakers being at a loss when their holiday accommodation doesn’t match the glowing description they read before they made the booking. But what if your accommodation is actually dangerous? What if you are injured by dodgy electrical wiring, or slip on a wet floor under a leaking air conditioner?
You might end up in a foreign hospital, or being medically evacuated back to Australia. Do you have a legal right to compensation if you used a website to book and pay for your dream holiday and it turns out to be a nightmare?
Who is the contract with when you book accommodation online?
When booking accommodation online, your rights will depend on whether you are booking directly with the accommodation provider or through a booking agent. You should check the terms and conditions on the website and look out for any disclaimers.
If the website is simply a booking agent, your contract will be between you and the accommodation provider. The website merely facilitates that contract.
Your legal rights under the Australian Consumer Law
Consumers in Australia are protected by the Australian Consumer Law. Even if you did not enter a contract with the party behind a website, you could still potentially have rights against the website under the Australian Consumer Law. It is worth exploring this possibility.
What happens when Australian Consumer Law does not apply?
The legal rights which exist under Australian Consumer Law do not apply to the provision of services by an individual person – such as when you agree to rent a spare room in someone’s home through Airbnb.
However, when you rent a room from an individual, there may be legal recompense through the law of torts, which includes rights to compensation for personal injury if the property owner breaches their duty of care. If you entered a contract with the individual, you might also have a claim for breach of contract.
In this situation the law is far more complex and the laws of different jurisdictions may apply to your rights in contract and tort. It would be best to consult a legal expert on travel law in this situation.
Prudent steps to take when planning travel
Regardless of your overseas travel plans, it is sensible to take out travel insurance and register your overseas travel plans with Smart Traveller, particularly if you are travelling in areas where there is a high crime rate or civil disruption.
If you are injured overseas, embassies tend only to provide emergency consular assistance in the foreign country. However, you might be entitled to personal injury compensation, so it would be wise to consult a personal injury lawyer experienced in travel law when you return home.