In an increasingly globalised world, it is not uncommon for British employers to ask staff to travel abroad as part of their contract of employment. While this will often go without a hitch, people can and do get injured abroad, which can cause confusion for those involved when they’re looking to investigate an injury claim.
This guide aims to clarify what happens if someone employed by a UK company is injured while working abroad, and in which country the claim should be pursued.
What is an employer’s duty to staff working abroad?
Ever since the case of Wilson & Clyde Coal Company Limited -v- English  3 All ER 638 it has been agreed that there are certain reasonable duties that an employer cannot pass onto anyone else. These include the duties of providing:
- A safe place of work;
- A safe system of work;
- Safe equipment;
- Competent fellow employees.
What are considered ‘reasonable duties’?
There is no one-size-fits-all approach. Each case will turn on its own unique facts. However, helpful guidance has been provided in the case of Dusek v StormHarbour Securities LLP  EWCA Civ 604.
In this case, Mr Tomas Dusek and 13 others were killed in a helicopter crash that took place in the Andes Mountains in Peru. Mr Dusek was employed by StormHarbour as an investment banker and had travelled to the location as part of his employment, which included an obligation to secure funding for the development of a hydroelectric complex.
Mrs Dusek commenced claims in the High Court alleging that StormHarbour were in breach of their duty of care to provide a safe place of work, safe equipment and a safe system of working. The defendant denied that they could be held accountable for safety issues on board the helicopter that had been chartered by Peruvian clients from a local operator who held the appropriate operator’s license in Peru.
Lord Justice Hamblen held in favour of the claimant, finding that StormHarbour owed a duty of care for its employees’ safety, which was breached by failing to organise a suitable risk assessment for the journey. He added that such a risk assessment would have spotted issues around poor weather conditions, limitations of the helicopter, and the fact that the flight crew were tired – breaching local regulations.
This unusual case highlights that, even when the fault has occurred as a result of a third party, the UK employer can still be legally responsible for what happened.
What you should consider if you’ve been injured working abroad
Before you travel for work, it is important that you have a physical copy of your contract to hand, as it may be necessary for an accident abroad claim.
If you or a loved one have been injured while working abroad, you should:
- Report any accident as soon as it occurs;
- Ensure a member of staff completes an accident report, or have a colleague on hand to do this if your injury limits you from doing so;
- Keep a copy of the accident report;
- Gather names and contact details of witnesses, staff repairing the fault that caused the accident, or anyone else investigating the accident. They may provide useful information should you start a legal claim;
- Seek medical treatment and keep copies of medical records;
- Find out whether there have been previous incidents of a similar nature, from co-workers or union representatives;
- Take photographs of the cause and scene of the accident.
Time limits on making a compensation claim can vary from country to country, so if you’ve been injured working abroad you should contact Thompsons Solicitors for legal advice as soon as possible on 0800 0 224 224, or via our online claim form.
Alternatively, for more information about making a claim, visit our foreign accidents page or our #TravelSafe campaign for tips about staying safe abroad.