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If You're Injured Abroad, Can You Sue?

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By Christopher Coble, Esq. on June 23, 2015 10:08 AM

On your first day in London, you're crossing the street to see Buckingham Palace. Bam! You're hit by a car.

Not only are you in incredible pain, now you have a huge medical bill, and you're going to miss out on the rest of your trip. What can you do about it?

If you're injured abroad, can you sue?

Yes, but Where?

Generally, if the other party is at fault you can sue. The hard question is where. Do you sue in the United States? Or, do you have to sue where you got injured?

Jurisdiction

In the United States, a court must have jurisdiction over the defendant and the case to render any type of judgment. So, you'll want to make sure the court you decide to sue in has jurisdiction, or else your case will be dismissed. Courts must have both personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction to hear a case, but only personal jurisdiction is pertinent to this question.

Personal jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction means jurisdiction over the defendant. A court may have personal jurisdiction if the defendant:

  • Was physically present in the jurisdiction,
  • Either lives or does business in the jurisdiction,
  • Consents to personal jurisdiction, or
  • Has some kind of minimum contact with the jurisdiction.

So, to be able to sue in the United States, the driver that hit you must have either come to your state at some time, done business in your state, consented to be sued in your state, or had some kind of minimum contact with your state. If the defendant in your case has never left London and has no contacts to the United States whatsoever, you'll have to sue abroad because a United States court won't have jurisdiction.

Contracts

If you were injured by your tour company, hotel, or somebody you signed a terms of service contract with, the contract may determine where you must file suit if you want to sue. Contracts sometimes have forum selection clauses, where you agree to sue them in a particular place, or an arbitration agreement, where you agree to go to arbitration instead of suing in court.

If you've been injured while abroad, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney for help.

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