Few things are more stressful and disheartening than suffering an injury during a vacation. Your fun is cut short. All that money and weeks of planning down the drain. You’re scrambling to find medical care and make new travel arrangements.
What do you do if you are injured away from home? Should you give a statement? Should you get a local lawyer or wait until you are back home?
If your trip to the Big Apple leads to an injury
Tens of millions of people flock to New York City every year. Inevitably, some of those tourists and business travelers get injured. A slip-and-fall or pedestrian accident. A taxi crash or injury on the bus or subway. An assault or swimming pool accident at the hotel.
As a non-resident, you may not know the laws of New York state or NYC. You may not have access to all your records and contact numbers. You have no idea where the hospitals are. You not know where to even start.
Assume you have a personal injury claim
Unfortunately, tourist injuries are a fact of life with so many people visiting NYC. It might be a fluke thing or your own clumsiness. Or you could have a viable legal case against a business, property owner or other party.
Document your injuries. Take photos of where the accident occurred. Get the insurance information if the other driver if you were in a traffic accident. Get the contact information of any witnesses. Make notes about what happened while the incident is still fresh in your mind. This information could prove crucial later.
It doesn’t matter where you get medical care
If you need emergency medical treatment, call 911 or take a cab to the emergency room. Your health insurance or auto insurance should cover emergency services, even if you did not call your insurer to get pre-authorized. If your injuries are not dire (and you can bear the pain), you can also wait and seek medical treatment back home.
If you end up filing a personal injury claim, it doesn’t matter whether you received medical care in New York or in your home state (or perhaps both). However, prompt medical treatment and thorough documentation is important to establishing the connection between the accident and your injuries. Make sure your medical records reflect where and how you were injured.
Hire legal representation in the jurisdiction where you were injured
You are better off hiring a lawyer who practices in New York City. Your family lawyer or other law firm back home won’t know the laws of New York or be licensed to practice here. An NYC attorney will be familiar with the applicable laws, including statutes of limitations to file claims. A New York City lawyer will also be familiar with the investigating law enforcement agencies and the local courts where your case would be heard.
In many cases, your injury claim can be handled entirely by phone, mail and email. Your lawyer will negotiate with the negligent party and insurance adjusters, and (eventually) send you a check for your settlement minus attorney fees and expenses. You would not need to return to New York unless your case ends up in litigation. Even then, it may be possible for you to “appear” in court or give a deposition by phone or by video.
Be prepared when going on vacation
Before you leave for your trip, make sure you have your insurance information and contact info for your regular medical providers. We hope that you never need to see a doctor (or lawyer) while visiting New York for business or pleasure, but travelers always have to expect the unexpected.