International Travel: Recognize and Minimize Risk and Liability

April 07, 2011

Tom Roberts
Director, Campus Recreation and Wellness
University of Richmond

Traveling internationally for Sport Clubs can be an exciting adventure but also creates many unpredictable risks and potential liabilities. From a liability standpoint, institutions might choose not to assist with arrangements for international travel because of high risk concerns. Ironically, this is exactly the kind of situation where Sport Clubs would benefit from the assistance and guidance of the administration. There are a number of conflicting concerns in deciding whether to assist with international travel arrangements for students, and fear of legal liability should not necessarily govern this decision.

Sport Club administrators will need to anticipate a Club’s request for international travel and be proactive and recognize that this request may pose some new and distinct challenges that need to be considered and addressed. Language barriers, currency conversion, and time differences are just some issues that can make international travel complicated. It’s important to identify and understand these areas of concern and to take steps to minimize the risk to ensure student safety and awareness.

Some suggestions for Sport Club administrators include:

  • Consult with university legal counsel and/or your institutional risk manager
  • Consult with and collaborate with International Education and Study Abroad Programs within your university.
  • Develop international travel policies and procedures.
  • Advise clubs on health care issues, obtaining adequate health insurance, and how to access local medical care.
  • For travel outside North America, access information specific to the country being visited (e.g. political situation) and communicate this information to the Club involved.
  • Monitor travel plans and organized activities, and develop procedures which allow supervisors to intervene effectively when necessary.
  • Develop emergency action plans for student injury and illness including provisions for medical care and specifying notification and communication with Sport Club administrators and family members.

One of the most serious and justified concerns is the risk of injury or illness in a foreign country. Unfamiliarity with a different culture and medical system can be daunting for Sport Club members seeking medical care, not to mention the associated costs. Most traditional medical insurance plans are not designed for international travel and may not provide coverage for some international travel. At the very minimum, Sport Club administrators need to ensure that all members traveling have proper insurance coverage. The following are some tips to consider with international travel and insurance coverage.
(Gagne, Kathleen.. ‘International Travel Medical Insurance’ [2006]

  • Make sure the policy covers usual, reasonable, and customary charges at the very least.
  • Find out what the deductibles and coinsurance will cost you and whether you can choose the deductible amount.
  • Make sure the policy covers both hospital care, intensive care rooms as needed, and ambulance expenses.
  • A good plan will also cover emergency dental care.
  • If you plan to engage in sports that might be considered dangerous, make sure those sports are covered before you purchase a policy.
  • Consider additional accidental and death benefits if they are offered.
  • Look for a plan that gives you the options you want, and compare it to your domestic plan.

In summary, Sport Club administrators need to anticipate a Club’s request to travel internationally. It is therefore important to identify areas of liability and concern and develop policies and procedures which emphasize communication and prevention, rather than damage control.

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