In recent years, some difficult safety issues have hounded the tourism industry, especially with regard to student travel abroad. More than ever, college and high school students in the United States are choosing educational and volunteer opportunities in foreign countries. In doing so, students are relying upon the safety expertise and experience of not only schools, but also third-party tour operators who know or should know about hazards particular to the cities or regions visited. There have been numerous reported instances, for example, of students staying in locations that are known by locals to be dangerous, including significant criminal activity in particularly dangerous tourist areas; sexual assault; contraction of illnesses like malaria and dengue fever; and water hazards such as rip tides and rip currents with the potential to be deadly.
Students and their parents are often requested to sign waivers regarding certain risks associated with the activities involved, however it should be expected that third party hosts, and study abroad program directors and their companies fulfill their responsibilities to ensure that the destination hotels and activities are safe for all participants.
Students and their families should research carefully the tour companies they are considering, and read carefully all documents presented for signature, especially since purported waivers often contain language designed to relieve companies of all liability, even in the event that the company’s negligence causes injury or death.
Each state has its own laws regarding the validity of waiver language – a good lawyer is essential in interpreting the legal requirements and exceptions, as applied to the particular release and circumstances, in the event of a tragedy while traveling abroad. If you or a family member have suffered significant personal injuries, or even wrongful death as the result of the negligence of a third-party study-abroad program director or organizer, and would like to speak with an experienced attorney at Swartz & Swartz, P.C., please contact us; you can call us at (617) 742-1900, or if you are outside the Boston area, call toll-free at 1-800-545-3732. We are here to answer your questions and discuss how to protect your legal rights.