It’s that time of year when for some of us, thoughts turn to holidays. Whether travelling abroad or staying somewhere in the UK, going on holiday should be a fun and stress-free week or two, but what if your holiday turns out to be memorable for all the wrong reasons? What would you do if you suffered an accident abroad or had holiday sickness?
The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992
When you book a package holiday through a UK tour operator, your trip is covered by The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992. The Regulations cover your accommodation, transport, and the food provided by your hotel whilst you are on holiday. The Regulations define “a package holiday” as the pre-arranged combination of a least two of the following components when sold or offered for sale at an inclusive price and when the service covers a period of more than 24 hours or includes overnight.
- Other tourist services not ancillary to transport or accommodation and accounting for a significant proportion of the package.
The Regulations provide that the tour operator is responsible for all the different parts of your package holiday. This means that your transport, accommodation and food whilst on holiday are covered by British Legislation.
What information do I need?
If you are unfortunate enough to have an accident whilst on holiday, you can help improve your chances of making a successful compensation claim by taking a number of steps whilst abroad, such as:
- Reporting the incident whilst you are still in the resort. This may be to your holiday rep or to the tour operator’s head office. You could email or telephone making sure you keep a note of the name of the person that you speak to.
- Keeping a record of any communication you have either with the tour operator or your holiday rep.
- Keeping a record of medical treatment that you receive abroad (if any).
- Taking photographs of anything you think will support your claim such as broken or defective equipment, unhygienic food storage practices, dirty work surfaces or spillages.
- Keeping receipts for any out of pocket expenses that you incur as a result of your illness or injury.
- Save packets of medication prescribed to you by a doctor or pharmacist abroad.
- Taking down the name and address of any witnesses to your accident or anyone who suffered in a similar manner, or names and addresses of anyone else affected by holiday illness.
- Retaining your documents relating to booking the holiday such as booking confirmation, invoice and relevant holiday brochure page/website information
Unfortunately, sometimes we can experience sickness whilst on holiday and you can claim compensation for food poisoning and other forms of holiday sickness. It is important that you visit your GP as soon as you return from holiday if you continue experience symptoms. Not only will your doctor be able to put your mind at rest but you will also have a record of your visit and a diagnosis which can be used to support your holiday sickness claim.
Can I claim for anything apart from injury or illness?
The Package Travel Regulations cover not only illness and accidents but other events may trigger a claim. Under the Regulations, you have a right to:
- Receive the holiday described in the brochure.
- Receive the holiday at the price you agree to pay for it.
- Receive factually accurate information about the package.
- Receive accommodation that is reasonably safe and sanitary.
How do I make a claim?
The claims process is initiated by sending a Letter of Claim to the travel company with whom the package holiday was arranged. They are then given a period of time to investigate the accident circumstances and provide their detailed response to the claim. In most cases, we would recommend that a medical report be obtained setting out the nature of the illness or injury suffered and any on-going problems. In certain cases also, it may be necessary to obtain an opinion from an expert looking at the applicability of local resort standards to the accident circumstances.
The case can take approximately 12 months to be resolved in even the most straight forward case, where the travel company admits responsibility. Part of that time is due to the travel company having 6 months to investigate the claim before they have to respond on whether they admit responsibility for the accident or illness.
It is important to act sooner rather than later. You have up to 3 years from the date of the accident or illness to make a claim. You can also claim for a child and the 3 year period runs from the day that the child turns age 18. It should be noted however that in certain circumstances, different time periods can apply to the accident circumstances and so it is vital that you seek specialist advice in relation to the specific facts of your claim. If you have suffered an accident on-board a cruise liner for example, then the law relating to maritime and cruise accidents is covered by the Athens Convention 1974. The area of law is complex and there are other rules that apply. Where the Athens Convention applies, an injured passenger has only 2 years from the date of suffering their injury or illness to commence proceedings.
Funding a personal injury claim can sometimes cause concern but in many instances, we would act for you on a No Win, No Fee Agreement. It may also be the case that as part of your holiday insurance you have the benefit of Legal Expenses Protection whereby we can act on your behalf with the benefit of that insurance cover.
How much compensation will I receive?
A person suffering from mild food poisoning whilst on holiday may expect to recover £700 to £3,000.00. Injury suffered as a result of an accident may attract damages awards of considerably more.
The Package Travel Regulations also offer legal protection beyond the compensation amount. Claims can also be made for the following:
- Out of pocket expenses – as a suggested above, you may be able to recover the costs of seeking medical treatment whilst abroad, travelling to and from the local doctor or hospital as well as any other medication costs incurred.
- Diminution in value – the cost of accommodation for the days that may have been affected by the illness or injury.
- Loss of enjoyment – in certain cases, the enjoyment of the holiday may have been lost because you or your family members were confined to your hotel room and not made as much of the holiday as might have been expected.
It is the case that given the number of Britons claiming compensation for holiday illness and injury claims, travel companies are taking an increasingly hard line in defending claims. It is reported by the travel industry that there has been an increase of up to 500% in claims since 2013 and that is an increase that is not seen in other European countries. Travel companies therefore will not simply settle claims without feeling they are potentially in breach of the Regulations and holiday makers also need to be aware that they could be found in contempt of Court and face imprisonment if found guilty of making a fraudulent claim. Such Claimants may also face adverse costs consequences if during the litigation process, they are found to have made dishonest and fraudulent claims during the course of the proceedings.
If your holiday has been ruined as a result of an accident or illness, then whilst that can be a huge disappointment recovering compensation for that can go some way to easing the disappointment and easing the financial loss. Contact us now so that we can help you.