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Why genuine holiday sickness claimants shouldn’t be put off by new regulations

Houses of Parliament, Westminster
8th May 2018

Crackdown on false claims

New legislation to regulate holiday sickness claims was brought into force by last month. The laws set a cap on legal costs for the first time – similar to the limit set in personal injury cases. Before the change, legal costs often spiraled out of control making it cheaper for tour operators to settle claims out of court rather than defend them.

This was a ‘loophole’ many in the travel industry believe was encouraging fraudulent holiday illness claims.

According to ABTA, The Association of British Travel Agents, the 3 years between 2013 and 2016 saw a 500% increase in claims from around 5,000 to around 35,000. And this is despite the number of reported cases of illness in holiday resorts falling in recent years.

Following a crackdown on bogus compensation claims in court, four couples have been sentenced or ordered to pay significant legal costs since last October. These cases were private prosecutions brought by tour operators TUI, Thomas Cook and Red Sea Holidays.

Justice Minister Rory Stewart said: “Claiming compensation for being sick on holiday, when you haven’t been, is fraud. This damages the travel industry and risks driving up costs for holidaymakers.”

“This behaviour also tarnishes the reputation of British people abroad. That is why we are introducing measures to crack down on those who engage in this dishonest practice.”

Chief Executive of ABTA Mark Tanzer said: "Closing the legal loophole before the summer should lead to a reduction in the number of false claims. We encourage the government to keep this matter under review.”

What does this mean for genuine claims?

If you are unlucky enough to fall ill on holiday, you should:

  • Report the illness to the holiday representative
  • Ensure that a written record of the complaint is recorded and ask for a copy
  • Seek medical attention and obtain a copy of the doctor's record
  • Keep any receipts for any medication purchased and keep receipts for any taxi fares incurred in seeking medical advice
  • Speak to other holidaymakers in the same hotel to establish whether or not others have also suffered from the same or similar sickness and get their names and addresses

 

If other guests have also been ill, it could be possible to pursue a claim as a group. This makes a case much stronger as you will have more evidence to submit. It is common for large groups of people in the same hotel or resort to all get sick at once, as poor food hygiene at the all-inclusive buffet is often to blame for food poisoning outbreaks.

Sometimes illness can take up to 72 hours to set in, particularly in cases such as food poisoning or ear infections. This means you could only start feeling the effects of holiday sickness after you have returned home. You should arrange to visit your GP, who will be able to diagnose you and advise you on treatment options available. You should then document your symptoms and situation in writing while your holiday is still fresh in your mind, noting down any possible causes such as poor food hygiene in the restaurant, presence of parasites such as mosquitoes, contaminated tap water or unclean swimming pool water. You should then write to your tour operator within 28 days of returning home with a written complaint.

You could be entitled to holiday illness compensation if the tour operator you used has breached the Package Travel Regulations 1992. These laws were created to protect people’s rights on a package holiday. It is the responsibility of your tour operator to ensure that the hotel, suppliers and services accessed during your holiday are of a reasonable standard to ensure the health and safety of their customers. If they neglected this duty to you, the customer, you could have a claim.

If you believe you have a genuine claim for holiday sickness, you should contact a holiday claims solicitor as soon as possible as there is a 3 year time limit due to the Limitation Act. For a confidential chat with one of Your Legal Friend’s expert advisors, call 0808 301 8622.