12 August 2015
As we all begin to jet off for our annual two weeks of sunshine, associate and solicitor Mark House gives holidaymakers some top tips about what to do if they become ill or are injured while abroad.
At this time of year many of us will be looking forward to our holidays abroad. Although it is obviously an exciting time for the vast majority of travellers, it is fair to say that a remarkable number of holidaymakers find themselves suffering injury or illness while they are away.
The Association of British Travel Agents’ (ABTA) 2015 Travel Trends Report acknowledged the risks which we face when travelling abroad, and it included this comment from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO):
“This year’s ABTA report notes that British nationals will be doing more to make the most of their holidays abroad in the next twelve months. With many travellers set to visit unfamiliar destinations and fit in as many activities as possible, it’s more important than ever to plan and prepare fully.
“Most people who travel abroad have a trouble-free trip but things can and do go wrong. Simple steps such as checking the FCO travel advice, taking out comprehensive travel insurance, and researching the country and health risks before you go can help to ensure that your holiday is one to remember for all the right reasons.”
The 2015 report went on to explain that from April 2013 to March 2014 the FCO staff handled 17,517 consular assistance cases around the world, including over 3,000 hospitalisation cases.
From food poisoning to slipping over by the pool, illnesses and injuries can happen on holiday in all manner of circumstances. Many such accidents and incidents might only result in relatively minor injuries, but not always. Devastating, life-changing injuries can easily occur.
In November 2013 the press reported on the case of a British holidaymaker who walked into a glass balcony door at her hotel in Barbados. The glass was not clearly marked, appearing to look like an open doorway, and had not been treated to make it shatter-proof. Consequently, when the glass broke, the lady suffered deep lacerations all over her body. She is reported to have received £24,000 in compensation.
I am also aware of someone who obtained severe burns from a faulty hotel shower and was injured further when he fell against the glass door in shock, shattering the glass. Many accidents, like the two described above, happen because of failings on the part of the hotel operators.
If you wanted to make a compensation claim against a hotel, identifying that wrongdoing would be essential. However, this is not necessarily the case for incidents which occur on board an airplane. Many people are unaware that, in those circumstances, it can be enough for the traveller simply to be able to show that they suffered an injury as the result of an accident.
Even if your accident is through no fault of the cabin crew or the airline’s procedure, you may still be able to claim compensation simply on the basis that it was an accident. The deadline for bringing such a claim is just two years from the date of the accident.
Many assume that if they are injured abroad then they must instruct a lawyer in that country to act for you in a claim for compensation. However, that is often not the case. Legislation concerning package holidays gives you the added protection of being able to bring a claim against the tour operator. Therefore, a solicitor in the UK will usually be able to represent you. Perhaps the legal protection they offer is one of the reasons why package holidays continue to be so popular.
The term ‘package holiday’ is not easy to define, particularly since many of us book our holidays online through a multitude of different agents. Sometimes the travel arrangements which we think are not a package actually are. A solicitor with experience in dealing with holiday claims will be able to review everything for you and advise you on this.
It might not be possible to contact a lawyer when you’re on holiday but there are still things you can do when you’re abroad. If things are not right at the resort, get evidence. Obtaining pictures or videos and supporting evidence from other holiday makers is vital. Share names and addresses with anyone else at the same resort who is also ill or who has been injured in similar circumstances. Be prepared to prove that you were injured or ill - you may need to obtain documentary evidence from the doctor or hospital.