When you or your family fall ill abroad, it can not only spoil your holiday but be expensive, upsetting, and possibly cause long-term health problems too.
Your tour operator and hotel have a duty of care to you as its customer when you are on holiday. So if any of your party become ill as a result of a failure in this duty of care, you may be eligible to make a holiday sickness claim for compensation.
What are the requirements to make a holiday sickness claim?
You are eligible to make a claim if you, members of your family, or members of your party fell ill while abroad, the illness lasted for at least seven days, and was caused by the actions or negligence of the tour operator, or hotel (or other accommodation) where you stayed. This includes any linked restaurants or eateries too.
If I fall sick abroad and I believe that the travel operator or hotel are responsible, what do I need to do?
Report the sickness as soon as possible to your tour operator, hotel or whoever you feel is responsible. This could be through your on-site holiday rep, the hotel reception or by phoning the appropriate organisation.
Take photographs of anything that would prove your case.
Keep all holiday booking documents and receipts and keep a record of any medication taken, medical treatment and how the illness progressed.
It may be necessary to speak to a doctor or pharmacist while you’re on holiday but should the symptoms of your illness continue after you return home, consult your GP. This serves two purposes. Firstly, you may need medical treatment. Secondly, your GP will be able to provide a record of your illness and any treatment which can be used as medical evidence for your claim.
What can I claim compensation for?
When you make your claim, you are asking to be compensated for any loss or expense that is a result of your holiday sickness, where the sickness was caused by your tour operator, hotel, other accommodation, airline or linked restaurant.
You could claim for lost earnings if you were still ill when you returned home and were unable to work as a result.
You could claim for any medical costs, whether abroad or back home in the UK.
Did you use a taxi to get to a medical appointment?
Did you have to re-arrange your flight?
You could also claim for the fact that your holiday enjoyment was spoilt by your sickness.
Who can you claim against?
For package holidays, you will make your claim against the tour operator. They bear the responsibility for all holiday services such as your accommodation and your flights, provided those services are part of the package you paid for through that tour operator.
If you organised the trip yourself, the situation can be a little more complicated. You could make your claim against the hotel or the airline that caused your sickness. You will have to contact them directly however.
Before you make any claim, you should check your holiday documents and the related booking conditions to make sure you know exactly which company to make your claim against.
What might prevent my claim from being successful?
There are a number of reasons why your claim might be rejected:
A delay in making your claim: The claim must be made within three years of the sickness.
- Not reporting your sickness to the hotel or tour operator when you were on holiday: Did you report your sickness to the hotel or tour operator when you were on holiday? It is always wise to report your sickness so that they have a record of your communication and the related sickness.
- No-one else fell ill: If you were the only person who became ill, in your family, party or accommodation, then the company you claim against will want to know why.
- Making your claim after you were approached by someone at the resort about making a compensation claim: Would you have made the claim anyway or were you persuaded by the person who approached you on holiday?
- Where you drank excessive amounts of alcohol or ate excessive amounts of food: If the tour operator or hotel can prove that you actually made yourself ill through drinking or eating excessively, then you claim will be rejected.
Group holiday claims
If other holidaymakers were also ill, then you could make your claim as part of a group. Acting as part of a group could well strengthen your claim.
Examples of group holiday claims include wedding parties, where a family have become ill or just where you were one of several holidaymakers who fell ill at the same time and location.
How much compensation might I receive?
Depending on the symptoms, severity and length of the sickness, and any resulting loss or expense, you could receive anywhere from hundreds to thousands of pounds in compensation.
How long after my holiday can I make a claim?
A holiday sickness claim for compensation must be made within three years of the holiday.
Can I still claim if I didn’t have travel insurance?
Yes, you can still make a claim for holiday sickness if you didn’t have travel insurance.
A package holiday booked through a UK tour operator automatically includes cover for your holiday under The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992.
If you booked the holiday yourself and not through a tour operator, you will still be able to make a claim.
One thing to bear in mind, however, is that without travel insurance in place, you may have to pay for legal expenses.
What do the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) say about holiday sickness claims?
According to ABTA, there has been a 500% rise in the number of holiday sickness claims made against travel companies since 2013, and over nine million British holidaymakers are approached whilst on holiday about making a compensation claim.
The resulting ‘Stop Sickness Scams’ campaign by ABTA states that false holiday sickness claims are costing the travel and tourism industry tens of millions of pounds. ABTA have asked the British government to investigate this situation.
ABTA do, however, accept that there are many genuine cases of holiday sickness and offer an alternative dispute resolution scheme to any holidaymakers who are not happy with the response they receive from their ABTA registered tour operator.
How do I make a claim?
Write to the responsible party, be that the tour operator, hotel or airline. Your communication should include,
- your holiday booking reference
- details of your sickness
- how long it lasted
- who was ill (just you or other members of your party too?)
- if known, what made you ill, even if you just have suspicions
- whether the sickness continued after you returned homeif the sickness continued when you returned home, whether this incurred any loss or expense such as lost earnings
- any evidence you have such as photos or medical reports from a doctor or hospital
- copies of any receipts (for medicines, medical treatment, taxi, etc)
- how much compensation you wish to receive
Send the communication by registered post so you can prove that it has been received by the company involved.
Why legal advice is recommended
Using a solicitor who is experienced in handling claims, especially related to holiday sickness and the travel industry, can help avoid any misunderstandings or delays that could occur if you attempt to handle the claim process yourself. Moreover, their experience and knowledge can mean that you have the best chance possible to receive the compensation you deserve.