On 20 October 2021 The Supreme Court of England & Wales ruled that a claim of liability against an international hotel group following a tragic holiday accident could be heard by the High Court.
This decision has significant implications for others who find themselves in similarly difficult circumstances.
You can read more about the case here, and find below the answers to some common questions raised by this ruling.
What is a travel claim, and does the phrase have a precise meaning in law?
There is no precise definition in law, and a travel claim can include everything from reimbursement for the cost of a holiday that is ruined because the accommodation is substandard to serious personal injuries arising as a result of things like car accidents, workplace injuries or clinical negligence in a foreign hospital.
What sort of travel claims do you deal with?
At Kingsley Napley we specialise in only serious personal injury and clinical negligence cases, and the travel cases that we deal with reflect that. As in this particular case where our client suffered serious injury in a road accident in Egypt and her husband was killed.
Can I bring a travel claim if I don’t have travel insurance?
Yes. The claims that we deal with are those where you are suing a third party, so it is their insurance company that has to pay. That said, if you have travel insurance, you may also be entitled to no-fault compensation from your own insurers.
What does this case mean for people who have the misfortune to be killed or injured in foreign accidents?
The Supreme Court’s decision has made it easier for them to bring claims in the English Courts. The rules have always allowed this, but the Defendants, in this case, brought an Appeal which said that the rules had been misapplied in some of the previous cases and that it should in fact be much more difficult to get a claim into the English Courts.
So does that mean that there is a new law?
No. The purpose of the Supreme Court is to have a clearer interpretation of the law as it stands. It has said that if an English person is injured or killed in a foreign accident (outside of the former EU) and suffers physical or financial damage in this country, then the “jurisdictional gateway” will be open to them, and they can bring their claim in the English Courts.
Are there different rules for European and non-European countries?
Yes. The answer to this is complicated, because of the transitional arrangements involving Britain’s departure from the European Union, but in essence, European cases still have different rules. This particular only applies to those arising elsewhere in the world.
If I have an accident abroad, who do I sue?
The simple answer is that you sue the person or company responsible. As with a claim in the UK, you will need to make sure that that person either has the means to pay your compensation or legal costs or has an insurance policy for that purpose. Typically that means that the claim either has to be against a big company, such as a hotel chain, or a driver with full car insurance.
Is it ever possible to bring a claim against an English Travel Company?
Yes it is. For many of us, our holidays are “package holidays of one sort or another, and this means that claims are covered by the Package Travel Regulations of 1992. In essence, these regulations say that if you book a holiday through a package tour company like Thomsons, and something goes wrong on that holiday, you don’t have to worry about suing your hotel, you just sue Thomsons in the UK and their insurers have to meet any claim.
Do I have to check the fine print before I book a holiday?
Yes you should, and when you book a package holiday you will often find that the conditions make it very clear that the UK tour company is simply acting as an agent for a foreign hotel, so it is not a true package holiday and any claim will still have to be against the hotel.
You are a lawyer who deals with travel claims. Has it put you off going on holiday?
No, not at all. I would though advise you to follow some common-sense measures, which are as follows:-
- Wherever possible purchase a “package holiday” from a reputable UK operator.
- Check the terms and conditions to make sure that the package includes flights, accommodation and any activities during the holiday.
- Ensure that your holiday provider is backed by an ABTA guarantee.
- Be wary of finding the cheapest possible deals online, and of booking directly with individuals in other countries, or small companies. If you do, enquire about their insurance arrangements.
- Take out travel insurance, and make sure that it is still valid at the time of your holiday, and that it covers the country and/or activities that you will be taking part in on holiday. Not all insurance policies are the same, and it can be a mistake to go for the cheapest.
- If you are injured whilst on holiday then try to gather as much evidence as possible at the time, or ask a family member to do this on your behalf. For example, take photographs, and make notes of the time and place. You should also report the accident to the local authorities as quickly as possible.
- When you have returned to England you will need to speak to a specialist travel lawyer as soon as possible.
- Although you will be planning to bring a claim in the English Court you should think about whether you might be better to sue in the country in which the accident happened. Therefore, either you or your English lawyer on your behalf will need to check the time limits and any special rules that apply in those countries.
If you would like any further information or advice about the topic discussed in this blog, please contact our Medical Negligence and Personal Injury team at firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Terrence Donovan is the Head of the Medical Negligence and Personal Injury Department. He has a national reputation and is one of the most respected and senior solicitors in the field.
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