If a holiday injury has set you back, we'll help you move forward
If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a holiday accident or illness, we can help. Whether your injuries happened in the UK or abroad, in a hotel or during your journey, you may be entitled to claim compensation.
You can make a holiday injury or illness compensation claim with the help and support of a personal injury solicitor.
In this article
You are not alone
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) reports yearly on the number of British people needing hospitalisation abroad. The FCO estimates that there are 10 Brits hospitalised overseas every day.
COVID-19 will affect the data for 2023, as will the conflict in Eastern Europe. With the end of pandemic restrictions, and a rise foreign travel, injuries abroad will inevitably rise again.
If you have sustained an injury or illness while on holiday and someone else was at fault, you may be entitled to make a compensation claim.
If you decide to make a holiday injury claim, your personal injury solicitor will take you through every step of the claims process. Your solicitor will be with you until you win your claim and get the compensation you deserve.
What should I do if injured abroad?
Whether you have returned home to the UK, are being treated in a hospital abroad, or are continuing with your holiday, you should:
- Seek appropriate medical attention
- Contact your travel insurance provider
- Gather evidence such as photographs of the scene
- Take the contact details of any witnesses
- Document the accident in as much detail as you can
- Report the accident (e.g. to the holiday representative, airline, hotel etc)
If you have had a road traffic accident abroad:
- Report the incident to the local police
- Do not admit liability or engage in any formal correspondence without advice from a solicitor
What if multiple people were injured?
A typical example of this an outbreak of hotel restaurant food poisoning, which may result in several members of the same family or group of friends becoming ill.
A 'group action claim' (also called a 'multi-party claim') is when holidaymakers who have been harmed by the same act of negligence join forces.
Making a group claim will often improve the chance that compensation is paid out, as tour operators will find in more difficult to challenge the evidence of multiple claimants.
Group compensation claims are particularly effective in the case of food poisoning. When a single claimant acts alone, the holiday company may argue that there is no evidence that the hotel was the source of food poisoning.
If you don't know each other beforehand, you should exchange names and contact information before returning home.
Injury solicitors will also handle claims on behalf of groups of passengers injured:
- in a transport accident
- as the result of environmental contamination (e.g. excessive chlorine in a hotel swimming pool).
Package tour holidays
When a package holiday is booked through a UK-based tour operator, claims for injuries sustained abroad can be pursued against the holiday company. This has been the case since the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tour Regulations 1992 came into effect in 2002.
Any travel, hotel stay or excursion or activity that was included in your package holiday booking is likely to be covered by the legislation.
The regulations make it much easier for you to receive compensation.
If you are injured on a package holiday, you should report it to the tour company's representative at the resort. If there is no tour rep available, a report should be made to the operator's UK head office asap.
What if I was injured in an activity that wasn't booked through the tour operator?
The regulations may not apply to an accident or illness sustained during a package holiday if the cause occurred during an activity, or at a venue, that was not included in the package.
Examples of activities that may fall outside the regulations include:
- Beach water sports like banana boat rides
- Bungee jumping
- Eating out at a local restaurant
- A road accident involving a taxi, coach, bicycle or moped
What if the injury happened on holiday in the UK?
If you have booked a package holiday in the UK, any injury or illness you sustain is likely to be covered by the package tour regulations.
The regulations entitle you to claim against the tour company that arranged your holiday instead of against the hotel, airline, coach or travel company that caused your accident.
Travellers who did not book through a tour company may be able to make an occupier's liability claim against the hotel or premises where the accident occurred.
Non-package tour injury claims
If you booked your flights or accommodation independently, the Package Tour Regulations do not protect you.
Independent travellers who have been injured or become ill while on holiday in another country must, in most cases, make a claim through that country's legal system.
The complexity and duration of claims brought through foreign courts vary widely. Some UK-based solicitors will be able to offer initial advice as to how to proceed and may also be able to recommend a local lawyer if their own firm is unable to act on the claimant's behalf.
Do injury claim rules vary between countries?
Yes. Many countries also have restrictions on whether certain claims can be made. The process of making a claim, or specific type of injury claim, will differ from country to country.
Claim time limits can also vary considerably between countries.
If you were injured on a package tour then UK claim rules will apply.
What if I was injured in Scotland?
Scotland has a different basis of law to that of England and Wales; however, many of the legal principles are similar. Injury claims in Scotland will generally be pursued through the local Sheriff Court or the Court of Session in Edinburgh, which has Scotland-wide jurisdiction.
In some cases, you may have a choice between making a claim through English or Scottish courts. The amount of compensation awarded may vary considerably between the two jurisdictions. The Package Tour Regulations also apply in Scotland.
How long do I have to make a claim?
If you were injured on a package holiday booked through a UK-based tour operator, you have a time limit of up to 3 years from the date of the accident to make an injury claim.
The last date you can make a claim is known as the claim 'limitation date' - after which your tendon injury claim becomes 'statute barred'.
If your injury was not the fault of the UK-tour operator or you were not on a package holiday, then the time limit for making a compensation claim will vary depending on the laws of the country you were injured in.
Holidaymakers are generally advised to act quickly as, in any event, the less time that elapses after the accident, the more likely a claim is to succeed.
|Circumstances of injury or illness||Limitation date*|
During a package holiday:
|During a holiday or travel abroad booked privately (not as part of a package holiday)||See Time Limit Calculator|
|On an international flight booked privately (not as part of a package holiday)||2 years|
Common types of holiday injury and illness claims
Adventure sports accidents
Extreme and adventure sports, including rock climbing, skydiving, rafting and caving carry risks beyond those faced on a more conventional holiday, and safety standards across the world vary widely.
Evidence suggests that newer sports, such as base jumping, are among the most dangerous. The increased risk does not protect negligent trainers and operators against injury claims. In many jurisdictions, an individual can still make a personal injury claim even if they have "signed a waiver".
Travel insurance may not cover adventure sports activities, meaning that a compensation claim against the party responsible may be the only route for a claimant to cover the cost of their medical treatment and emergency travel home.
Accidents aboard aircraft are quite common.
Cabin crew spilling hot food or drinks into a passenger's lap is a common cause of burns and scalding injury on an aeroplane. Passengers have also sustained injury from bags and suitcases falling from overhead lockers, and crashes or rough landings can also cause much more severe injury.
The Montreal Convention is an international treaty between 118 states (and the European Union) that standardises many rules relating to international air travel. Article 17 of the Convention provides for the fast resolution of claims following an injury during a flight, or in the "operation of embarking or disembarking".
Under the Convention, it may be possible to claim for injury or illness during a flight even where it has not been proven that the airline was at fault, unlike most categories of personal injury.
The limitation date for making an injury claim under the Convention is 2 years. Due to the shorter time limit, injured passengers are recommended to seek legal advice as soon as possible.
Cruise ship illness
Widespread outbreaks of gastrointestinal illness can occur aboard cruise ships, including norovirus, Legionnaires' disease and the Norwalk virus, with the confined space and lack of easy hospital access causing the infection to rapidly spread.
It can be more difficult to claim compensation for isolated cases of illness, however, and evidence including medical reports and witness statements can significantly improve the likelihood of making a successful claim.
One of the most common holiday illnesses is food poisoning - Salmonella poisoning can be particularly serious. Salmonella bacteria are often found in dairy products, meat and fish and can cause severe gastrointestinal problems, diarrhoea, vomiting and fever. Parts of the world where stomach poisoning is more commonly reported by travellers include Spain, Turkey, Egypt, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
E. coli, Staphylococcus Aureus, Shigella, Campylobacter and Clostridium Botulinum bacteria can also lead to Salmonella like symptoms.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control reported a total of 831 cases of travel-associated Legionnaires' disease in a single year, however worldwide the figure is likely to be much higher.
Road traffic accidents
Road traffic accidents abroad are not uncommon. Hire cars and mopeds, different road protocols, such as driving on the right-hand side and an unfamiliarity with the area can all increase risk when driving abroad. Nevertheless, if another party is responsible (e.g. another driver or the driver of a taxi or bus you are riding in) for the accident, it is likely that you can claim compensation.
Motorway driving abroad can be particularly dangerous for UK drivers. In some countries, including Italy and Greece, you only have two years from the date of an accident to make a road traffic accident claim.
Promptly report the accident to local police is recommended, and in some countries may be a necessary step before a claim can succeed.
Skiing and snowboarding accidents frequently result in serious injury. Claims can arise following the recklessness of another skier, the negligence of a ski instructor or resort staff, or faulty equipment. Poor piste management can also result in avalanches, or injuries arising from falls and collisions with poorly signposted hazards.
Swimming pool accidents
Slips and trips around hotel swimming pools and in water parks are a common cause of injury to holidaymakers. Foot injuries including lacerations are also frequently reported, with swimmers being cut by sharp tiles or drains. If not treated properly, cuts can become infected, leading to more serious illness and medical intervention.
Hotels and pool operators are likely to owe a duty of care to people using pool facilities, including a responsibility to keep the pool clean and in safe working order. Pool staff may also be required to use signage to warn users of dangers, including trip hazards and slippery surfaces. It may be possible to demonstrate negligence if these steps are not followed, and photographs can be useful evidence of a breach.
Ice cubes, drinking water and swimming pools can all be contaminated by waterborne diseases. Common diseases include Cryptosporidium poisoning and Leptospirosis (Weil's disease).
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office may recommend drinking only bottled water when travelling to certain countries, and hygiene standards can vary between countries. However, a package tour provider is likely to be liable for an illness resulting from a hotel's negligence, even in higher-risk parts of the world.
Water can become contaminated following exposure to algae, untreated sewage, poor filtration, leaking pipes and chemical poisoning, including chlorine used to clean pools.
Some gastrointestinal illnesses leave little evidence following recovery, making it essential to act quickly if you become ill to gather supporting medical evidence.
Can I claim through my travel insurance?
According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), approximately £5.3 million is paid out every week to cover medical treatment costs.
Travel insurance should cover you for any medical treatment and repatriation costs (the cost of your travel home).
Travel insurance does not usually cover you for general damages (compensation for pain, suffering and loss of amenity).
Compensation for certain special damages may also be claimed, where these costs relate to expenses are incurred as a result of the accident.
Often insurers will require your solicitor to attempt recovery of such expenses from the defendant first. Your solicitor will be able to advise you further if this condition applies.
How much compensation can I claim for a holiday injury or illness abroad?
For a holiday injury or illness that occurred in the UK, or on holiday booked through a UK-based tour operator, your compensation depends on two main factors:
- The seriousness of your injury.
- Any financial losses or costs you've experienced.
At the beginning of your claim, your solicitor will assess how your injuries have affected your life, taking these factors into account when calculating the compensation amount.
Holiday injury or illness abroad
Get an accurate compensation estimate (including for multiple injuries), confirm your legal position, and check if you have a No Win, No Fee claim.
Updated December 2023
Compensation Calculator v3.04
General damages in personal injury cases encompass compensation for pain, suffering, and loss of amenity (PSLA).
The Judicial College sets these compensation amounts through their published guidelines for personal injury awards.
Special damages is compensation for quantifiable financial losses you've incurred as a result of your holiday illness or injury. Compensation can include loss of earnings (including future earnings loss and retraining costs), and any additional expenses directly related to your injury.
These damages may also cover any medical or treatment bills, such as local medical care, pain medication and psychological support.
How we can help you with your injury claim
Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, and the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning injury claims.
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Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO)
The FCO can provide contact information of the nearest British embassy or consulate, and may be able to facilitate contact with local police and emergency services. The FCO will also assist with arranging emergency travel documents for return the UK (repatriation) if necessary.
King Charles Street
Tel: 020 7008 1500
Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA)
ABTA members abide by a Code of Conduct that prescribes how customer complaints should be handled. The Association also provide support to holidaymakers who have booked through an ABTA member.
30 Park Street
Tel: 020 3117 0599
Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO)
The AITO represents 122 independent tour operators. AITO operates an independent dispute settlement service (DSS) to facilitate the fast resolution of claims made against AITO members.
18 Bridle Lane
Tel: 020 8744 9280
Citizens Advice (formerly Citizens Advice Bureau)
Citizens Advice provide guidance to UK consumers, including holidaymakers.
Post Point 24
Walliscote Grove Road
Weston super Mare
Tel: 03454 040506
Howard Willis, Personal injury solicitor
About the author
Howard qualified as a solicitor in 1984 and has specialised in personal injury for over 25 years. He is a member of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) and is a recognised Law Society Personal Injury Panel expert.