A Guide to Claiming Holiday Injury or Illness Abroad Compensation

If your life, or the life of a loved one, has been affected by a holiday accidents or illness we can help.

The purpose of this guide is to help anyone who has suffered a holiday accidents or illness and is considering a legal claim for compensation. If you are looking for medical advice, please see the NHS website.

Introduction

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office reports yearly on the number of British people needing hospitalisation abroad. The Government department estimates that there are 10 Brits hospitalised overseas every day.

The latest annual data available in 2019 shows that 3,157 Brits were hospitalised overseas in 2013/14. The number of people who suffer minor injuries is probably far higher.

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.

Beach holiday

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 would be able to make an occupier's liability claim.

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:

  • In the hotel
  • On a flight
  • Aboard a cruise ship
  • During an excursion or activity included in the package
3 years
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.

Airline accidents

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.

Food poisoning

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 accidents

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.

Waterborne illness

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.

No win, no fee

'No win, no fee' means that if you do not win your holiday injury or illness abroad claim, you will not have to pay any legal fees whatsoever. Known as a 'Conditional Fee Agreement' or 'CFA', no win, no fee is a legal agreement entered into between you (the 'claimant') and your solicitor.

Our no win, no fee guarantee

Our no win, no fee guarantee means there is no financial risk in making a holiday injury or illness abroad claim, even if you don't win your claim.

What do I pay if I win my holiday injury or illness abroad claim?

Your injury solicitor will receive a success fee which is deducted from your compensation, once your claim is settled. The solicitor's success fee can be up to 25%. Your solicitor will agree a success fee with you before you start your claim.

What do I pay if I do not win my holiday injury or illness abroad claim?

If your holiday injury or illness abroad claim is not successful then you will not have to pay any fees. Your solicitor may take out insurance to ensure there will be nothing to pay.

Read more about making a No win, no fee claim

Why do most solicitors charge 25%?

25% success fees are charged by most law firms as this is the maximum fee that the Ministry of Justice allows them to charge. holiday injury or illness abroad claims can take a solicitor hundreds of hours work and they receive nothing if the case is lost. In some cases our solicitors can work on a reduced success fee. Call us for more information.

How can Quittance help?

Your solicitor will fight for the best possible compensation settlement for you, the highly-experienced panel of solicitors have an excellent track record of winning injury claims.

If you have any questions, or would like to start a No Win No Fee claim, we are open 8am to 9pm weekdays, 9am to 6pm on Saturday, and 9.30am to 5pm on Sunday.

Call us FREE 0800 612 7456 or arrange a callback:

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Holiday injury or illness abroad FAQ's

Can I claim for someone else?

Yes. In certain circumstances, it is possible to claim compensation on behalf of another person in the capacity of a 'litigation friend'.

If an injured person is either too young or vulnerable, too injured or otherwise unable to claim on their own behalf, their litigation friend can handle the claim process on behalf of the injured person.

The litigation friend will be responsible for communicating with the solicitors, and for making decisions in respect of the claim.

Read more about claiming on behalf of another person.

Can I claim if I was partly responsible for an accident?

You may still be able to claim compensation even if you contributed to your accident or to your injuries.

However, if you were partly to blame (known as contributory negligence), your compensation may be reduced and it may be more difficult to prove liability.

Read more about claiming compensation if you were partly responsible for an accident.

How long do I have to make a holiday injury or illness abroad claim?

In general, you have a time limit of up to 3 years from the date of the holiday injury or illness abroad to make an injury claim.

The last date you can make a claim is known as the claim limitation date - after which your holiday injury or illness abroad claim becomes 'statute barred'.

Can I claim for a holiday injury or illness abroad after 3 years?

Possibly. The general rule for adults is that a claim must be started within three years.

However, the three-year countdown starts on the day you learned of your injury or illness. This will usually be the date of the accident, but could be the date your doctor gave you a diagnosis.

If you were injured as a child, you do have up until your 21st birthday to make a claim.

There other circumstances that can also impact the limitation date. Call us now on 0800 612 7456 to find out if you are still able to claim holiday injury or illness abroad compensation.

In reality, there are a number of factors that can affect whether a holiday injury or illness abroad claim will be taken on by a solicitor.

Calculate your claim limitation date

Will I have to go to court?

Highly unlikely. The vast majority of claims that are settled by the solicitor panel are settled out of court.

Only a very small percentage (approx. 5%) of personal injury claims go to court. Generally, only very complex cases, or those where liability cannot be resolved, end up in court.

Cases that do ultimately go to court are held in front of a judge, not a jury.

Read more: Will my injury claim go to court and what if it does?

Will I have to go to a solicitor's office?

No. You will not need visit a solicitor's office. As with most professional services, it is no longer necessary to meet face to face with your solicitor. Personal injury claims are dealt with via email, post and telephone.

Should you need to have a medical, this will be arranged at a medical centre near you or at your GP's surgery.

Read more: Will I have to visit a solicitor's office?

Can I get an early compensation payment?

If you suffer financial hardship as a result of an injury, you may be able to claim an interim compensation payment.

An interim payment is a partial settlement of your claim which is paid before your claim is concluded. The amount you receive in interim payments would then be deducted from your final compensation settlement or award.

Read more about interim compensation payments.

Useful addresses

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
London
SW1A 2AH

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
London
SE1 9EQ

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
Twickenham
Middlesex
TW1 3EG

Tel: 020 8744 9280

Citizens Advice (formerly Citizens Advice Bureau)

Citizens Advice provide guidance to UK consumers, including holidaymakers.

Post Point 24
Town Hall
Walliscote Grove Road
Weston super Mare
North Somerset
BS23 1UJ

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.

Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert