What the law says regarding accident claims while holidaying in Belgium
Several factors come into play when considering whether you should claim compensation for an injury or illness while on holiday in Belgium. The most significant is whether you booked the trip as part of a package deal through a UK-based tour operator or whether you made the travel arrangements by yourself. Read more general information about holiday accident and illness claims here.
Our network of solicitors do not currently have the capacity to take on holiday-related injury and sickness claims outside the UK. It is recommended that you contact a personal injury specialist solicitor to discuss your options as soon as possible, as some jurisdictions have limitation dates of less than the three year limit that is standard in the UK.
Package tours to Belgium
Most of the leading UK holiday companies operate package holidays to Belgium, including Thomas Cook, Saga and Shearings Coach Tours. A package holiday is any holiday where the transport, accommodation and/or tourist services such as car hire are organised together at an inclusive price.
Package holidays are covered by the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992. Under the Regulations, visitors to Belgium who booked their trip as part of a package deal are entitled to claim compensation for their injuries through the courts of England and Wales. Provided the following conditions are met, the claim would be made against the UK-based travel agent:
- The trip to Belgium was part of a package deal; and
- The injury or illness was the fault of the travel agent, either directly or indirectly.
For example, if you suffered from food poisoning after eating in a hotel booked as part of the package, then you would be entitled to file a claim against the UK travel agent as they booked the hotel for you.
However, you may not be able to file compensation against the travel agent for any non-package activities you undertook, such as a sightseeing trip you organised on your own.
Independent holidays to Belgium
If you booked your holiday to Belgium yourself, the issue of jurisdiction (which country has the power to make legal decisions) is more complicated. It may still be possible for a UK-based injury lawyer to pursue your claim in some circumstances.
For example, a British cyclist can bring a claim against a Belgian driver's insurance company through the UK Courts.
If you have been injured or fallen ill while visiting Belgium independently, it is recommended that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. The time limits for filing a claim may be different from that of a package travel claim, and gathering evidence can be complex. Even if you are unsure about making a claim when you return home, contacting a solicitor will allow you to keep your options open and strengthen a potential injury claim.
What are the time limits to claim compensation in Belgium?
The time limit for making a claim will depend on whether you holiday to Belgium was booked through a package tour and the specific circumstances surrounded the injury or illness. It is essential that you act quickly to ensure you have enough time to pursue a claim.
|Circumstances of injury or illness||Limitation date*|
|Illness or injury occurred on a flight, on a ferry, in a hotel or during a tour that was booked as part of a package through a UK-based package tour operator||
|Injury or illness occurred during a Belgium trip that was booked privately (non-package tour)||5 years (time limits can vary - see Time Limit Calculator for more information)|
Injury or illness during a privately-booked flight (non-package) to or from:
- Ostend Bruges International Airport
- Brussels Airport
- Liege Airport
- Antwerp international Airport
*Contact a specialist solicitor for more information or calculate how long you have to make a claim here.
What to do if you have an accident in Belgium
Who to contact in an emergency incident in Belgium
In the event of an emergency in Belgium call 112 (general emergency line). Calls are free from any mobile phone or landline. Other numbers include:
- 101 - police
- 100 - fire service
- 105 - Red Cross
- 02 648 40 14 - Community Help Service Helpline (24 hour crisis and information service in English).
Most doctors and emergency service operators speak English but there is no guarantee. Useful phrases include:
- Emergency: urgence (French), spoedgeval (Flemish)
- Medical service: service médical d'urgence (French) medische spoeddienst (Flemish)
- Police: police (French), politie (Flemish)
- Ambulance: ambulance (French), ziekenwagen (Flemish)
- Accident: accident (French), ongeval (Flemish).
Seeking medical attention in Belgium
British holidaymakers to Belgium are advised to carry a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). The EHIC gives injured tourists the right to state-provided healthcare from a Belgian medic or hospital. Your EHIC does not cover private treatment, so make sure you are treated by a state healthcare provider.
Hospital care in Belgium is not free. Patients are asked to pay a fixed daily fee of around 15 euros in addition to the cost of their medicines. Doctors and dentists will also charge a fee before providing treatment, and there is a standard charge for using an ambulance based on the distance of travel to hospital.
It is possible to claim back up to 75% of the costs through the EHIC system, with some exceptions. To claim the money back you need a special receipt ("attestation de soins donnés"/ "Getuigschrift voor verstrekte hulp") so you should always ask the medical provider for this.
Gathering evidence for a possible claim
Getting injured in Belgium can result in a number of out-of-pocket expenses such as medical bills, travel costs and the cost of an extended hotel stay for you and your family. In order to recover these expenses, it is important to gather evidence regarding the accident and what happened following the accident.
Some of the things you can do include:
- Notifying the police where appropriate. If you are involved in a road traffic accident, it is important to call the police and take a copy of the European Accident Statement provided by the police or the other party.
- Reporting the incident to the tour operator's representative in Belgium or their UK head office
- Reporting the incident to your travel insurer
- Making a note of the time and place of the accident
- Taking photographs of the accident location including any significant hazards, signs or markings
- Recording the names and addresses of any witnesses
- Asking for a copy of your medical records before you are discharged
- Keeping your medical invoices, travel receipts and any other documentation related to the holiday and the injury
- Keeping your hotel bills if you had to extend your stay.
Categories of common Belgium holiday injuries
Cycling accidents in Belgium
Belgium's famously flat landscape is ideal for leisure cycling and an increasing number of British holidaymakers are choosing to tour the country by bike. Accidents are relatively common due to the high number of cyclists on the roads. Urban cyclists are particularly at risk, with most accidents occurring due to drivers opening their car doors into a passing cyclist.
If your cycling tour was organised by a UK-based tour operator to include hotel or bed and breakfast accommodation, then you may be able to bring a claim under the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992. British cyclists can also bring a claim in the British courts if their injuries were caused by the negligent actions of an EU driver.
Road traffic accidents in Belgium
Prior to 2001, road safety was not prioritised in Belgium and its traffic accident rate was amongst the worst in the EU. Road safety has since improved, but the number of fatalities is still more than twice that of the UK.
Since the UK and Belgium are both members of the EU, Britons are entitled to make a claim for compensation against negligent Belgian drivers through the courts of England and Wales. However, there are few solicitors who will be familiar with European road traffic legislation, so it is best to contact a solicitor who has experience in making this type of claim.
Slips, trips and falls in Belgium
Slips, trips and falls are among the most common holiday injury claims. Accidents might include:
- Slipping on wet or tiled floors
- Tripping over equipment that was not stored away properly
- Falling on staircases with a narrow tread depth or steep descent, which are a common feature of older buildings in Belgium.
Wherever an accident is caused by poor building standards or inadequate health and safety, then it may be possible to claim compensation for any injuries that arise as a result. The claim would be made against the tour operator or the hotel owner, depending on whether the accommodation was booked as part of a package deal.
What to do next
Whether you have been injured on a city break to Brussels, a culinary expedition to Bruges or a cycling tour of Flanders, you may be entitled to claim compensation.
To find out whether you can make a claim, contact Quittance on 0800 612 7456 or arrange a callback and a specialist travel solicitor will call you back at a time of your choosing. Alternatively, you can start your claim online here.
Useful contact details
British Embassy Brussels
Avenue d'Auderghem 10
Telephone(+32) 2 287 62 11
Open Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.