Compensation claims for injury in China

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What are the time limits for claiming compensation in China?

China has a strict one-year time limit for personal injury claims. This is far shorter than the deadline applied in most other countries, including the UK. Holidaymakers are advised to contact a specialist travel solicitor as soon as they return home to ensure they have enough time to make a claim. 

Circumstances of injury or illness Limitation date*

Injury or illness occurs during a package deal holiday, where the package was booked through a UK tour operator

3 years
Injury or illness in China during a trip that was booked privately (not as part of a package deal) 1 year (time limits can vary - see Time Limit Calculator for more information)

Injury or illness during a privately booked flight (not booked as part of a package deal) to or from:

  • Beijing Capital international Airport
  • Shanghai Pudong International Airport
  • Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport
  • Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport
  • Shenzhen Bao'an International Airport
  • Other Chinese airports serving international destinations
2 years

*Contact a specialist solicitor for more information or calculate how long you have to make a claim 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.

What to do if you have been injured in an accident in China

If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip to China, dial 120 and ask for an ambulance (jiùhùche). You can also contact the police on 110 and the fire brigade on 119. In Hong Kong, the emergency number is 999.

Medical care is generally good in major cities. Outside major cities, the standard of healthcare is variable - sometimes it is necessary to travel long distances to the nearest hospital and waiting times can be long. If you need emergency medical care, you should contact your insurance company promptly as they will be able to refer you to an appropriate medical facility.

Medical care is not free in China. You will be asked to pay a fee before receiving any treatment. It is crucial to keep copies of all paperwork, receipts and medical discharge records from your medical service provider as you will need these to reclaim your expenses from your insurance company and/or from the Defendant in a personal injury compensation claim.

Making a China holiday injury claim

Package holiday claims

The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 apply to any holiday that was booked through a UK tour operator as part of a package deal. The Regulations give holidaymakers support and rights if things go wrong.

Under the Regulations, the UK tour operator must exercise reasonable skill and care to ensure that holidaymakers are reasonably safe while enjoying the services included in the package tour. Crucially, the tour operator can be held accountable even if local suppliers (for example, the Chinese hotel owner or car rental company) caused the illness or injury. This means that injured tourists may make a compensation claim against the UK holiday company, with the help of UK-based solicitor, through the Courts in England and Wales.

Independent holidays

The Regulations do not apply to people booking flights and accommodation separately through a direct booking. Accidents that occur during a privately booked holiday, or during an excursion that you booked directly with a local operator, are subject to Chinese law.

It may still be possible to bring a claim using a British solicitor in some circumstances. Holidaymakers are advised to contact an experienced travel solicitor as soon as they return to the UK. Even if you are unsure about making a claim, a solicitor can review the circumstances of the accident and help you keep your options open should you decide to make a claim in the future.

Gathering evidence

Whether you have returned home from China, are being treated in a Chinese hospital, or are continuing with your holiday, following these steps can give your claim a better chance of success.

  • Seek professional medical attention
  • Notify the police of any incident involving another person, such as road traffic accident, and keep a copy of the police report
  • Report the accident or illness to a competent person, for example, the hotel operator or the holiday rep
  • Take photographs of the scene of the incident
  • Gather witness statements
  • Contact a solicitor.

Categories of common China holiday injuries

Holiday food poisoning and water-borne illness in China

Tap water in China is generally not safe to drink. It is not unusual for guests to fall ill after consuming tap water in the form of ice cubes or where food has been prepared using contaminated water for cooking and washing. Water contaminated with parasites such as cryptosporidium can cause severe gastrointestinal infection with symptoms ranging from vomiting and diarrhoea to severe dehydration and death.

In recent years there has also been a rise in the number of tourists getting sick from fake alcoholic drinks containing contaminants such as antifreeze. This can result in serious health consequences for the drinker.

Where it can be demonstrated that the illness was caused by substandard hygiene practices, it may be possible to make a claim for compensation.

Slips, trips and falls in China

Slips, trips and falls are a common cause of injury in China. Building standards vary across provinces and, while most public buildings are well-designed and low risk, they are still likely to contain more dangers than in the UK. Holidaymakers are advised to watch their step and be careful of loose objects and sharp protrusions.

Where the accommodation is booked as part of a package deal, the tour operator has a duty of care to ensure that local safety regulations are complied with. These standards are likely to be lower than in the UK.

Road traffic accidents in China

China is ranked around 90th in the world for road deaths, statistically better than most developing countries. Accidents do happen, however, and China's roads may seem particularly chaotic to Britons who are used to different laws and customs.

In the event of a collision, it is essential that you remain on the scene. Fleeing is penalised heavily and may result in a criminal conviction, even if you did cause the accident. If the accident is serious, call 122 for the traffic police. Otherwise, and if the other driver agrees, you may leave the accident scene and make a compensation claims without official intervention.

What to do next

Whether you have been injured on a cultural tour of Beijing, a hiking tour of the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park or a cruise along the Yangtze River, you may be entitled to claim compensation.

To discuss your situation with a specialist travel solicitor, contact Quittance on 0800 612 7456 or (+44) 800 612 7456 from outside the UK.

Alternatively, you can arrange a callback or start your claim online here.

Useful contact details

British Embassy Beijing

11 Guang Hua Lu, Jian Guo Men Wai

100600 Beijing

China

Telephone +86 (0) 10 5192 4000

British Consulate-General Guangzhou

22/F Guangzhou International Finance Centre, 5 Zhujiang Road West, Zhujiang New Town

510623 Guangzhou

China

Telephone +86 (0) 20 8314 3000

Opening hours (local time): Monday to Friday: 8:30am to 12pm, 1:30pm to 5pm