Injury or illness in Portugal compensation claims

In the following article we set out what you should know about making an injury or illness compensation claim in Portugal.

How much can I claim?

Please note

Our panel of solicitors are no longer able to assist with compensation claims for accidents abroad.

Holidaymakers are advised to speak to a solicitor to confirm how long they may have to make a claim. The applicable time limit, or limitation date, will vary depending on the circumstances of the injury or illness.

Circumstances of injury or illness Limitation date*
Injury or illness on a holiday to Portugal booked through a package tour company 3 years
Injury or illness on a privately-booked holiday to Portugal 3 years (time limits can vary - see Time Limit Calculator for more information)

Injury or illness on a flight that was not booked as part of a package holiday

2 years

*Time limits can vary, depending on factors including the age of the claimant at the time of the accident. For more information, calculate your claim time limit online.

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.

Lisbon portugal

Portugal package holiday claims

Many UK travel companies offer holidays to Portugal, including Thomas Cook and Thomson - whose sister company, First Choice specialises in all-inclusive holidays. Abercrombie and Kent promote first class hotels in Lisbon, whilst Sunvil Discovery offers resort-based holidays plus touring itineraries to lesser-known parts of the country.

Holidaymakers to Portugal who booked their trip through a package tour operator are protected by specific regulations. The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 enable people who have been injured abroad to make a claim against the UK-based holiday company, through the Courts in England and Wales.

Independent flights to Portugal

Flights not booked as part of a package holiday are not subject to the Package Tour regulations. Instead, an international treaty referred to as the Montreal Convention entitles passengers of international flights to pursue a claim if they are injured during their journey.

Direct flights (including those with budget airlines) connect British airports with Portuguese airports including:

  • Portela Airport, Lisbon
  • Faro Airport, Algarve
  • Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport, Porto
  • Other Portugese airports serving international destinations

Portugal holiday injury risks

Road accidents in Portugal

The FCO report that Portugal has one of the highest road accident rates in Europe and, according to latest figures from the National Road Safety Authority ANSR, the Algarve recorded a marked increase in accidents, road deaths and injuries in first 9 months of 2015, with the number of collisions rising by almost by a 1,000 to just over 7,500. Fatalities in the region also increased by more than 60 percent, rising from 19 to 31 in 2015.

Serious injuries climbed by more than 25 percent to a total of 136.

Nationally there were 90,000 collisions, 4,000 more than the same period in 2014.

British motorists, unaccustomed to driving on the right, are more vulnerable and should ensure that any hire car insurance is fully comprehensive.

It is also possible to take your own vehicle to Portugal for a maximum of 183 days in any 12 month period, but the vehicle must only be used for tourism.

In the event of an road collision in Portugal the procedure depends on the severity of the accident, whether there are injuries and if it is necessary for the police to be involved.

All vehicles must stop immediately and drivers must exchange registration numbers, insurance details and names and addresses. A declaration of events must also be made. In a minor accident where there are no injuries this forms part of the accident report submitted to the insurers. Where parties do not agree on the version of events then it is wise not to sign any documentation.

The police will need to be involved if the accident is major or causes injury.

Call 112 - which operates in English, French and Portuguese. Depending on the severity of the crash and possible injuries or someone being trapped inside the vehicle ask for the police (polícia), an ambulance (ambulância) and the fire services (bombeiros)

Road users are advised to not move the car until the police arrive, and place a red reflective triangle 30m away from the vehicle to warn oncoming traffic.

Major accidents require all involved parties to make out a report to the police and fill out and sign an accident report form. The police will want to see all documents and may make charges of driving offences. If you suspect the other driver has been drinking or taking drugs inform the police.

Most insurance companies have an 800 Blue Line telephone number to call immediately after an accident, and they will advise on the necessary steps to take.

The insurance form (usually in the insurance documents policy wallet) called a DAAA or Declaração Amigável (Friendly Agreement) is completed and signed by both parties and forwarded to each insurer.

The Folheto Participação de Sinistro (Não Amigável) Non-Friendly Accident Claim Form should be completed when there is not agreement and forward to the insurer.

Insurance companies should be notified as soon as possible - usually between 2 and 7 days. Any injuries should also be reported and medical certificates provided.

There is a 2 month time limit to bring charges against other parties involved. Most disagreements are settled out of court as court case in Portugal may be lengthy.

All drivers in Portugal must have at least third party insurance.

Injuries on activity and adventure holidays

The Algarve is one of the most popular European destinations for golfers. Golf carries the same risks abroad as it does in the UK, with potentially the additional risk of sunburn or sunstroke.

Anyone injured through a golfing accident in Portugal should seek medical attention. The dangers of crossing courses should be well signposted, and inadequate signage may be evidence of a course operator's negligence in the event of an injury.

Popularity for guided walking along the levadas (ancient irrigation channels) of Madeira is growing.

There have been reports of several holidaymakers being seriously injured during trips where negligent or untrained organisers have led walks along narrow or crumbling ledges, or where rain has made the ground slippery and unstable.

The walks may be challenging for the inexperienced, so it is important that walks reflect the participants' levels of fitness and to ensure suitable clothing and boots are worn.

Beaches and swimming

Portuguese beaches are controlled by the Maritime Police who have the authority to fine bathers who ignore the lifeguard's warning flags, which should be in place to indicate when it is safe to swim (green flag only) A chequered flag means the beach is temporarily unmanned.

Falling rocks may be a hazard, particularly in the Algarve and signs warning of any cliff erosion should be present.

Other activities

Holidaymakers to Portugal are offered a wide array of activities in which they can take part.

For the more adventurous these include kite surfing, cycling, rock climbing, abseiling and zip wiring - as well as traditional water sports such as windsurfing and sailing. All may carry risk of injury. Tourists tempted to try an adventure sport are strongly advised to check their insurer's small print before doing so. Some activity providers may be unregulated and therefore not covered by travel insurance.

Holiday food poisoning in Portugal

Of 100,000 UK visitors to Portugal, almost 7 people will contract a gastrointestinal illness, mainly caused by food-poisoning bacteria, Salmonella and Campylobacter. This is similar to the number for Greece and Cyprus but double that of incidences for holiday makers to Spain.

Obtaining medical attention in Portugal

The Portuguese Serviço Nacional de Saúde (SNS) is the equivalent of the UK's NHS and provides hospital and local health centre services. It is generally free of charge, although there is a patient contribution, which varies according to how the health service is accessed. GP consultations cost less than a consultation at the accident and emergency (A&E) department of a hospital. X-rays, scans and other tests also require co-payment.

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) enables holidaymakers to access state-provided healthcare at a reduced cost, or sometimes for free and will cover treatment that is needed to allow you to continue your stay until your planned return.

It also covers you for treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and for routine maternity care, but does not cover private treatment. Any costs incurred for private healthcare are non-refundable.

As well as 112 for emergency calls you can call Saúde 24 (Health Line 24) on 808 24 24 24 for general medical advice.

You can also visit the nearest state health centre (centro de saúde) or the A&E department of the nearest state hospital (hospitais) where you should ask for state-funded healthcare.

Generally anyone asked to pay up front is not being treated under the Portuguese health service and his EHIC will not be accepted.

Healthcare arrangements made by a hotel or travel representative should be through the Portuguese healthcare service as although they may reassure visitors that they can claim back whatever is paid out, they are referring to private insurance and not the treatment given under the EHIC.

It is vital to ensure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the immediate cost of any medical treatment abroad and any repatriation (which is not covered by the EHIC).

The FCO advises anyone referred to a medical facility for treatment, to contact his insurance medical assistance company immediately.

Remember to keep all receipts and any paperwork (make copies if necessary) as they might be needed by you or your insurance company to apply for any refund or reimbursement.

Pharmacies (farmácia) are identifiable by their green cross, and usually open from Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm, and 3pm to 7pm. Weekend openings are from 9am to 1pm.

A list of pharmacies providing a 24-hour service is available from any regular pharmacy.

Prescription medicines are subsidised from 15% to 90%, depending on their use and need. Visitors with the EHIC card also benefit from these subsidies.

Do I need a Portuguese lawyer to make a personal injury claim?

If you have been injured during a non-package holiday, it may still be possible for a UK-based solicitor to pursue your claim through the Courts in England and Wales.

If you believe you may have a claim, it is recommended that you seek legal advice as soon as possible, as non-package travel claims can be complex and limitation dates in Portugal are much shorter.

Useful contact details

British Embassy
Rua de São Bernardo 33
1249-082 Lisbon
Telephone+351 21 392 40 00

British Vice Consulate Portimão
Edificio A Fábrica
Avenida Guanaré
8501-915 Portimão
Telephone+351 282 490 750

Embassy opening hours are Monday to Friday, 9am to 1pm and 2.30pm to 5pm

Consulate opening hours are 9.30am to 2pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Meet the team

The national network of Quittance solicitors take on all types of personal injury claims, from more minor injury cases to long-term injuries. Our lawyers are selected for their level of experience and their track record in winning claims.

Click here to meet more of the QLS team.

Kevin Walker Serious Injury Panel Solicitor
Emma Bell Employers and Public Liability Panel Solicitor
Shahida Chaudery Complex Injury Claims Panel Solicitor
Jonathan Speight, Senior litigator

About the author

Jonathan has over 30 years' experience in the personal injury sector and has been awarded the rank of Senior Litigator by the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL).

Read more about this Quittance Legal Expert