Everything you need to know about holiday illness claims

By | Category: Advertorial, Travel tips & opinions
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There is no place for fraudulent travel sickness claims. Genuine claimants should not be deterred © Dan Sperrin

Stuart Snape, the Managing Partner of Graham Coffey & Co Solicitors, tells Just about Travel readers that holidaymakers with genuine complaints about travel sickness should not be deterred from claiming.

The summer of 2017 has seen many widely-reported cases of British holidaymakers caught out after making fraudulent claims against travel companies for food poisoning. The extent of the issue has resulted in the government launching a crackdown against so-called touts operating in European holiday resorts.

Ministers have said they want to reduce cash incentives for consumers bringing claims against package holiday tour operators amid concerns that prices will rise for all holidaymakers as a result. But where does that leave the high numbers of consumers bringing honest claims against unsanitary businesses who are blighted with illness every year? We’ll take a closer look in this blog post.

Know your rights

If you have booked an all-inclusive package holiday, then you are contractually entitled to be served food that is fit for consumption, and free from harmful bacteria or contamination. If food or drink provided by the hotel where you are staying makes you ill, the holiday company is responsible for compensating you for that illness, providing the holiday was sold to you as a package. This is according to the Sale and Supply of Goods Act 1982, and was recently confirmed in a recent Court of Appeal decision in 2017.

Current laws require consumers to show on the balance of probabilities – which is a greater than 50% chance – that you became ill due to the food or drink you were served. Contrary to popular belief, you are not required to provide evidence of any hospital or GP visit while on holiday, and you do not have to be diagnosed with a specific illness.

In a considerable number of cases, it will be enough that the claimant can provide adequate evidence that they were ill, that they did not eat or drink anywhere other than the hotel and that they witnessed poor hygiene or food preparation at the hotel during their stay. If more than one person in the party became ill under similar conditions, the case is even more likely to be taken seriously.

If you can’t get to the beach because of travel sickness, keep notes about what you ate.

It is important to note that travel companies often argue that a claim should be rejected when the person claiming does not seek medical attention, or fails to report the illness to their holiday company representative. However, this is not the case.

A claim for holiday sickness will almost always stand or fall on the credibility of the claimant. Medical evidence will usually be obtained that will include a review of GP records to ensure that alternative causes of the sickness can be ruled out.

A rise in fraud

Due to an increase in fraud reported in recent years, we have seen a rise in travel companies using the media to aggressively market their message to holidaymakers – if they find that a claim is not genuine, they will do everything in their power to see that person prosecuted. Those found guilty of fraud can incur huge penalties or imprisonment.

While the steps taken by travel companies to bring these criminals to justice is certainly commendable, there remain many holidaymakers who have consumed sub-standard food and drink and have become ill as a result. Yes, the travel companies and government have been quick to condemn fraudulent claims but they have done little to address the very real concerns that holidaymakers seem to be more at risk of suffering illness on holiday than ever before.

The issue with all-inclusive holidays

First Choice is just one tour operator that now markets all of its holidays as all-inclusive, which has encouraged many other companies to do the same. Consumers are often drawn to this type of getaway so they know the total cost of the break before they travel. However, many consumers wrongly believe that because they are travelling on an all-inclusive holiday they are in safer hands.

Unfortunately, as all-inclusive holidays become ever more affordable, operators are increasingly scrimping on food and drink, putting consumers at risk of getting ill.

In fact, competition on price between tour operators has led to increased pressure on local hotels to provide all-inclusive facilities cheaper than ever. Many tourists who have reported holiday sickness have spoken of dirty serving utensils, reheated or undercooked food and general poor hygiene. However, some hotels simply cannot afford to employ and train staff to suitable standards, meaning they gamble on the health of their guests as tour operators turn a blind eye.

Remember only a few few holidaymakers in comparison with the millions who holiday suffer from illness. Most of us enjoy ourselves! © Dan Sperrin

Do not be put off claiming

It is an unfortunate reality that the widespread media coverage penalising holidaymakers for fraudulent claims is making other honest individuals worried about the implications of claiming, even when they have a genuine reason to. We’d advise all those with genuine stories of poor hygiene to make a claim.

Tour operators simply must not be allowed to use fraudsters as an excuse for a reduction in standards caused by the race to provide the most affordable budget holidays.

In the unfortunate event that you do get ill on holiday, speaking to your holiday representative and the hotel manager is recommended and they should be able to direct you to the closest medical centre, should you require further care. In addition, try to make a record of where you have eaten in the days before you got ill, along with the date you first noticed the symptoms. Also, if you haven’t already done so, and only when you feel well enough, take photographs of any poor hygiene standards or undercooked food.

 

 

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