The government has announced a crackdown on bogus holiday illness claims, which it says is damaging Britain’s reputation overseas and could drive up holiday costs.
The move follows concerns from the travel industry that more and more suspected false insurance claims for gastric illnesses like food poisoning are being brought by British holidaymakers, partly fuelled by touts operating in European resorts.
Advice from the travel industry shows an upsurge of claims in the UK – the increase could be as high as 500% since 2013. However, an increase in holiday illness claims has not been seen in other European countries, raising suspicions over the scale of bogus claims.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) says that, due to the reported increase in claims – and as many tour operators appear to settle them out of court – the costs to the travel industry are increasing, raising fears of higher package holiday prices for the majority holidaymakers.
The MoJ adds that a major barrier to tackling the issue is that spurious claims are arising abroad and legal costs are not controlled, so costs for tour operators which fight claims can be out of all proportion to the damages claimed.
Ministers have said they want to reduce cash incentives to bring spurious claims against package holiday tour operators – under new proposals, tour operators would pay a prescribed sum depending on the value of the claim, making the cost of defending a claim predictable.
Justice Secretary David Lidington said:
“Our message to those who make false holiday sickness claims is clear – your actions are damaging and will not be tolerated.
“We are addressing this issue, and will continue to explore further steps we can take – this government is absolutely determined to tackle the compensation culture, which has penalised the honest majority for too long.”
A system to control costs already exists for most personal injury claims in England and Wales, but a loophole is being exploited in foreign holiday claims, the government says.
To prevent this, ministers have asked the Civil Procedure Rule Committee – which is responsible for setting rules on legal costs – to urgently look at the rules governing the costs of holiday claims.
As a result of these proposed changes, fixed recoverable costs can be extended to cover claims arising abroad, closing the loophole – meaning that payouts for tour operators will be subject to stricter controls.
Those with genuine claims will still be able to claim damages, but these changes will crack down on those who do make bogus claims, says the MoJ.
In addition, ministers will ask the Civil Justice Council in the coming weeks to look at the rules around how low-value personal injury claims more generally are handled, to reduce the incentives to bring claims lacking merit.
The government will also be bringing forward proposals to tackle the continuing high number and cost of whiplash claims via the Civil Liability Bill.
Holidaymakers should be reminded that they could face up to three years in prison if found guilty of making a fraudulent claim.
Duncan Lewis Personal Injury Solicitors
Duncan Lewis personal injury solicitors can advise those who have fallen ill with food poisoning caused by negligence on package holidays – or who have suffered injury on holiday as a result of negligence – on how to make a no win no fee claim for compensation, including claims involving:
Holiday accident injuries or food poisoning and holiday illness claims have to be made within three years of illness or injury or diagnosis of illness – children can claim compensation for holiday accidents and illness up to the age of 21.
For expert legal advice on no win no fee Holiday Illness & Accident Claims, call Duncan Lewis personal injury solicitors on 0333 772 0409.