Holidays From Hell

“It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive,” Robert Louis Stevenson once famously wrote. These words will be ringing in the ears of some holidaymakers as they return from their summer break with tales ranging from disappointment to near-on disaster. Do they have a case for compensation or is it not worth bothering with? Here are my top ten tips on seeking recompense for a holiday that went wrong.
INSURE YOURSELF – The best tip of all is to take out insurance against accidents and illness, cancellations etc before you go. If things go wrong, and financial compensation is not readily forthcoming, suing a British insurance company is much easier than suing a Lawyers With No Consultation Fee dubious cafe proprietor on the other side of the world. If you are not insured, the general rule is that the closer to home you require to take action (i.e. the UK or an EU-member country) the better the chances of getting a ‘result’ and the costs actually paid.
SURE START – Any claim – whether insurance related or not – will have a better chance of success if you start off on the right footing. With insurance companies, it is usually just a case of phoning or e-mailing for an official claims form. If the matter concerned is not covered by insurance, compile a full and detailed letter of complaint and send by registered letter (do not e-mail or telephone). Keep a record of all correspondence.
TIME TO GO TO LAW – If the tour operator or your insurer will not meet the claim and you still wish to pursue the matter, give your solicitors a call. Normally they will provide a free interview to ascertain whether or not there is a likely prospect of success.
LEGAL COST OPTION 1 – Depending on circumstances, your solicitors may take on the case on a ‘no win /no fee basis’. This means that if your claim is unsuccessful they will not charge a fee, but you could end up having to pay the other party’s legal costs. If the claim is successful, your solicitors will need to be paid – which when relatively small sums are involved may not make the exercise worthwhile.
LEGAL COST OPTION 2 – If the case is strong there may be another option – ATE (after the event) insurance, under which your solicitors obtain insurance for you at a cost of about A�200-A�300. This insures you against any future legal costs should the court case not be successful, though the precise terms of different insurance policies may vary. ATE insurance is generally only for personal injury cases, and is not, of course, appropriate to every person or every case. Insurance companies will usually only issue insurance certificates for cases that have a chance of success of at least 51 per cent.
EVIDENCE IS POWER – Wherever possible, take photographs to provide a record of unclean accommodation, unsafe stairways, damaged bedroom-door locks, injuries, etc. Try to obtain supporting statements from fellow guests/travellers and take a note of their names and addresses. If the police are involved retain all forms and similar documents.
MISDESCRIPTIONS – Package travel regulations require that if brochures are issued by tour operators, any information in relation to certain specified Will My Car Be The Same After An Accident matters must be accurate, such as the type of accommodation on offer and its location. If not they are liable to compensate the customer.
KEEPING YOU INFORMED – A significant alteration to a holiday itinerary should be made known to the customer as soon as possible. If a tour operator has not done so he may be liable to compensate you, but each case will depend on its individual circumstances. Any term in a contract to the effect that the prices laid down in the contract may be revised is void unless the contract provides for the possibility of upward or downward revision and satisfies certain conditions.
CHANGES AFTER TAKE-OFF – Where, after departure, a significant proportion of the services contracted for are not provided, the tour organisers must make suitable alternative arrangements, at no extra cost to you, for the continuation of the package. They may have to compensate you for the difference between the services to be supplied under the contract and those actually supplied. If it is impossible to make such arrangements, or you do not accept these for good reasons, the organisers may have to provide you with transport back to the place of departure or to another place to which you have agreed, and may also have to compensate you.
A BIRD IN THE HAND…….? – If the claim proceeds to court action, the other side may – at the 11th hour – offer a settlement which will be less than the amount claimed. Unless you are motivated by proving a point, rather than money, this may be worth considering if it saves the expense and hassle of going to court without any absolute guarantee of success.

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