Evidence is key to fighting bogus holiday sickness claims and cooperation from hotel suppliers is essential, say leading UK industry lawyers.
Claire Mulligan, partner at law firm Kennedys, told a travel law seminar hosted by UK travel association Abta: “You need to gather evidence from the moment an incident occurs – statements, photos, plans, maps, occupancy levels. Evidence wins cases.”
She said: “It is important to work closely with your suppliers. It’s better to involve them immediately. If you work with people regularly, have supplier contracts.
“If it is a genuine claim and you can settle, pay it quickly – damages for suffering, for loss of enjoyment, for diminution in value. Make a good offer and stick to it.”
Abta has led a UK industry campaign to cut the number of bogus holiday sickness claims after a 500% increase in claims last year driven by claims management companies.
Mulligan told Abta members: “Look for any inconsistencies [in claims]. If it is a lower value claim, try to push it into the small claims track. Don’t just accept the claimant’s evidence. Question the medical evidence.
“Look at the numbers – for example, if one or two people were sick and there were 200-300 people in the hotel. Attack the claimant’s costs schedule. Check for duplicate costs.
“If you can prove ‘fundamental dishonesty by using Facebook or Instagram [evidence], do it. Social media is helpful in showing people were not so sick. We screen social media routinely now. I’m a fan of Tripadvisor when it comes to sickness claims.”
Sarah Prager, barrister at 1 Chancery Lane, agreed saying: “The key is documentation. You are dependent on hotels to cooperate with evidence and witnesses. If a hotel does not produce documents to show it conformed with hygiene requirements, a claimant can say what they like.
“It is all about supplier contracts. It astonishes me to find companies don’t have supplier contracts or a contract is written on the back of a fag packet. Put the onus on the hotel to provide documentation in these cases or to indemnify you.”
Prager added: “These cases are all about costs. The claims are only worth £2,000-£3,000, but the costs can be £40,000-£50,000.”
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