Virgin Holidays to challenge hotel liability claim

Virgin Holiday is appealing the court decision by a holidaymaker who claimed compensation for injuries after walking into a plate glass door in her bikini, The Telegraph has reported.

Moira Japp, was on the balcony of her suite at the Crystal Cove Hotel, in Barbados, and was wearing only her swimsuit, when she accidentally walked into the closed French windows leading into her room. The glass shattered and she suffered deep cuts all over her body.

Mrs. Japp sued Virgin Holidays in 2012. The operator was ordered to pay the 53-year-old £24,000 in damages, as it was judged that it should have ensured that the hotel was safe.

Virgin Holidays is challenging the decision at the Court of Appeal, saying that if upheld, the judgment would ‘create great difficulties for the tourist industry’ in applying British health and safety standards to foreign countries.

Sarah Prager, the lawyer representing Virgin Holidays, said in the Telegraph: ‘Travel agents, when they send people off abroad, if they are told that facilities have to comply with English notions of reasonableness that is going to create great difficulties for the English tourist industry in general.

‘Exporting English standards of reasonableness would give rise to lack of clarity – some nations are more risk averse than others.’

However Andrew Spencer, representing Mrs Japp, argued, saying: ‘When people book a package holiday, they are entitled to expect that the facilities are not unsafe.’

Mrs Japp, from Worthing, West Sussex, said: ‘It was a very small balcony and I am a very small person, and you don’t get much momentum going by walking about three feet. I was cut all over.’

Simon Lomax, a specialist in travel law, reportedly said that the cost of such claims was likely to be passed on to consumers in the form of price increases by holiday groups.

Judges are set to decide on the appeal at a later date.

 

Airlines shirking responsibility for passenger compensation claims

According to research carried out by claim agency, Flight-delayed.co.uk, airlines are continuing to ignore European laws that were introduced to ensure passengers were adequately compensated for time lost due to flight delays.

Flight-delayed.co.uk compiled its report using information taken from 10,000 claims filed by passengers from across Europe that had experienced delays. The report appears to reveal that despite European legislation ruling that air passengers are entitled to compensation if their flight is delayed by three hours or more (unless the delay is due to extraordinary circumstances outside the airline’s control, such as strikes or bad weather), claimants face numerous obstacles to having legitimate claims successfully resolved.

The most common excuse offered by airlines following a delay is that it was due to ‘technical difficulties.’ 40 percent of claims were denied for this reason. Raymond Veldkamp, spokesman for Flight-delayed.co.uk, believes that in many cases this is not the real reason for the delay, which was far more likely to have been brought about by financial considerations rather than technical ones, but the delayed passengers face an impossible task in disproving the airline’s version of events.

Veldkamp said, ‘The European Court ruled that technical defects are part of an airline’s operational responsibilities and do not exempt them from their obligation to compensate passengers in the case of a delay, unless the defect could have reasonably been prevented or predicted. As a result, airlines use this legislative loophole to their advantage by blaming every delay on the catch-all excuse of ‘technical defects’. Airlines are also aware of the public’s fear of crashes, meaning they need only mention a potential defect to lull their customers into waiting for hours on end.’

For years, the main excuse for not paying passenger’s compensation claims was that there was no legal ground to do so, but following extended legal debate between the airlines and the European Court, most airlines have finally stopped using this argument.

Veldkamp commented, ‘For the most part, airlines finally realise that they have lost this battle. As a result, some airlines do compensate more now than they did before, while others stopped responding at all after October 23.’

Airlines are also guilty of complicating the compensation process as much as they can. In one such instance, an airline allegedly drafts its own complaint form, and only accepts compensation requests if they are filed using this form. As a result, many customers have had their letters sent back to them unanswered, forcing them to send the same information twice, but in a different format. Veldkamp said, ‘The airlines know consumers are easily scared off by legal lingo, thick dossiers and lawsuits, and use these things to intimidate the passenger and discourage them from seeing their claim through ‘till the end.’

The experiences of 10,000 claimants were studied for the report; of those only 846 had received compensation immediately following the first request. On October 23, 2012, the EU’s Court of Justice reaffirmed the law in favour of passengers. The study showed that of all passengers that have filed a claim since that date, only 24 percent received a response from the airline within the legally set timeframe of 6 weeks. Before October 23, the figure was 45 percent. The largest shift between the period before and after October 23 can be perceived in claims filed with British Airways. Where previously, BA responded within 6 weeks in 60 percent of all cases, this number dropped dramatically to 17 percent in the period after October 23.

Raymond Veldkamp said, ‘The numbers speak for themselves: airlines ignore the legally set response time or fail to respond altogether. If they do respond, they almost always reject the claim straight away. The reason that is given for rejecting claims varies greatly. What’s also remarkable is that there are huge differences between the results of different airlines. What this means is that the chances of successfully claiming for compensation are highly dependent on which airline you’re facing. This conclusion by itself is unacceptable.’

It is estimated that only 7 percent of consumers are aware of their rights as air passengers.

 

The ins and outs of travel insurance

Hurricane Sandy, which hit New York in November, caused much destruction and disruption for both residents and tourists in its wake and has put the onus firmly on insurance firms.

Many victims were thoroughly dismayed to learn that their policies did not provide adequate cover and compensate them for the effects of the tragedy.

Despite the fact that according to the ABI (Association of British Insurers), a total of £416million was paid out by its members last year to policy holders affected by the hurricane, many complaints have been raised about the lack of clarity with regard to the depth of cover provided by travel insurance policies.

Accordingly, this article seeks to remove some of the mystery:

1) An accident occurred on the motorway on my way to the airport causing lengthy tailbacks and I missed my flight – can I make a claim to regain the cost of the missed flight?

This is a common cause for complaint, because unfortunately the answer to this question will normally be ‘no’. Only if your car was directly involved in the accident will you receive compensation – personally injury specialists such as first 4lawyers solicitors are great for this kind of eventuality.

2) A tornado caused a falling branch to fall on top of me and I need treatment- will I be able to claim on my travel insurance?

Most definitely. Any treatment that you need will be covered, as will the cost of medical repatriation. If you feel that you have been the victim of medical negligence after your accident and wish to seek compensation, you should perhaps contact medical injury lawyers like medicalsolicitors.co.uk at the earliest possible opportunity.

3) I’ve bought my tickets but the airline I was flying with has gone bust – will the terms of my insurance agreement force the insurance firm to pay out?

Generally no, as travel insurance is designed to cover risk only. However, a small number of policies do now include Scheduled Airline Failure Insurance (SAFI).

4) I was supposed to be going to Egypt at the end of the week, but a terrorist bomb has just exploded near my hotel, and now I’m too frightened to go – will my insurance company pay out for a cancellation?

This is a tough one. This is referred to in insurance quarters as ‘disinclination to travel’ and is not usually covered, but a handful of policies will cover you if the UK government specifically advises against travelling to that particular destination.