Tour operators have welcomed government plans to crackdown on holiday sickness fraud but lawyers warn more proof of illness is needed to cure the problem.
The Ministry of Justice, following advice from Abta, has vowed to limit legal costs for tour operators fighting claims and reduce cash incentives for law firms and claims management companies.
Tackling costs was one of the main goals of Travel Weekly’s Fight Fake Claims campaign, launched last month. Personal injury claims made in England and Wales already fall under a government portal, limiting costs for claims between £1,000 and £25,000. The Ministry of Justice now plans to extend that to holiday sickness claims made abroad.
But Maria Pittordis, partner at legal firm Hill Dickinson and the only lawyer to successfully fight a sickness claim, says the government needs to follow up its “good start” by insisting on a higher burden of proof for claimants, such as providing more medical evidence and lodging claims sooner.
She said: “It’s a good start, because it will keep the costs that can be recovered down which will therefore make it less attractive as a means of income for lawyers and claims management companies.
“But it’s still not going to make fraudulent claims go away. More changes are needed to the civil procedure. There needs to be more detail provided to show they were ill in resort and there should be a shorter period of time in which to bring civil proceedings. This will make it harder for fraudulent claimants and easier for genuine claimants.”
Pittordis also called on hotels to write into contracts that illness must be reported in resort if a claim is to be lodged. “It’s tightening up their procedures to make sure they can produce the right evidence.”
She added: “Even if the government’s changes were made tomorrow, there’d still be three years of claims to be dealt with, and I still see the cost of holidays going up.”
Nick Longman, Tui UK and Ireland’s managing director, said: “This is a really encouraging first step to helping combat what is a major issue. We recognise that there’s still more work to be done and we’d urge the government to move as quickly as possible to tackle this.”
A Jet2holidays spokesman said the operator was “happy to hear the Government is on the side of holidaymakers” but said the Leeds-based firm would be pushing to make sure the MoJ “follows through on its promise”.
He added: “The sooner they clamp down on these touts and claims management companies the better. The cure to this particular sickness, it seems, is coming. We hope it comes quickly.”
Justice Secretary David Lidington said the actions of those making false claims “will not be tolerated”, adding: “This government is absolutely determined to tackle the compensation culture which has penalised the honest majority for too long.”
The government’s announcement was quickly backed by Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer, who also called for an increase in transparency between claims firms and solicitors.
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