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Holiday sickness compensation claims

If you've had food poisoning or another illness on holiday, you could be entitled to make a no win no fee holiday sickness claim.

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Holiday Sickness Claims

Going on holiday is supposed to be a fun and relaxing time with friends or family. However, when a hotel, restaurant, or another service provider fails to comply with health and safety regulations, your holiday could be ruined by an unexpected illness.

The most common causes of holiday sickness are food poisoning and exposure to unsafe environments. Although most illnesses are mild and may resolve without treatment, some may cause severe symptoms and lead to long-term health problems such as kidney failure.

If you or a loved one has fallen ill on holiday due to the negligence of another party, you may be able to make a holiday sickness claim. Usually, you should be able to claim in the UK even if you travelled abroad, but in some cases, you may have to take legal action in the country you were visiting.

To start your holiday illness claim, you can speak to a trained legal adviser by calling 0800 678 1410 for a free consultation. Or, if you would prefer to receive a call back, please enter your details into our simple online claim form.

Can I make a holiday sickness claim?

If you have suffered an avoidable illness while on holiday, you might be able to make a holiday sickness claim. The easiest way to find out if you are eligible for compensation is a free consultation with a legal adviser who will ask you a few questions to determine if you can take legal action.

As a general rule, a holiday sickness claim should be possible if:

  • Another party, such as a hotel or restaurant, owed you a duty of care
  • They breached their duty by committing a negligent act
  • You suffered a holiday illness as a direct result of the negligence

Usually, you have three years to make a personal injury claim for negligence. The time begins to run from the date of the accident or the date of knowledge of your injury. If you do not take legal action within the time limit, your case becomes statute-barred, and you will likely lose your right to claim.

However, there are some exceptions to the three-year limitation time. For example:

  • If the victim is a child, a parent or guardian could claim on their behalf at any time before they turn 18. The three-year countdown only begins once the victim becomes an adult.
  • There is no time limit to make a holiday illness claim on behalf of someone who lacks the mental capacity to conduct legal proceedings.
  • According to the Athens Convention 1974, you have two years to claim holiday sickness compensation if your illness occurred at sea, for example, on a cruise ship.
  • Under the Montreal Convention, there is a two-year time limit to claim for an illness that took place on an international flight, including any incident that happened after you went through passport control.
  • If a loved one passed away due to a severe illness, you could make a compensation claim within three years after the date of their death or after a post-mortem revealed the cause of death.
  • The time limit to claim compensation if you suffered an illness abroad can vary significantly from country to country. For example, the standard time limit to start legal proceedings is one year in Spain and Thailand and five years in Belgium and the Netherlands.

For a free consultation with a legal adviser, call 0800 678 1410. They can let you know if you may be eligible to make a sick on holiday claim and answer any questions you may have.

What are the most common causes of holiday illness?

Becoming ill on holiday may not only ruin your time away but also cause severe pain and suffering and lead to long-term health problems. The most common causes leading to a holiday sickness claim include eating contaminated food and exposure to an unsafe environment.

Food poisoning is an illness caused by eating poorly prepared or contaminated food. If germs such as viruses and bacteria enter the stomach and intestines, they may cause mild to life-threatening symptoms, such as:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Fever
  • Bloody stools

Most cases of food poisoning are mild and resolve within a few days, even without treatment. Severe cases, however, may need hospitalisation and cause long-term health problems such as kidney failure, brain and nerve damage, chronic arthritis or miscarriage. Although relatively rare, food poisoning can even be fatal.

There are over 250 organisms that may cause foodborne illnesses, but the overwhelming majority are due to the following:

  • Salmonella is a type of bacteria that may cause severe symptoms, especially in those who are very young, old, or are already sick. You can often get it by drinking unsafe water or eating contaminated food such as eggs, beef and poultry. It is one of the top causes of food poisoning fatalities in the UK, with 57 deaths recorded in both 2017 and 2018.
  • E. coli bacteria exist harmlessly in the human body, but certain strains can cause severe illnesses. You may be exposed to harmful E.coli from contaminated water or food, especially undercooked meat, raw vegetables and unpasteurised milk. You could be eligible to make a holiday sickness claim if you were served contaminated food while on holiday in the UK or abroad.
  • Campylobacter is a type of bacteria commonly found in chicken, unpasteurised milk, untreated water, beef or seafood. In the UK, it causes around 630,000 illnesses yearly, some of which lead to long-term and severe illnesses, especially in young children and the elderly.
  • Norovirus, also known as the winter vomiting bug, is thought to be the most common cause of gastroenteritis around the world. It is a highly-contagious virus that spreads through untreated water and foods such as shellfish, leafy greens and fresh fruits.

Exposure to an unsafe environment may also cause illnesses and entitle you to claim compensation for sickness on holiday. Common examples include:

  • Legionella is a harmful type of bacteria found in many environments such as swimming pools, ice-making machines, water systems, showers and whirlpool spas. It may be spread through the ventilation system or by inhaling droplets of water from things like air conditioning or hot tubs. It causes Legionnaire’s Disease, an illness similar to pneumonia, and can be particularly dangerous to people with breathing problems or impaired immune systems.
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is caused by inhaling smoke during a fire or gas from poorly maintained appliances such as heating systems or stoves in a hotel or other accommodation. The most common symptoms of CO poisoning include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headache and confusion. Large amounts of CO may cause irreversible brain damage and even death.
  • Pesticide poisoning can be extremely harmful and cause short-term symptoms like stomach pain, breathing problems, headaches, or long-term illnesses or skin problems. You may be exposed to pesticides by being served unwashed fruits or vegetables.

Regardless of how you became ill, if it was due to another person’s negligence, you may be entitled to make a holiday sickness claim. A free consultation with a solicitor will help them determine if you have valid grounds for litigation and who may be responsible for your damages.

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What should I do if I am sick on holiday?

If you or a loved one got ill on holiday, you might be able to claim compensation. That usually covers your pain, suffering and loss of amenity, as well as past and future financial losses related to your sickness. There are some things you could do to help secure a successful holiday accident claim:

  • Seek immediate medical care to get a diagnosis and treatment as soon as you develop symptoms. This will ensure you make a quick recovery and reduce the chance of long-term problems. A copy of your medical report will serve as essential evidence in your claim.
  • Collect evidence at the place where you were made ill, such as photographs or videos of poor hygiene standards, undercooked meat, etc.
  • If the illness occurred in the UK, you could report your sickness to the Food Standards Agency and notify the local Environmental Health Department.
  • Keep a detailed record of your symptoms, when you first noticed them, and what and where you ate and drank two days before your sickness.
  • Inform the staff at the accommodation of your illness and symptoms. If you booked your holiday through a tour operator, contact them and inform a holiday representative of your condition.
  • Get the contact details of any other guests that have contracted the same illness. Your injury lawyer may contact these people to provide a statement as evidence to back up your claim.
  • Ask for information about the hotel, resort or restaurant’s health and safety policy.
  • Keep details of any financial losses you incurred, such as time taken off work or money wasted on holiday activities and reservations you could not attend.

Most importantly, if you want to make a sick on holiday claim, you should contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible, especially if your illness was caused abroad. They will ask you some questions to determine whether you may have a claim for compensation.

If you have grounds for a claim, they will help you gather all the evidence you need to have the strongest possible case. Your solicitor will also work to find out who is responsible for your illness and to determine how much your claim is worth. If the other side admits liability, your solicitor will begin negotiating a settlement on your behalf. Otherwise, you may have to argue your case in court.

Who will my holiday illness claim be made against?

Based on the available evidence, your solicitor will be able to identify the party liable for paying your holiday sickness compensation. According to the circumstances of your illness, this could be either of the following:

A tour operator, if you got ill while on a package holiday that was booked through a UK-based operator. Under The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangements Regulations 2018, the company that booked your accommodation is responsible for your health and safety on the premises and may be liable to pay you damages.

In this case, your holiday sickness claim could be made in the UK and according to British legislation, even if you contracted the illness abroad.

A business owner, if you booked your stay independently or ate in a place that was not part of your package holiday. If your claim is against a business based in an EU country, you may be able to claim in the UK. Otherwise, you may have to claim directly in the country you were on holiday in.

Claiming abroad may sometimes be favourable and result in more substantial illness compensation. However, you may have less than three years to start proceedings, so you should seek legal advice as soon as possible. Even if you must claim abroad, it is unlikely you will need to leave the UK.

Whether you booked your holiday in the UK or abroad, your service provider has to take all reasonable measures to keep you well looked after, including:

  • Keep the premises safe and well-maintained
  • Monitor the toilets, pool and spa areas
  • Ensure the heating systems, ventilation and gas appliances are in good working order
  • Keep a high standard of hygiene in all areas
  • Make sure that food is stored and cooked according to health and safety standards
  • Cook food to sufficient temperatures and in clean spaces
  • Supply high-quality food
  • Do not use ingredients past their expiration dates
  • Ensure that the water in swimming pools is free from contaminants

If you suffered an illness on holiday due to someone else’s negligence, you might be able to claim compensation. If you feel you may have a valid holiday sickness claim, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser.

How much compensation is my holiday sickness claim worth?

Every claim is unique, and the amount of holiday sickness compensation awarded in a successful claim can vary considerably between cases. Usually, this will depend on several factors, such as the extent of the injury, if there are any long-term effects and related financial losses and expenses.

At the beginning of the claiming process, your solicitor will consider the pain and suffering caused by your illness and how it affected your life to calculate suitable compensation for sickness on holiday. Your claim will include two types of damages:

Special damages, awarded for the financial losses and expenses, such as:

  • Medical expenses, such as prescriptions and hospitalisation
  • Any extra care and support needed because of your condition
  • Travel costs and accommodation
  • The cost of activities or reservation fees you paid for but could not attend due to the illness
  • Current and future loss of earnings
  • Any other related financial expenses

General damages, awarded for the illness itself and how it affected you, including:

  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma and psychological distress
  • Loss of enjoyment of your holiday
  • Inability to pursue a hobby or social event
  • Reduced quality of life
  • Physical impairment
  • Loss of consortium

Make sure to keep all receipts and invoices related to the financial expenses caused by your holiday sickness. Your solicitor will refer to them to calculate how much compensation you are entitled to for special damages.

To calculate a settlement for general damages, your solicitor will refer to the guidelines published by the Judicial College. According to these, you could receive:

  • £910 to £3,950 for an illness causing some disabling pain lasting no longer than a few weeks
  • £3,950 to £9,540 for food poisoning that caused significant discomfort for weeks
  • £9,540 to £19,200 for severe but short-lived food poisoning
  • £38,430 to £52,500 for a very severe illness that may have long-term effects such as irritable bowel syndrome
  • £4,670 for mental anguish and anxiety
  • £1,540 to £5,860 for general psychiatric damage affecting sleep and daily activities
  • £3,950 to £8,180 for mild PTSD with complete recovery within a year or two

To learn more about your compensation prospects or begin a sick on holiday claim, you can enter your details into our online claim form or call 0800 678 1410 to speak to a friendly legal adviser.

Can I claim holiday illness compensation on behalf of my child?

Yes. If your child became ill due to the negligence of another person, you could make a holiday sickness claim on their behalf. Children under 18 are not considered to possess the judgment needed to make decisions about a claim or use solicitors to pursue holiday illness compensation.

To take legal action on behalf of your child, you must fill in and serve a certificate of suitability with the court, explaining why you are appropriate for the role. Before appointing you, the court will verify that you fulfil some criteria, namely:

  • You can conduct legal proceedings in a fair and competent matter
  • Your interests do not conflict with those of the child’s

This process is called becoming a litigation friend and brings with it several responsibilities, including:

  • Attend court hearings
  • Pay any fees requested by the court
  • Sign legal documents
  • Meet with solicitors and take legal advice
  • Consider any settlement offers made by the other side
  • Deal with correspondence
  • Keep updated on the proceedings and instruct solicitors

If you win holiday sickness compensation for your child, you must attend an Infant Approval Hearing in court. A judge will examine all the available evidence to ensure your child receives a fair settlement for their pain and suffering.

Usually, you cannot access the compensation awarded in a holiday sickness claim on behalf of your child. The funds will be kept in a court bank account until they turn 18 and will be released to them, plus any interest that has accrued.

Your solicitor can help you apply for early release of some of the money if you need it to cover pressing financial expenses you cannot otherwise afford. They may also be able to help you set up a personal injury trust for your child, so their settlement will not be considered for means-tested state benefits.

To make a holiday illness claim on behalf of your child, call 0800 678 1410 or request a call back to receive a free consultation with a legal adviser.

How long will a claim for holiday sickness compensation take?

Each claim for being sick on holiday is unique, so it is difficult to predict how long yours may take to settle. This will usually depend on several factors, such as:

  • How soon you contact a personal injury solicitor
  • The circumstances leading to your sickness
  • How long it takes to gather evidence to support your claim for holiday sickness compensation
  • The severity of your illness and any long-term effects
  • Who you are claiming against
  • The estimated value of your settlement
  • Whether the defendant admits liability
  • The time needed to negotiate a settlement
  • Whether you are claiming in the UK or abroad

The list is not exhaustive, and other factors may impact the time needed to settle your claim for holiday sickness compensation. Nonetheless, the sooner you seek legal advice, the sooner you can begin your claim and go through the steps of the personal injury claims process. This will include the following:

  • A free initial assessment to discuss the circumstances of your illness and determine whether you have grounds to make a holiday sickness claim;
  • Gather evidence to support your claim, like medical records and witness statements and prepare all the legal documents required to start the claiming process;
  • Calculate a suitable compensation award for your pain, suffering and financial losses. This may involve an expert medical assessment with a qualified doctor to determine the full extent of your injuries and their long-term effects;
  • Sending a letter of claim to the defendant to inform them of your intentions to pursue compensation for sickness on holiday. They will have 21 days to acknowledge your claim and three months to investigate your allegations of negligence;
  • If the defendant admits liability, your solicitor will conduct negotiations on your behalf to secure the best settlement possible for your damages;
  • If the defendant denies liability, you may have to issue court proceedings, which may considerably prolong the claims process;
  • If your case goes to trial, you will have to argue your claim before a judge and present as much evidence as possible to support your holiday illness claim;
  • Once your claim settles, you should receive your compensation award within four weeks.

Can holiday sickness claims be made using no win no fee?

The no win no fee* service came into force in 2000 to give any victim of personal injury access to justice, regardless of their financial situation. If you become ill whilst on holiday and have a valid holiday sickness claim, your solicitor will likely offer you a conditional fee agreement, which is the technical term for no win no fee.

No win no fee is the preferred option for funding a personal injury claim because it offers a series of advantages to claimants, such as:

  • Your solicitor will take on your case without asking for upfront fees;
  • You can claim holiday sickness compensation without taking any financial risks;
  • Since your solicitor recovers their costs only if you win, you can be sure that your case has merit;
  • You can focus on your recovery and loved ones while your personal injury lawyer will handle all the legal aspects of your claim;
  • Your solicitor will provide support and advice at every step of the claim, making the whole process much less stressful;
  • If your holiday illness claim fails, you do not have to pay anything to anyone. That is made possible by the conditional fee agreement between you and your solicitor and the After the Event (ATE) insurance policy they will take out on your behalf.

The ATE insurance can be taken at any point after an accident or negligent event to make sure that if your claim fails, you will not be liable to pay legal costs and disbursements, such as:

  • The defendant’s solicitor fees
  • Cost of medical reports
  • Expert witness fees
  • Travel expenses
  • Paralegal, secretarial and other staff time
  • Barrister fees
  • Further investigation costs

If you make a holiday sickness claim on a no win no fee basis, you only have to pay anything if you receive compensation for your pain, suffering and financial expenses. Your costs will be deducted from your settlement and include:

  • A success fee that you pay to your solicitor for the risk they took by offering you a no win no fee agreement. The success fee cannot exceed 25% of your compensation award and will be discussed with you before taking on your claim;
  • The cost of the ATE insurance premium, which you do not have to cover if your claim fails;
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Speak to a legal advisor, today!

Friendly legal advisors are available to discuss your holiday sickness claim today.

  • Find out if you have a valid claim
  • A risk free, no win no fee service
  • We are available 7 days a week
  • Experienced personal injury lawyers

*Personal injury claims are provided on a no win no fee basis. If your claim is successful, your solicitor will receive a success fee of up to 25% of your compensation. If any additional costs could be payable, such as taking out legal protection insurance, these would be fully explained upfront by your solicitor before you decide to proceed with your claim. Termination fees may apply based on time spent on your case, or in situations such as: lack of cooperation, deliberately misleading your solicitor, failing to attend scheduled medical or expert examinations, or not appearing at a required court hearing. Please visit our guide to no win no fee claims page for further information.


Last edited on 17th Jul 2024

With over 15 years in the legal industry, Nicholas Tate has a wealth of knowledge and experience covering all types of personal injury and clinical negligence claims.