Travel sickness claims to be subject to fixed costs

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Tighter controls on costs that can be recovered in travel sickness claims have been agreed, the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has confirmed.

Travel sickness claims will be brought within the fixed recoverable costs regime “in the coming weeks”, the MoJ said.

The MoJ asked the Civil Procedure Rule Committee, which is responsible for setting rules on legal costs, to look at bringing travel sickness claims within the fixed recoverable costs regime.

The committee has now agreed to the rule change. The rules will be updated on 16 April, and will come into effect shortly. More detail will also be published on the government’s approach, alongside its response to a recent call for evidence.

Justice minister Rory Stewart said: “Claiming compensation for being sick on holiday, when you haven’t been, is fraud. This damages the travel industry and risks driving up costs for holidaymakers. This behaviour also tarnishes the reputation of British people abroad. That is why we are introducing measures to crack down on those who engage in this dishonest practice.”

According to research from trade group the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), there was a 500% increase in claims between 2013 and 2016, from around 5,000 to around 35,000, despite the fact that travel industry data on the global trend for reported incidence of illness in resorts has declined in recent years.

The government has made a concentrated effort to tackle what it calls the UK’s ”compensation culture”. It recently introduced the Civil Liability Bill, which includes measures to reduce whiplash claims.

Other reforms include the forthcoming ban on cold calling and tougher regulation of claims management companies.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer commented: “False sickness scams have been costing the travel industry tens of millions of pounds and damaging British tourists’ reputation abroad.”

“Since 2013 legal fees for personal injury claims which occurred in the UK have been capped, which is why in partnership with claims management companies, firms of solicitors have been targeting customers who have taken an overseas all-inclusive package holiday. This has contributed to a 500% increase in sickness claims at a time when actual incidents reported by customers in resort have either remained stable or declined.”

“We are pleased that the Ministry of Justice has responded to the concerns and evidence raised by ABTA and our members, by taking firm action on this issue. Closing the legal loophole before the summer should lead to a reduction in the number of false claims. We encourage the government to keep this matter under review and continue to pursue a ban on cold calling by claims management companies in relation to sickness claims.”

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Mark Dugdale is the editor of Claims Media. Mark welcomes articles, letters or feedback from readers and can be reached via mark.dugdale@barkerbrooks.co.uk