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Everything you need to be aware of and what you need to do if your holiday is ruined by illness

Over the past few years many have experienced an upheaval to travel plans, whether it was postponing or cancelling an annual family holiday, honeymoon or even a destination wedding, many have been impacted in some way as a result of restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.

This summer, following the world emerging from the pandemic and travel restrictions easing, many holidaymakers have jetted off for a well-earned and much needed break in sunnier climes. However, this step towards normality has seen a resurgence in difficulties holidaymakers face associated with holidays.

Hundreds of holidaymakers seek legal advice

The specialist International Serious Injury Team at Irwin Mitchell has been approached by hundreds of holidaymakers returning from time abroad seeking legal advice where things have gone wrong. These include those who have suffered serious illnesses overseas, including infections caused by legionella, salmonella and e-coli, to name a few.

Illness problems can emerge in all kinds of situations, including at luxury resorts and on cruise ships. If issues arise, there are some key points to bear in mind.

What to do if you experience illness on holiday

While nothing can make up for falling ill on holiday below are a few key things you can do if the worst does happen. 

Report the illness in resort to both the hotel and tour rep 

Ensure that any report is documented in writing. Where you're not given a copy of the document ensure that you note down when you reported the illness and to whom. It's helpful to note both a name and description of the individual in question. Take a photograph of your compliant using a smartphone if you can.

Seek medical advice at the earliest opportunity 

Some resorts and cruise ships will have an in-house medical centre that you can visit while others may have a visiting doctor. In other instances, you may need to visit the local hospital and the staff will usually be able to direct you accordingly. While there will usually be a charge to utilise medical treatment abroad, your travel insurer should cover most of the cost. It's important to check your policy before you set off on holiday.

Give a stool sample

 Depending on where you seek medical advice a stool test might not be possible i.e. if you're seen by a visiting doctor. However, if there's an opportunity to undertake a test then ensure that this is carried out and that you have a copy of the results.

Take contact details of other impacted guests 

If you're aware of others that have suffered similar symptoms or have similar complaints relating to the health and hygiene standards, take their contact details.

Take photographic or video evidence of any problems 

This will assist where the resort or cruise ship claims to have followed health and hygiene regulations.

Evidence your out of pocket losses

Where you incur expenses as a result of your illness, whether this be purchasing medication from a pharmacy, seeking medical treatment or even making calls to your travel insurer ensure that you retain any receipts or invoices relating to this expense.

What to do when you return home

Just because you've returned from a holiday doesn't mean that you can't take further steps to help yourself. 

Below is what you can do once back home.

Seek medical advice

 Most importantly, and probably obvious to you, you should do what you can to get better. Once you're home it's important to seek advice from your GP or local A&E, especially if you're still experiencing symptoms. 

Once the acute symptoms have stopped and you feel well in yourself again, if you notice any changes to your normal health i.e. an altered bowel habit, fatigue etc. it's important to follow up with your GP for further investigations and treatment.

Send a letter of complaint

Even where you've reported your illness when overseas, it's important to send a letter of complaint to the tour operator setting out your complaints regarding the hygiene standards you experienced, and details of your illness. 

Where you have evidence relating to your allegations such as photographs, medical reports or stool sample results, it's advisable to attach these to your letter.

Evidence continuing losses

If you incur out of pocket expenses as a result of the illness it's important to retain all receipts. These losses could range from probiotics to over-the-counter medication.

Seek legal advice at your earliest opportunity

If you're unhappy with how your complaint has been handled by your tour operator, you should consider seeking legal advice as soon as possible because different time limits can apply which can impact your ability to pursue a legal claim at a later stage. 

Individuals that have experienced a severe illness often want answers on what went wrong, particularly if they continue to experience ongoing symptoms. In seeking legal advice, as part of the process, the tour operator will invariably be expected to provide documents both in respect of its own investigation and directly from the hotel/cruise ship allowing experts to assess where the failing lay. 

Knowing the potential cause of the illness may also help to form some sort of closure for those affected, particularly for those who continue to suffer potential lifelong symptoms, as well as assisting with ensuring that lessons are learned to assist other travellers who experience similar problems. 

Alongside the legal process lawyers can also provide support or advice with regards to accessing ongoing care or treatment for those most severely affected.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people affected by illness or injury abroad at our dedicated holiday accidents and illness claims section.