Package holidays under threat from fake sickness claims
The story of the couple who sued their Cretan hotel three years after the holiday for £10,000 for sickness has been in the headlines recently because they ended up on the receiving end of a counterclaim for £170,000.
I have written a lot in the past about the claims management industry, regulated by the MOJ, but always reliably at the leading edge of new ways to bulk claim large amounts from different organisations, one year its banks, the next year it’s the councils, then PPI, now seemingly it is holiday sickness claims.
All bulk claims like this have a sweet spot in the early days when defendants settle to avoid legal costs and reputational damage, but as always, more firms get on the gravy train and the next thing you know, tens of thousands of claims have been issued. The island of Mallorca is considering banning British holidaymakers from all-inclusive resorts, so bad had the problem become.
Claims management companies definitely have a very strong responsibility in this situation. They encourage and pester clients to overstate severity of symptoms, or seek no proper details at all. However, even though I suspect a claims management company snared the couples interest initially, it is a regulated law firm called Opes Law which represented the couple and would have had to notify them of the incoming counterclaim, which was no doubt very unwelcome news.
This is where consumers would be advised to pay sharp attention to the very essential client care letter sent by their law firm. This couple will have funded this case a via no win, no fee agreement (CFA). But there are only zero legal fees in a simple settlement case. This couple would likely not have been covered for a counterclaim and also their CFA could also be invalid ironically, if THEY submitted false information to their own solicitors. OK, one could argue that they may have been ‘encouraged’ to say more than what really happened, but false information submitted could invalidate a CFA and could even trigger costs due and payable to their own firm.
Can you see why I feel so strongly about the risks these cases open up to consumers!? The moral side is also very valid and compelling.
I have my travel insurance provided through my bank account, so I am always covered. The only time I ever had to use it was to be helicoptered off a Swiss mountain with head injuries. The cost ended up being nearly £20,000 in total so I was very relieved that my low cost insurance had protected me as intended. The idea of ‘losing’ my laptop while abroad, to pay for a new one in reality, may seem risk free, but it is not at all. We should not consider this victimless or harmless, by keeping the claims genuine, we all contribute to a system that protects us when in desperate need and is low cost.
When we face the prospect of being denied a booking to a low cost all-inclusive resort due to the selfishness of the few, it’s time everyone woke up and realised that this ultra-litigious approach constitutes all that we mock in the US legal system and all that we should be trying to resist about our engagement with the legal system as consumers. The system is there to protect us and give us access to justice if we have been wronged, but if we enter it without equity, without ‘clean hands’ to use the legal phrase, we could all end up with a very costly bill.