Top Ten Tips: Travel hopefully and arrive safe

The great summer getaway is approaching fast yet for many people it will be anything but painless, whether they suffer cancellations, accidents or simply don't get value for money. Richard Godden, a partner in McKay Norwell in Edinburgh, gives his top tips on ensuring you're not vulnerable to holiday losses.


As insurance companies - like all businesses - attempt to reduce their costs, travel claims are coming under more scrutiny than ever before. But it is still better to have travel insurance than not.


Although highly recommended - and compulsory with some operators - not having travel insurance does not necessarily preclude you from making a claim for compensation if something goes wrong, whether on the outward or inward journey or at your chosen destination.


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Unfortunately, travel policies are not scientifically worded, which makes them open to various interpretations. So if you have time, try swotting up on your legal rights prior to going on holiday. The insurance company may declare itself "not liable" for a claim and you - the passenger or hotel guest - will be left to pursue the matter alone, either against a travel company or against the insurance company itself for its refusal to pay.


This stands for special drawing rights, which is a mix of currency values established by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and which in sterling equates to approximately 85,000. Under the Montreal Convention 1999, air carriers are strictly liable in damages for accidents to passengers during flights or while embarking or disembarking, up to SDR113,100. Where damages of more than SDR113,100 are sought, the airline may avoid liability by proving that the accident was not due to their negligence or was attributable to the negligence of a third party. This defence is not available in claims for less than SDR113,100.


According to the law, a package holiday should have at least two of three components, all as part of a "package" for which the client pays an inclusive price. The components usually include transport (such as flights and transfers); accommodation; and another tourist service (e.g. excursions) which makes up a significant proportion of the package.


Some tour operators have tried to circumnavigate the above rule by offering separate contracts - such as one for accommodation and one for flights - and not defining the deal as a "package". Guidelines laid down by the courts mean that if the total price charged to the consumer for all three services is less than the aggregate cost of the services sold individually, it is obviously a package. The same would apply in unusual cases where the "all in" price is more. Only when the price of both is the same is the law something of a grey area.7. HOME AND AWAY

The principle of what constitutes a package is not confined to foreign holidays, which in most cases involve air travel; it also takes in similar holidays in the UK where travel is by rail or coach.


If an operator's brochure states that a hotel provides certain facilities, such as a swimming pool or children's play area, then it must have them.

Unfortunately there is no obligation on the holiday provider to ensure the pool or play areas are safe, just that reasonable care has to be taken to ensure they are safe.


These usually apply to brochure claims, meaning, for example, that if a pool is deemed safe enough by Turkish standards then the package provider should be free of liability for any claims related to the pool by a UK holidaymaker.

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There are, however, exceptions. In Griffin v My Travel (2009), which came about after a bed in a complex in Rhodes collapsed due to negligence by a chambermaid, the court deemed that local standards were irrelevant.

But in Gouldbourn v Balkan Holidays (2010), which involved an accident on a Bulgarian ski slope, the court held it relevant to consider that a local instructor couldn't be expected to have the same standards as western European one..


In any claim against an insurer for compensation, the attitude and behaviour of the "victim" (or his or her guardians) at the time of the incident will greatly affect the outcome.

For example, being under the influence of alcohol will make a claim for compensation difficult - and sometimes impossible - to pursue, no matter the shortcomings of the tour operator, hotelier or travel company.

The same applies to situations involving children who were not under parental supervision at the time of sustaining an injury.