UK holidaymakers who suffer personal injury on the Spanish Costas risk even more financial pain. It is due to the woeful one year time limit rule for filing a compensation claim in Spain.
HOLIDAY ILLNESS: The compensation rules pose a serious risk for unwary Brits abroad.
They may fall foul to laws of the country with the shortest time limit for personal injury claims in Europe (and most of the world).
But, in stark comparison, British holidaymakers may find a more lenient time frame in other EU countries.
For example, you get a 10 year limit to file injury claims after suffering an accident in France.
The news comes from Recent Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) figures. They suggest that each week around 60 British tourists receive hospital treatment abroad. Approximately 20% of these cases actually happen in Spain.
In some ways that's not so surprising. The same figures show around 12 million British Nationals choose to visit the Spanish Mediterranean mainland (or the Balearic and Canary Islands) each year for their premier holiday destination.
People who get injured in the United Kingdom, due to the recklessness or negligence of others, can take up to 3 years to file a claim. The same rule applies to individuals who get injured on a package holiday, providing they book it through a tour operator based in Britain.
The Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 covers most package holidays taken in the UK.
The law ensures that holiday companies are accountable for exhibiting a 'lack of reasonable care and skill'. This applies even in circumstances where hotel staff caused the illness or accident.
A big problem arises when holidaymakers book accommodation through a direct booking site. Most of these are not protected by the same Package Tour Regulations.
Non-package holidaymakers travelling to Spain often assume they will receive the same time length for filing a holiday illness compensation claim in Spain as they would in this country.
The fact is that any British National who gets injured in Spain has a maximum of one year to file their claim. The time limit of 12 months actually begins from either:
If you are a victim of crime in Spain you will get one year to make your claim. That starts from the end of the investigation and when the case files get archived.
The compensation laws for injured holidaymakers in Spain are seriously 'out of sync' with the rest of the EU member states. The time limits vary so widely. Most European countries grant a three year claim limit. But, unwary British tourists could easily fall foul to Spanish legislation.
It is wise for all British Nationals travelling abroad to be aware of the personal injury claim time limits and here are a few statistics of the top European destinations.
|Country||British Visitors per year||Time limit for a PI claim|
Most of the countries outside of Europe have time limits ranging from 2 to 30 years. There is only one other country sharing the same one year time limit as Spain - and that happens to be China!
You might be on holiday or one of the many expat Brits living in Spain. But, anyone who gets injured abroad should contact a lawyer as soon as possible to start their claim. Try to start the process several months before the year has elapsed. Time limits apply to the date when claims are actually filed Spanish Courts.
British holidaymakers should also note that a lawyer will want to investigate the claim. They will also gather evidence before filing the claim. Thus, there have been enquiries from injured holidaymakers who ran out of time.
The Foreign Office advice for travelers:
"Wherever you're going, it's important to prepare before you go. Stay healthy and safe abroad by taking some simple precautions. Plan your trip using our foreign travel checklist.
Learn about the laws, customs and entry requirements of the country you are visiting. Make sure you have the right overseas travel insurance. That also means getting your free European Health Insurance Card if you are travelling in Europe."
*Visitor Source Numbers: International Passenger Survey (IPS) published for 2014 (Office for National Statistics)
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Spanish Compensation Rules Risky for Unwary Tourists and Expatriates