The tragic deaths of Bobby and Christi Shepherd whilst on holiday in Corfu highlight the importance of your rights if you sustain an injury due to faulty hotel facilities or equipment. The two children were killed and their parents were put into a coma by a faulty boiler at the hotel they were staying at. In 2010, Thomas Cook were cleared of all charges, but the hotel manager and other hotel staff were convicted of manslaughter by negligence.
This month’s coroner’s inquest based in Wakefield was into the conduct of Thomas Cook in relation to this incident, and whether it could be held responsible for the children’s deaths. The deaths were ruled to be “unlawful killings”, and Thomas Cook was found to have breached the duty of care that it owed to the family.
The travel company, who offered the Corfu holiday as part of their package holiday range, initially refused to apologise for the incident.
In this week’s blog post, we will look at your rights if you do suffer an injury on holiday. We will then look at some of the more recent developments in the Shepherd family’s case.
Suffering an Injury on Holiday – Claiming Compensation from Tour Operators or Travel Companies
The tour operator or travel company that you booked with can pay you compensation provided you meet certain conditions. You can hold your tour operator responsible for your accident if the location where you sustained your injury was in your hotel or on a trip provided as part of your package holiday.
You also have to make sure that you follow any rules to hold your tour operator responsible. It is important that you are not at fault. If you dive into the hotel pool, and there is a sign up prohibiting you from diving, you do not have a claim against the travel company that you booked with.
It is important that you document your accident accordingly, and let your holiday representative know as soon as possible after the accident occurred.
The law is more complicated if you are classed as an independent traveller. You will be classed as an independent traveller if you booked your flights, hotel and holiday online through separate websites. It is very important to make sure that you get holiday insurance if this is the case. You may be able to make a personal injury claim against the hotel company if you injure yourself within the hotel. This is because the hotel is under a duty of care to their customers.
If you are travelling within the EU, an EHIC card will cover you for some or all of the cost of medical care. However, this does not mean you will not have to pay – you may have to pay upfront for your medical care and claim back later.
Holding Tour Operators to Account
In the Shepherd family’s case, Thomas Cook owed a duty of care to the family and should have inspected the outbuilding properly, where the boiler was stored. Thomas Cook initially claimed that the hotelier had lied to them about the presence of gas heaters. Some employees also refused to answer some questions during the inquest. This has angered the family, who feel that Thomas Cook has “hidden behind a wall of silence”.
Further developments this week, when Thomas Cook donated compensation money they received to UNICEF, have not improved the damage done to their reputation. BBC News reported earlier this week that an online petition to boycott Thomas Cook has gathered more than 4,000 signatures. The hashtag “#BoycottThomasCook” has also been trending on Twitter.
This case highlights that we must make sure we hold tour operators to account, and that tour operators must be more thorough in inspecting the premises that they offer to their UK customers as package holidays. Make sure you know your rights as a package holiday goer or as an individual traveller before you go.