HM Insights

Holidays from Hell - Pursuing a holiday claim on home turf

If you've had a holiday from Hell, making a claim when your back on home turf is now easier thanks to a recent ruling in the Court of Appeal.

You can still claim in the country that the accident happened in but it can sometimes be advantageous to some holidaymakers to choose to issue proceedings in the place that they reside as compensation values differ between different countries.

Holiday Accident Claim

The Holiday Injury Compensation Case

In the case of Hoteles Pinero Canarias SL v Keefe,  the Court of Appeal was required to consider whether it was able to hear a claim brought by an English holidaymaker, Mr Keefe, against a Spanish hotel where Mr Keefe was already pursuing the hotel’s foreign domiciled insurer. 

The case was the first of its kind and therefore, the decision was long-awaited.

In 2006, Mr Keefe suffered severe injuries, whilst on holiday in Tenerife. He was staying, as a guest, at a Spanish hotel when a parasol was lifted by a gust of wind and blew, point first, through his eye and into his brain.

The hotel’s insurer admitted liability prior to the raising of the action, confirming that they would compensate Mr Keefe.

A Court action followed against the hotel’s insurer alone on the basis of a European case called Odenbreit. Odenbreit allows European citizens to start Court proceedings in the place that they reside for an injury that occurred in a Member State, where they are suing an insurer. It is most commonly cited in European car accident cases where car insurers are involved.

Once proceedings were raised, the hotel’s insurer did not raise any issue with the fact that proceedings had commenced in England rather than Tenerife but, at that point, their legal team disclosed for the very first time a policy limit of 601,000 Euros, which was said to include the legal costs of the case.  This was a blow to Mr Keefe as the case was valued in the region of several million pounds. As a result, Mr Keefe’s solicitors applied to have the hotel brought into the action as a second defender so that they could contribute. Permission was granted to do so in July 2012.

The hotel argued that the matter relating to the hotel was not regarding insurance and therefore they could only be sued in Spain not England.

The Court of Appeal disagreed with the hotel’s argument and found in favour of Mr Keefe. The Court confirmed that it was the law of the place of the accident that applied rather than the law of  insurance. The Odenbreit principle applied and could be relied upon by Mr Keefe whether the hotel was an insurer or not. The English Court felt that it was bound to accept that the case could be heard in an English Court. The Court of Appeal referred to both cases of Odenbreit v FBTO SchadverzekeringenNV C-463/06 [2008] 2 All ER (Comm) 733and Maher v Groupama Grand Est [2010] 2 All ER 455 when making its decision.

What else do you need to know if you are involved in an accident abroad and are injured?

All countries (jurisdictions) have limitation periods in which you, as a pursuer, are under a strict time frame to either settle your case or raise an action at Court to pursue damages sustained in an accident caused by an act of negligence. That time-frame may differ depending on the country in which your accident occurs.

Below is a guide to major EU countries and the applicable limitation periods:

France – 10 years from the date of incident 

UK – 3 years from the date of incident 

Germany – 30 years from the date of incident 

Spain – 1 year from the date of incident 

Ireland – 2 years from the date of incident 

Italy – 6 years from the date of incident 

Belgium – 5 years from the date of incident 

CzechRepublic – 2 years from the date of incident 

Finland – 3 years from the date of incident 

The Netherlands – 5 years from the date of incident 

Poland – 3 years from the date of incident 

Portugal – 3 years from the date of incident 

Turkey – 2 years from the date of incident 

Sweden – 10 years from the date of incident

Contact us

For more advice about your holiday accident or injury and help to make a compensation claim call our personal injury team