West Midlands law firm Challinors has issued a warning to the increasing number of British sun seekers shunning the package holiday, who face complicated compensation claims if disaster strikes while away from home. Paul Debney, partner and an expert in personal injury, said the new breed of independent traveller risked a difficult struggle with foreign courts if injured abroad.
Mr Debney said: "Over recent years, growth in the budget airline industry and the accessibility of internet booking sites have contributed to an explosion in independent travel.
"From an impromptu weekend city break to the annual long-haul beach holiday, so many more holidaymakers are happy to go it alone and make their own travel and accommodation arrangements, rather than booking their trip in the more traditional way through a tour operator.
"However the majority of travellers are unaware of the pitfalls of booking their flights separately to their hotel room, and head overseas believing their holiday insurance is an adequate safeguard in the event of an emergency.
"The unfortunate reality is that if the holidaymaker is injured abroad under these circumstances, they will have no choice but to settle their personal injury claim in the country where the incident occurred.
"Their claim will therefore have to be settled by foreign lawyers and will also be subject to foreign jurisdiction.
"A recent case involving three female pensioners on a coach tour of Belgium provides a good example of this.
"Whilst staying in an hotel as part of their holiday, the women contracted Legion-naire's disease. They all made a full recovery and went on to pursue a personal injury claim against the coach tour operator back in the UK. This was a relatively straightforward process governed by English personal injury law on a 'nowin no-fee' basis, meaning there was no financial risk involved.
"However, also holidaying at the same hotel was a company of Morris dancers on an independently organised tour. Unfortunately, a member of the group died as a result of contracting the disease, and his family are now facing a much more difficult and protracted claim process through the Belgian courts.
"No one ever imagines anything is going to go wrong when they set about booking a holiday, but sometimes accidents occur and the resulting claims are often more easily dealt with in the English courts. Legal systems in other countries can be very different to the British personal injury system.
Mr Debney continued: "To support any claim you might be making if you are injured abroad, it is really important to gather evidence, either by taking photos or video footage, or even using the camera on a mobile phone.
"Witnesses are also useful and it is crucial to report any problems immediately."