Close call for holidaying family on package deal

Sadly, accidents while on holiday can happen. From food poisoning to pool side slips, illness and injuries are common.

Of course some holidays abroad will carry a greater risk of injury than others, such as skiing trips and rock-climbing but even if you are not a thrill seeker, the most sedate activities could land you in trouble.

It’s difficult to predict what may happen but in most cases you can protect yourself with insurance, provided you ensure the cover is adequate.

Recently we were approached by a family who had travel insurance as part of making a package holiday booking with Thomas Cook travel agents.

The Nisbet family from Lancashire were holidaying in Malta. Anthony Nisbet, 20, and his sister, Grace, 17 wanted to experience parasailing and booked through a parasailing water sports company to enjoy the experience.

On the day the activity was planned they were hurriedly placed into their harnesses and launched into the air – even though a storm was forecast. The storm, with high winds, hit the bay. As a result, wind filled the parachute and overpowered the boat’s engine dragging it towards land where it beached and capsized on to its side.

Video footage captured by beach goers aired this week on BBC’s ‘Close calls: On camera’ programme, showing what happened next. The cord became detached from the harness sending the pair over a dual carriageway and power lines, then into a field where they came crashing down.

Even though they were grounded, they were still attached to a large parachute in strong winds which dragged them a further 100 yards. They smashed into a wall as they continued to be helplessly taken by the wind. Luckily, some local people were able to jump on the sail before the wind took it back up.

Both suffered multiple injuries and were transported from the scene to hospital by ambulance. Since returning home they have required further medical treatment and incurred the cost of private medical fees.

The family contacted Thomas Cook Insurance on their return home but were informed that while they could claim for medical fees incurred in Malta, they would not cover the cost of ongoing treatment in the UK. The policy also did not allow them to be compensated for the injuries they received.

The Package Holiday Regulations only cover holiday makers when they are booked as part of a ‘Package Holiday’.

In such circumstances the package holiday provider has many obligations which vary from making sure the description of the holiday destination is accurate to stepping into the shoes of the hotel or activity provider if a personal injury occurs to meet any claim for compensation.

This means that even where the organisation responsible for injuring someone may be difficult to contact or is not insured, the holiday maker still has recourse against the holiday company they booked with.

However, where an activity is not booked through the holiday company, no such obligation exists.

When people carry out independent excursion bookings and something happens, travellers can be at the mercy of local law in that country. Even with comprehensive travel insurance they may even find that the organisation responsible for their injuries does not have insurance or, when it comes to making a claim, the company no longer exists.

Our expert team is assisting the Nisbet family pursue a claim against the paragliding business by establishing the firm’s insurance certification and liaising with the local Maltese authorities.

If you are planning a holiday and wish to take part in some form of activity, always make sure the company you are booking with has liability insurance with a reputable insurer. Also look at the fine print of your travel policy to identify what is covered.

If you have suffered an injury while abroad which you believe was not your fault and require advice, call Jamie Patton on 0161 238 5612 or email