Tourists sue holiday company after being hit by waves

Aerial view of Praia city in Santiago - Capital of Cape Verde Islands - Cabo Verde

Three British tourists are suing holiday company Tui after being injured by big waves at a Cape Verde resort.

Rene Dickinson, 48, Margaret Nuckley, 60, and Joanne Hunt, 50, were all staying at the five-star Riu Touareg resort in Boa Vista in 2012 when they suffered fractures or broken bones in separate incidents.

Flags supplied by the hotel indicated it was safe to swim, they say.

"All three of our clients suffered serious injuries and on all three occasions the flagging system on the beach apparently indicated that they could enter the sea," Philip Banks of law firm Irwin Mitchell tells the Western Daily Press.

"We are aware of several other incidents involving the same beach and understand that other holidaymakers have been injured."

The tourists' holidays were booked with Thomson, which is part of Tui. Banks says the company has denied liability.

Mr Dickinson's leg was broken as he left the sea in May 2012, despite his being an experienced swimmer and qualified rescue diver. Ms Nuckley, too, was hit by a wave and fractured her leg.

A few weeks later, Ms Hunt suffered spinal fractures that led to a six-week stay in hospital.

"I am very concerned to hear that other people have suffered serious injuries in the sea when it was apparently not communicated that it wasn't safe to enter," she says.

"Tour operators need to take action now before it is too late, because I am all too aware my injuries could have been even worse."
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Holiday companies are obliged to make sure that the hotels they use have adequate safety measures in place. When it comes to beaches, Tui's safety information for customers says only: "Familiarise yourself with any flag warning systems that may be in operation on local beaches, and take into account local conditions."

The case may hinge on the fact that the accidents happened on a private beach, as package holiday companies aren't generally responsible for accidents away from the premises. However, hotels abroad aren't expected to conform to British health and safety standards, just those in force in the local area.

"Tour operators must ensure that the hotels they are sending holidaymakers to have the correct safety measures in operation to prevent accidents such as these and potentially fatal incidents," says Banks.

Not all complaints about holidays are quite so serious. Last year, holiday booking site Sunshine.co.uk revealed some of the oddest grievances it had seen. They ranged from the hotel non-nudity policy that prevented one guest showing off her new breast implants, to the shells on the beach that 'had something living in them'.

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Tourists sue holiday company after being hit by waves

If you are a victim of a strike, or any other event beyond the airline's control (including ash clouds!), they must offer you a refund (in which case it's up to you to find a way home) or an alternative flight. While you are waiting for the flight you have the right to food and refreshment and accommodation.

If you are on a package holiday, your tour operator is entirely responsible for looking after you until you get back to the UK.

This is more likely to happen due to the financial crisis, but in some situations you are covered. 

If you pay by credit card and it's over £100, you'll get a refund from the card company. 

Your travel insurance may well cover you too, but check before you go.  

Talk to the airline, and if it is temporarily misplaced they should arrange for it to be sent to your accommodation, and you should be either given cash to cover the essentials in the interim.

If it's completely lost you must wait 21 days and then make a claim for compensation. If you are travelling as part of a package you can claim costs from your operator.

If you are travelling within the EU you need an EHIC card, which gives you access to public healthcare. However, this won't necessarily be free, and if you need extra services such as accommodation for a carer, a helicopter home or a delayed flight, you could end up seriously out of pocket.

The only protection that will guarantee you will be looked after without running up a horrendous debt is by having travel insurance - which often covers up to £10 million of costs.

The most common form of theft is pick-pocketing, followed by theft from a car and bag snatching. Meanwhile, 752,000 of those surveyed had items stolen from their hotel room or villa.

If you have anything stolen, your only protection is insurance. You need to tell the local police immediately and get a crime reference for your travel insurer.

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