SRA issues new warning on false holiday sickness claims
Solicitors have been reminded of their responsibilities when handling holiday sickness claims.
Last year, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) showed holiday sickness claims in Britain had increased by 500 per cent, dwarfing those made by continental visitors to the same hotels. A number of high-profile legal cases have shown that this rise included fraudulent claims, with some holidaymakers jailed for pretending they were sick when that was not the case.
The SRA has been working closely with ABTA and the Claims Management Regulation Unit (CMRU) - which regulates the claims management companies that make initial contact with potential claimants – to tackle the false claims culture. The CMRU published a report in July that said that claim numbers had fallen just as drastically as they had risen.
Last September the SRA published a warning notice to remind the profession of its obligations and make sure solicitors did not get involved in fraudulent claims. The warning notice included advice on checking the veracity of cases, with searching through social media posts as one of the simple ideas suggested.
That warning notice has been refreshed and updated to reflect new issues that have arisen. These include solicitors:
• acting where they had no skill in area
• failing to verify the source of the client referral (for example, was it from an authorised claims management company)
• making unreasonable requests for disclosure
• failing to advise clients about what would be expected of them when making a claim
The SRA has also contributed to the joint regulators’ Legal Choices website, offering advice to the public about the consequences of being caught up in false claims.
Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: "This issue is still very much a concern. While the number of claims has fallen, it’s important that solicitors are aware of the pitfalls especially at peak holiday season.
“We and the public expect all solicitors to maintain high standards and act with integrity. Our updated warning notice makes it clear that any solicitor handling holiday sickness claims must carry out proper due diligence, make sure they advise clients properly and that they are dealing with a genuine case where the client is seeking legal help of their own accord."
The SRA currently has 18 cases under investigation involving solicitors and false holiday sickness claims.
The updated warning notice can be found here: www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/code-of-conduct/guidance/warning-notices/Holiday-sickness-claims--Warning-notice.page
The Claims Management Regulation Unit’s report on claims management companies – including holiday sickness claims – can be found here: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/722649/CMR_Annual_Report_2017-18.pdf
The Legal Choices page on holiday sickness can be found her: https://www.legalchoices.org.uk/the-truth-about-holiday-sickness-claims/