When you travel abroad, having booked your holiday as a package holiday with a tour operator, it is their responsibility to ensure you stay safe and well.
This means the operator MUST ensure your holiday accommodation is well maintained and of a ‘reasonable’ standard, including the balcony or any outside areas you may use.
Unfortunately, this does not help to prevent tens of falls from balconies every year – some of which may have been preventable and wholly avoidable.
Whilst I acknowledge that some of these incidents are linked to alcohol consumption or the worrying ‘balconing’ trend, which sees people jump between balconies or into the swimming pool from height, this is not always the case. Sadly, the victims of falls at hotels and holiday apartments – not just from balconies but also from windows and staircases – are often babies, children and the elderly.
In the rare instances where the victim does not sustain fatal injuries as a result of the tragedy, they usually suffer from serious, life-changing injuries. My role, as an experienced travel litigation and serious accidents abroad specialist, is to establish whether the incident was avoidable or caused by a defective balcony at holiday accommodation. If the answer to either of these questions is yes, my job is to help secure justice for the victim and their loved ones.
How do we determine who’s responsible for a fall from a balcony abroad?
When dealing with claims for falls from balconies, it is important to establish whether the balcony complied with the relevant regulations.
Each country has its own health and safety standards and they may be different to those we are accustomed to here in the UK. Building regulations also vary depending on the country you visit, and often they are not as stringent as in the UK.
If it can be established that a balcony did not comply with the laws of the country where you were staying on holiday, it may be possible to pursue a case.
If you booked your holiday as a package holiday through a tour operator, and something goes wrong which is not your fault, you are protected by the Package Travel Regulations 1992. Having failed in their responsibility to keep you safe and well, the tour operator would be liable and you could claim for compensation for your injuries and losses in the Courts of England and Wales.
If you have booked a flight and accommodation separately, the hotel itself could be prosecuted for failing to adhere to the correct safety standards and it may be possible to sue the hotel’s insurer in your own country.
In both of these circumstances, the party responsible for protecting your safety should have carried out a full health and safety audit of the balcony’s height and suitability, the quality of construction and any safety glass or materials used in the design.
Steps you can take to prevent falls from balconies
Dealing with claims for falls from balconies is never an easy or straightforward process, which is why I would advise anyone to take every step possible to prevent it from happening in the first place.
To do this, it’s a good idea to immediately report anything in your holiday accommodation that may be faulty or potentially dangerous to a member of hotel staff or a holiday representative.
Sometimes, balconies are constructed at too low a height or with rails which allow children to get through and fall.
If there is anything that’s a major cause for concern, ask to be moved to a ground floor room – especially if you have children or elderly relatives in your company.
5 top tips for using hotel balconies safely:
- Never sunbathe on a balcony wall in case you fall asleep and fall.
- Don’t sit on or lean over balcony walls or railings in case it is not load bearing.
- Never leave balcony chairs or furniture next to a balcony railing or wall.
- Always lock balcony doors when the area is not in use.
- Never leave babies or children unsupervised on any balcony.
What to do if someone suffers a fall from height on holiday
Unfortunately, accidents will happen. When they do, it is important to take the appropriate steps to protect your rights or those of a loved one.
Irrespective of the fall’s severity and any injuries sustained, it is vital to adhere to the following checklist:
- Take photographic evidence of the balcony, window or staircase where the incident happened.
- Report the incident to the police, hotel staff and your holiday representative.
- Collect any other evidence you can – such as names and contact details of any witnesses.
Obviously, the health and well-being of the person involved will be of primary concern – especially for their loved ones. But if you are dealing with the aftermath of an incident like this, it makes sense to get help and advice from an expert solicitor.
At Hudgell Solicitors, we are experienced at dealing with balcony falls abroad and we understand how important it is to secure justice for what has happened. If necessary, we can also try to secure early compensation payments to pay for any medical treatment or rehabilitation needs.
If you’re weighing up whether to pursue legal action, please complete our online call-back form or call our team to discuss your case. We will put you in contact with an expert solicitor who will carefully consider the strength of your claim and take into account the testing circumstances you face in order to get your life back on track.