Irwin Mitchell, a leading law firm, has reported a substantial increase in the number of clients seeking representation after members of their families or friends have been involved in fatal accidents in the country. The firm says Britons can expect lengthy delays and significantly less compensation if they are forced to claim through a Turkish court.
Britons currently pursuing legal action include Linda Hudson, 51, from Essex, whose husband Glenn died while parasailing with his daughter on July 24; two survivors of the ballooning accident that resulted in the death of Dr Kevin Beurle, a leading space scientist, last May; and two holidaymakers who were involved in fatal jeep accidents.
Last month a nine-year-old Welsh schoolgirl drowned following a rafting accident.
Perry Roe, 46, from Ottery St Mary in Devon, died in 2006 when the open-top jeep in which his family had taken a tour swerved off the road. His wife, Siriol Roe, 44, and their children, aged 14 and 18, were taken to hospital.
The family had booked the tour through a local company in the south of Turkey.
“The publicity leaflets we saw were professional and advertised that the company was fully insured,” said Mrs Roe. “We had been warned about hiring a car, but the tour was in a convoy and we felt that with a local driver everything would be OK.”
Mrs Roe said that the jeep was driven dangerously and at high speed, and when the driver attempted to overtake another car he lost control.
“Turkey is a beautiful country, but road safety is particularly poor,” she said. “It is essential to get travel insurance. Our policy has covered our legal and medical costs, but we are still awaiting compensation after four years.”
A Foreign Office spokeswoman advised travellers visiting Turkey to take out comprehensive insurance, as European Health Insurance Cards (which give you access to medical treatment in EU member states) are not valid there. She urged anyone who observes unsafe practices by tour operators to report them to the Turkish authorities.
Glenn Hudson died last month after booking a parasailing tour with a firm in Side. During the flight, his harness snapped and he fell 150ft to the ground. His widow, Linda, is seeking compensation through the Turkish courts and campaigning for stricter safety regulations. “There were no checks,” she said. “They just strapped them in and sent them up. You think these people know what they are doing; you assume it is safe.”
Earlier this month Ken Wright, 22, claimed that he narrowly escaped death while parasailing on the same beach when the strap of his harness frayed down to a single thread.
Demetrius Danas, a travel law specialist at Irwin Mitchell, said that court cases in Turkey were notoriously slow and compensation often insubstantial. He urged holidaymakers to ensure their insurance covered any activities they would be taking part in, and where possible to book excursions with a well-known operator registered in the UK, so that if anything did go wrong they could pursue a claim in a British court.
“The Turkish tourism industry’s record on health and safety is a real concern,” said Mr Danas. “A disproportionate number of the fatalities and serious injuries that we deal with each year have occurred at Turkish resorts, with many tourists not realising that health and safety measures will not be as rigorous as those within the EU.”
Turkey’s popularity as a summer destination has grown in recent years. A report by Co‑operative Travel showed that there had been a fall of 11.6 per cent in bookings at Mediterranean resorts this summer, compared with an increase of 23.4 per cent in bookings to Morocco, Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.
Nearly 2.5 million Britons visited Turkey between April 2009 and March 2010. Of these, 93 died and 140 needed treatment in hospital.