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Wednesday 18 September 2019

Insurers need to fight claims, our sector is being ruined - top hotelier

Concerns: David Fitzgerald of Woodlands House Hotel. Photo: Don Moloney
Concerns: David Fitzgerald of Woodlands House Hotel. Photo: Don Moloney
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

A leading hotelier has slammed insurance companies for settling personal injury claims instead of fighting them in court.

David Fitzgerald, general manager of Fitzgeralds Woodlands House Hotel and Spa in Co Limerick, told how two recent claims against the hotel were settled for a total of €80,000.

Mr Fitzgerald criticised how the claims weren't defended as he believes the hotel shouldn't have been liable, because the incidents involved companies using the venue at the time.

The hotel is on 40 acres of land in Adare and is regularly used for third-party events.

One case involved a business which hired the venue to hold a team-building day.

A woman injured herself after falling from a "bucking bronco" which was rented from a company and she subsequently brought a personal injury claim against the hotel.

Mr Fitzgerald believes the claim shouldn't have been settled as "we did absolutely nothing wrong".

"We were not aware of the incident until we received a solicitor's letter which said the woman was bringing a claim against her company and our hotel," he said.

"We arranged a team building company to look after the day and they subsequently hired someone else to bring in the bucking bronco. They all had their own insurance but because the woman sued us, the insurance company settled the claim.

"I've no problem with insurance, it's there for a reason but one of my big issues is claims being settled where we weren't at fault."

Mr Fitzgerald said the insurance crisis was putting a "huge strain" on hotels and harming the tourism industry.

"It is putting significant pressure on our competitiveness and preventing us from being able to invest in staff and expanding the business. Between Brexit and everything, these are challenging times," he said.

Another hotelier accused insurance companies of settling to "avoid the risks of inconsistent awards in court".

Regime

Fergus O'Halloran, managing director of The Twelve Hotel in Co Galway, also hit out at how insurance companies sometimes settle claims without consulting their client.

"We had one claim where someone injured themselves which we contested for years but the insurance company took it upon themselves to settle for €15,000 without informing me," he claimed.

"We have had a 100pc increase in our premium over the last four years and this is despite the fact we have a very strong claims-management and health and safety regime in place.

"Insurance is limiting our ability to grow our business and industry. This will lead to a poor visitor experience in the future and we all know where that slope leads to."

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Fáilte Ireland warned that rising operational costs and insurance were a concern for tourism businesses all over Ireland.

The tourism body called for "an insurance model that is viable for businesses of all sizes".

Irish Independent

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