It was written on 14 July 2017. The law and practice in Turkey change all the time. Our guides are updated as frequently as possible - typically every three years - but may be out of date.
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This guide is about what to do if you suffer an accident due to dodgy or defective premises: whether that's a hotel, restaurant, or even public street.
Many people are injured each year as a result of defective premises in Turkey. Some of the injuries can be extremely serious - even life-changing. Others can be less dramatic but still cause you significant pain and financial loss. For example:
People dive into swimming pools and break their necks because the depth is not marked
People fall through unsafe windows
People slip on wet surfaces in bars and restaurants
People fall down hidden steps or on uneven surfaces
People are injured when things fall onto them
People are injured or killed as a result of badly maintained gas heaters
The law applies equally to Turkish people and to foreigners and so, at least theoretically, being a foreigner should make no difference to your chances of success when claiming for an accident in Turkey.
However, you should remember that you are likely to be making a claim against somebody who is not only an Turkish citizen but also who may be well known in the area of Turkey where the court is located. Even worse - as the owner of a local Turkish business - he is likely to be an influential local. In these circumstances, particularly if the accident claim is being made in a small town in Turkey, it is sometimes suggested that the foreigner will be rowing uphill.
This is partly countered by the fact that, as mentioned below, a very large percentage of accident cases in Turkey end up passing on an appeal from the local court to a more distant appeal court where any such influence is unlikely.
In our experience, the obstacles to foreigners making accident claims against local people are generally overstated. Foreigners can, and regularly do, make successful claims.
In Turkey the owners of premises - hotels, restaurants, shops, apartments, offices etc. - are legally responsible for the safety of people using those premises. They are also responsible for any dangerous defects in those premises. In these cases, claims are made against the owner via the ordinary civil courts.
Similarly, at least theoretically, the Turkish government is responsible for any injuries or losses caused by defects in roads, pavements and other public areas owned by them. A fall in the street might result in a claim against the municipality. An accident as the result of a defective road may result in a claim against the Department of Traffic.
If your child (under 18) is injured, it will be the parents who make the claim on the child’s behalf.
It is important to establish, at the beginning, whether the defect that injured you or caused you financial loss was one that would trigger the right compensation in Turkey. This is one of the first pieces of advice that your lawyer should give you.
It is not every defect or every accident that will give rise to a claim for compensation in Turkey.
The duty to pay compensation in Turkey will only arise if the defect was something that the owner actually knew about or which he should reasonably have known about. It also only arises if the risk is one that, in Turkey, is thought of as a risk sufficiently serious to demand protection.
It will come as no surprise that different countries have different standards - and levels of acceptance - for risks of all kinds.
In many places around the world you may see high, unguarded drops off the edge of pavements - or hotel balconies with safety rails set at such a low level that they are more likely to cause you to fall over the edge than to protect you from doing so!
You must not assume that just because (for example) stairs in public places are always marked with a white stripe in the country where you live, that failure to do so in Turkey will give rise to a claim for compensation if you suffer an injury.
In Turkey, the safety standards required are moderate.
In certain cases, the owner will not only have the responsibility to pay compensation for damage caused as a result of his defective premises (this is called ‘civil responsibility’), he could also face the prospect of criminal responsibility if the standard of his conduct fell far below what could reasonably be expected.
This is important for three reasons.
Firstly, if there is criminal responsibility, the accident claim might be pursued by the Turkish police or other enforcement agency (in which case it costs you nothing).
Secondly, in simple and straightforward cases, the judge in the Turkish criminal courts has the right to make an award of compensation for the civil claim.
Thirdly, and possibly most significantly, if an Turkish property owner feels he is at risk of criminal prosecution - and therefore at risk at going to jail - he might be more inclined to settle any civil claim for compensation, if that is going to make his problem go away.
So the tactics employed in making your accident claim in Turkey can have a large impact on your prospects of recovery, as well as the speed and costs of your case.
Generally, you will be able to claim for compensation for any physical injuries you suffer and for compensation for financial losses directly and clearly attributable to those injuries.
For example, if you break your arm and are unable to work for six weeks, you will be able to claim for the broken arm and the pain and suffering associated with it plus your medical expenses and loss of earnings for the six-week period.
Or, a defective chimney could collapse on top of your car. In this case, the level of compensation would be the reasonable cost of repair or replacement.
In some cases, you may also be able to claim where there is no physical injury. For example, if you have suffered mental stress or other problems as a result of the accident.
If you are part of a group - such as your family - who are all injured as a result of the same defect, each person will have a separate claim against the owner. The parents of children will have a claim on the children’s behalf.
If you are unlucky enough to be killed as a result of a defect in premises, your heirs will have a claim on your behalf.
If your claim is against the Turkish state - either central government for facilities controlled by them, or local government for items they have allowed to become defective - your rights are different.
The test of whether the defect was sufficiently serious and sufficiently obvious to justify a claim becomes more difficult to prove.
There is also the very practical problem that taking action against the government - which has almost unlimited resources at its disposal - can be much costlier and more time consuming than claiming against a private individual.
Moreover, even if you win your claim there is the risk that the Turkish government may simply fail to pay the compensation you have been awarded, or delay payment almost indefinitely.
Any potential claim against the Turkish government - for example, as a result of a defect in a road - needs to be very carefully considered by your lawyers. They should advise you about the legal prospects of the claim as well as the length of time the claim is likely to take - and whether you are likely to ever receive your money.
If the accident was partly your fault - for example, if you fell through a window or off a balcony whilst drunk - at the very least the amount of compensation that you receive will be reduced. The extent of the reduction will depend upon the extent to which the accident was your fault.
In some cases, the Turkish courts can find that the cause of the accident was so much the responsibility of the person who suffered it that they will not make any award against the owner of the premises.
Compensation for death can be a very large amount of money. How much will depend upon the age, previous health and status of the person who was killed. The Court will calculate the person’s loss of earnings over the rest of their working life. It is very expensive to kill a 35-year-old lawyer!
Compensation for injury rather than death is rather less generous but payments can still be substantial.
Compensation for psychological damage and the like is low: almost nominal.
Again, if the accident is deemed to be partly your fault, the compensation will be adjusted accordingly. This is a common scenario.
In many cases the owner will have insurance of some kind, but this is not guaranteed.
A claim for compensation in respect of an accident causing injury must be made within five years of the date of the accident.
If you fail to make a claim within this period you will lose all right to do so.
You should not fall into the trap of thinking that it is all right to leave things until the last moment before making a claim. Gathering the evidence to support your claim can take some time and, after a few years, the evidence may well have disappeared or be impossible to find. Therefore, it is good advice to start a claim as soon as you are aware that you may have a case.
If you're involved in an accident, seeking good legal advice should always be your priority. A competent lawyer will be able to tell you whether you have a shot at compensation and, if so, whether it's worth pursuing.
|Turkey Country Guide
Essential facts and figures about Turkey
|Dealing with an Accident in Turkey
The general process of dealing with an accident
|Accidents at Work in Turkey
What happens if you hurt yourself at work in Turkey
|Accidents on the Road in Turkey
What happens if you have an accident in a vehicle in Turkey
I hope you have found this guide useful. If you need any further help, please contact me.Başak Yıldız Orkun 14 July 2017
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