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Skiing accident claims

Solicitors in London

Stuart Kightley is 'sensible and pragmatic'.

Legal 500

Skiing accident claims

Many of us Britons are just occasional skiers, and once a year will venture onto the slopes of France or Switzerland for some exhilarating exercise. That we often pick up injuries is usually down to our lack of fitness and the inherent difficulty of the sport. Orthopaedic surgeons in Harley Street have a busy time of it in the spring repairing ruptured knee ligaments and the like for returning 40 somethings.

Sometimes however the injury is serious, occasionally there is a fatality, and sometimes the accident was caused by somebody else’s careless or reckless act, and in those cases it may be worth consulting a lawyer about a claim.

The death of actress Natasha Richardson in 2009 prompted calls for ski helmets to be made compulsory. She died from head injuries sustained in a fall down a piste in Canada. There followed three fatalities involving British skiers in 2012. A young man was reportedly racing at 100kph when he crashed into a snow cannon at the side of the piste. He was not wearing a helmet. Then a teacher was skiing off piste in France when he got into difficulties and fell about 200 metres down cliffs to his death. Finally, a man in his sixties died after he crashed into a rock in poor visibility in the French Alps.

Without question a ski helmet will reduce the risk of sustaining a head injury in a skiing accident and this particular piece of safety equipment is becoming more prevalent on the pistes of Europe. It is not compulsory though and in any event will not guard against the risk of spinal or orthopaedic injuries caused by the recklessness of other skiers. if a skier disregards the usual rules and etiquette about speed and allowing priority to those ahead then they face the risk of a civil claim being brought against them personally by those they injure in collisions. In reality the guilty party’s insurers will pick up the tab under their public liability cover. if you have been injured in similar circumstances you should exchange details with the other party and obtain the contact details of any witnesses.

Skiing accidents can be caused by faulty equipment or signage. A ski lift that malfunctions because it was not properly maintained or a missing sign or barrier around rocks on or by a piste can all cause very serious accidents. It is relatively common for loose or faulty bindings to malfunction so that a ski fails to detach in a fall. If the act or omission is shown to have been negligent then a claim may follow.

Ski instructors owe a duty of care to those in their care, so that if perhaps because of language difficulties combined with a lack of attention an instructor gives you a challenge or takes you to a slope that is way beyond your capabilities and you have an accident and sustain an injury as a result then a claim against the ski school may succeed.

Skiing accidents almost inevitably occur abroad, where there will be a different legal jurisdiction (and that includes Scotland!). This adds a layer of complexity to any claim, but if the ski trip was effectively a package holiday – and many are – then the claim can be brought against the tour operator in this country.

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