Lawyers Commence Court Action on Behalf Of Victims Of Fatal French Coach Crash

Victims And Families Speak Of Devastating Impact Of School Trip Coach Crash

19.11.2012

Lawyers representing the devastated families of school children and adults seriously injured in a coach crash in France when they were returning from a skiing trip have issued court proceedings against the organiser of their ski trip in the High Court in Birmingham today (19 November 2012) on behalf of victims.

Coach crash and serious injury experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell are representing 20 children and two teachers from Alvechurch Middle School near Birmingham, as well as two ski-instructors. Some of those they represent suffered very serious, life-changing injuries when the coach came off the road near Chalons-en-Champagne, close to Rheims in northern France on 19 February this year.

Passengers were left with multiple injuries, including spinal and limb fractures, lacerations, dental injuries, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some of the passengers are still unable to walk nine months after the crash and many more are struggling to rebuild their lives and get over the psychological trauma caused by the fatal accident.

On 19 February 2012, at approximately 2:15am, the coach on its return journey to the UK, veered off the A26 near Chalons-en-Champagne, approximately 90 miles east of Paris and went down the adjacent grass verge, before it rolled over onto its side. The English driver of the coach has been charged by the French authorities with involuntary manslaughter. His trial in the Criminal Courts in Chalons en Champagne, France is likely to take place in early 2013.

Irwin Mitchell has already secured an initial interim payment on behalf of one seriously injured child, to pay for treatment, adaptations to her home to make it wheelchair accessible and a suitable vehicle.

Civil legal proceedings against the trip organiser Interschool Travel Limited, trading as ‘Interski’, will enable claims to be progressed for damages for victims’ pain and suffering, past and future financial losses and expenses, as well as the cost of specialist rehabilitation, therapies and ongoing support that they need.

Clive Garner, head of Group Actions at Irwin Mitchell and a veteran lawyer who has represented dozens of passengers seriously injured in many coach crashes, leads the Irwin Mitchell team representing the victims. Garner said today: “What should have been a safe trip home for our clients after an enjoyable holiday has ended in tragedy, changing the lives of many of these school children and adults forever.

"Over more than a decade, we have been calling for improved driver training, monitoring and supervision to reduce the risk of coach crashes occurring. More still needs to be done to provide greater protection to bus and coach passengers and regrettably we have seen a recent spate of serious bus and coach crashes in Europe and the UK.

“As well as assisting our clients to recover the full and fair settlements that they are entitled to and which will help them to start to re-build their lives, for those with the most serious injuries, damages will provide them with the financial security, treatment and therapies they need both now and in the future.

“Many of our clients also want to know why the coach that they were travelling in came to leave the road and whether this incident could and should have been avoided. Like their legal team, they want lessons to be learned so that in the future others do not need to go through the suffering they have had to endure and will continue to endure in the coming months and years ahead.”

The parents of one of the school children injured in the crash have spoken of their disappointment and frustration that there has been no admission of responsibility.

Toni Smith Carrington’s daughter Freya, age 12, from Bromsgrove, suffered an open fracture to her thigh, which meant the bone was broken and punctured through her skin. She still needs crutches to get around nearly nine months after the crash.

Toni said: “Seeing Freya suffering every day because of her injuries is a nightmare. She is in constant pain and it is frustrating as her mother, there is nothing I can do to help. All I can hope for is that we get Freya the treatment and rehabilitation therapy she needs to recover as much as she can from her injuries. She can’t enjoy time with her friends socialising as much as she used to because she just can’t walk very far anymore and struggles when she goes out.”

Steve Ratheram, age 51 from Yardley Wood, Birmingham, suffered multiple fractures including spinal fractures, a fractured sternum and broken ribs, as well as shoulder injuries, in the crash. He was one of the ski instructors on the trip and has spoken of the need for an explanation to be given for what happened so that similar incidents can be avoided in the future.

Steve said: “I want an explanation about what happened. My life has been put on hold while I receive treatment for my injuries. I have already had surgery on one shoulder and need an operation on the other before I can go back to work, which means months of recovery and rehabilitation lie ahead of me. My doctors have told me I am unlikely to ever fully recover from my injuries.

“I think it is important that coach companies learn from what has happened here. Your life is in someone else’s hands when you are being driven on a coach and for the sake of everyone on board, there should be a better system in place to monitor drivers and to overcome the difficulties that can occur when driving at night.”

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