British Victims Closer To Justice After French Authorities Release Wreckage From Fatal Coach Crash

Expert International Lawyers Work to Secure Settlements

20.08.2014

Lawyers representing 25 British school children and adults seriously injured in a coach crash in France while returning from a school skiing trip have welcomed the release of the wreckage by French authorities, which they say is a ‘significant’ step forward in their clients’ battle for justice.
 
International serious injury experts at law firm Irwin Mitchell are representing 21 children and two teachers from Alvechurch School near Birmingham as well as two ski-instructors who were injured in the fatal crash when the coach came off the road near Chalons-en-Champagne, 90 miles east of Paris in northern France, on 19 February 2012.
 
The law firm has successfully secured settlements for a small number of the passengers along with vital interim payments of compensation for some others, but the UK proceedings for compensation were put on hold following a Birmingham High Court decision after an application by the Defendant Tour Operator, Interschool Travel Limited (trading as ‘Interski’). The company that organised the school trip, said the civil claims for compensation should not be progressed through the English courts until the coach company’s insurers had access to the coach to carry out an inspection of it.
 
Following repeated requests by Irwin Mitchell, the French authorities have now agreed to release the coach wreckage for inspection. 

Clive Garner, is Head of International Personal Injury and Group Actions at Irwin Mitchell who represents the passengers. 

Expert Opinion
What should have been an unremarkable trip home after a skiing holiday abroad has ended up being a living nightmare for many of those involved and their families. It has been two and a half years since the crash but many are still suffering from serious injuries and face a long battle to come to terms with their injuries and get their lives back on track.
“We have been able to progress a small number of cases, achieving vital settlements and interim payments for a handful of passengers to ensure they can fund expenses including ongoing treatment, specialist equipment and adaptations to housing which they need.‎ But the progression of many of our clients' claims, most of whom are children have been delayed.

“The English coach driver has been charged with Involuntary Manslaughter by the authorities in France and a criminal trial there is expected early next year. Despite this, the Civil proceedings in England have unfortunately been placed on hold as the coach company’s insurer considered that it could not conclude its investigations into the cause of the accident without access to the coach.

“We have been working with our colleagues in France to progress matters and the release of the wreckage by the French Authorities is a significant step forward in our clients’ battles for justice. We can now push forward with our clients' cases and ensure they obtain the justice they deserve.

“Many of our clients have suffered severe injuries and are seeking compensation for their pain and suffering as well as funds to replace the lost earnings of adult clients, as well as funds for both children and adults to reimburse them for the expenses and losses they have suffered. Any funds secured will also enable them to access the specialist care and support needed to help them to overcome their ordeals.”
Clive Garner, Partner
 
Irwin Mitchell has successfully represented hundreds of other victims of bus and coach crashes in the UK and around the world including the USA, Spain, Italy, Austria, Germany, Bulgaria, Turkey, Morocco, South Africa and other countries across Europe, Asia and Africa.
 
Garner added: “We are concerned that while the driver of the coach has been charged with involuntary manslaughter, we and the families we represent still do not know exactly what caused the accident. It is crucial that we determine why this coach left the road, first and foremost so that justice can be done, but also so that lessons are learnt to reduce the risk of a similar tragedy occurring in the future.
 
"At Irwin Mitchell we have repeatedly called for improved coach safety measures including driver training, monitoring and supervision to reduce the risk of coach crashes occurring.  Driver fatigue and the adequacy of driver rest periods are also matters of concern which often feature as a contributory factor in coach crashes and more needs to be done to provide greater protection to bus and coach passengers. While the cause of this tragic accident is yet to be determined, there are strong suspicions that driver fatigue was a causative factor."

Steve Ratheram, 53, suffered devastating injuries in the coach crash and was rushed to a local hospital for treatment for injuries including spinal fractures, a fractured sternum and broken ribs.

The ski instructor, from Yardley Wood, said: “This is a real step forward for all of us who were injured in the crash and have been left desperate for an explanation about what went wrong.

“The last two and a half years have been incredibly difficult as I have been back to hospital on multiple occasions for further treatment and have had to get used to living with my injuries on a daily basis.

“I hope that the civil proceedings will now progress quickly so all of us can gain the answers and justice we desperately need to help us begin to move on from the crash.”


Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise relating to international coach crash claims