International law around winter sports accidents can be complex, so it's vital to have legal experts on your side when you make a claim. Even if it seems unclear who's responsible for an accident or injury at the outset, we believe that no one should be put off claiming compensation that they're entitled to.
We aim to make claiming compensation as simple as possible for you. Our specialist international personal injury lawyers have a proven track record in winter sports claims, and will support you every step of the way.
If you're thinking of making a claim, have any questions on how a claim works, or just need some advice on your options, contact us online, or call us on 0800 121 6558 for a free initial consultation. Alternatively, read on for answers to some of the common questions that our clients have.
Winter Sports Accidents And The Law
As with many areas of international law, different countries often have different rules and regulations with regard to winter sports accident claims.
Changes to European law in recent years have meant that more compensation claims can be pursued through the UK courts directly against insurers based in EU member states, which can make things more straightforward if your accident happened within the EU. It is sometimes also possible to pursue claims directly against insurers and other parties based outside of the EU.
However, it can still be difficult to untangle the various threads of liability in these claims, which is why it's important to seek legal advice from our experienced team of lawyers if you've been in a winter sports accident.
Common Winter Sports Accidents, Their Causes, And The Responsible Parties
As with any extreme sports, there are risks involved with winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. Snow sports can result in many different injuries, but the most common accidents that we help our clients claim compensation for are:
Collisions Between Skiers And Snowboarders
Collisions between skiers or snowboarders are the most common type of winter sports accident.
In a collision between two skiers, greater responsibility normally lies with the party who is uphill as the skier downhill can't see what's happening behind them. In these cases, witnesses can be essential.
A critical part of any collision claim is proving which skier or snowboarder caused the collision. Things are made more complicated by the fact that skiers must make sure that they don’t exceed their own capability when skiing, while making every effort to avoid fellow slope-users.
If you’re involved in a collision, you should collect the details of the people involved and any witnesses. This can help us work out exactly what's happened and help you make a claim.
Injuries Involving Ski Lifts And Other Machinery
Ski lifts, snowmobiles, and piste machinery shouldn't cause injury if they're maintained and operated correctly and safely. Sadly, this isn't always the case.
Ski lift injuries are common, and can be caused by:
- Poor maintenance
- Lax instruction by lift attendants, leading to inappropriate mounting or dismounting
- Chair-lifts being located in an inappropriate location
Unsafe use of snowmobiles – for example, travelling uphill in the direction of oncoming skiers – can also result in collisions.
Piste-operators, and anyone using machinery like a snowmobile, have a responsibility for the safety of others on the slopes. The ski resort is also liable for the mistakes of its employees, so if you’ve been hurt in a collision with a snowmobile or by a fall from a chair-lift, you may be able to claim compensation.
Defective Or Incorrectly Set Ski Equipment
When the bindings that secure the ski boot to the ski don’t release as they should, serious injuries can happen. This safety mechanism is designed to prevent injury in the event of a fall, but if the skis or bindings are faulty or haven’t been fitted properly by staff at the ski shop, it can cause injuries instead of preventing them.
Depending on whether your ski hire was booked through a tour operator or not, it may be possible to pursue a claim against the operator responsible for the hire package or against the ski shop itself.
Accidents During Lessons
Less experienced skiers shouldn’t be put in situations where they're out of their depth. As well as ensuring that classes contain skiers of a similar ability, instructors should select a slope that is the right level of difficulty for their students.
Ski instructors have a responsibility to provide sufficient guidance on a suitable slope. If you suffer an injury as a result of an oversight on their part, you could recover compensation in a claim against the tour operator the lesson was booked through, or the instructor’s employers or insurers.
Avalanches And Piste Management
Winter sports will never be risk-free, and unfortunately not every hazard on the slopes can be accounted for when conditions become dangerous. Operators and local municipalities will usually be under a duty to ensure that their slopes are in a suitable state to keep these risks to a minimum.
The possible dangers that piste operators should warn skiers and snowboarders of include:
- Poor slope conditions
- Serious weather conditions
Piste operators will also usually have a duty to maintain and mark slopes correctly.
If skiers and snowboarders aren't made aware of the risks from conditions, or if routes aren’t properly managed by operators, the consequences could be serious – even fatal.
If you or a loved one has been injured because of negligent management or insufficient warnings, you could pursue a claim against the local municipality, as well as those in charge of the ski area.
What If I Wasn't Wearing Protective Gear?
If you weren't wearing protective gear at the time of your accident, you may still be able to claim. However, it will depend entirely on the circumstances.
If your injuries may have been the same regardless of whether you were wearing protective equipment, it may not affect your case.
However, if for instance you were in a collision and your injuries were far worse than they would have been if you were wearing protective equipment, then the amount of compensation you receive could be reduced.
If you weren’t wearing the right protective equipment because an instructor failed to provide it to you, this may strengthen your claim.
If you have any doubts about your claim because you weren't wearing the correct protective gear, then it's vital that you seek legal advice. Call us on 0800 121 6558 for a free consultation, and we'll offer our expert opinion on your options, and whether we think you have a case or not.
Can I Still Claim If I Was Off-Piste?
There will be different rules around off-piste skiing from country to country, and even from resort to resort within the same country. Depending upon what happened and where, you may be able to make a claim if you were injured off-piste.
If you're unsure about whether you can make a claim because you were off-piste at the time of your accident, then call us on 0800 121 6558 for a free consultation. We'll discuss your accident, and advise you on whether or not we think you'll be able to make a claim.