With skiing accidents now making up about a third of all sports accidents recorded in Alpine countries it’s clear that like all types of sport, accidents can and will happen.
The key to peace of mind when it comes to accidents is to have appropriate insurance in place before you leave home, as this will protect you financially should an accident occur.
What does the law say and how does this help when you have insurance?
European law states that the law in the country where an accident occurs is applicable to the incident.
So, for instance, should a holidaymaker from the UK have an accident on the slopes in France and then decide to seek legal advice, their representative would have to work within French law.
In addition, the Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS) is an important body in legal disputes following skiing incidents, as although its rules are not legally enforceable, European Union courts regard them as important guidelines when making decisions.
Therefore, it is important for you and your insurer to consult these rules at the outset of any legal action.
Claims against another skier - what your insurance company will want to know
The most common cause of legal action is where a collision has occurred between two skiers.
Such cases are where the FIS guidelines come into play, as liability is usually determined by proving that the defendant breached one of the ten codes of conduct.
In order to advance your claim further, it is important to provide your insurer with the names and addresses of any independent witnesses who were present at the time of the accident so they can help establish liability.
Once this stage is complete, your insurer will then pay for legal help and also help if or when you need additional medical assistance.
Claims against a ski instructor/supervisor
Under the terms of the FIS rules, all ski instructors should tutor their pupils in a sensible manner.
In addition, these professionals are also responsible for assessing your capabilities, meaning that if you have an accident on a slope that was too difficult for you, your insurance is likely to cover the cost so long as you are fully covered.
Claims against an equipment provider
Accidents can also occur as a consequence of equipment not being correctly set for a skier’s weight and ability, or if there has been equipment failure.
However, claims against ski hire shops are traditionally difficult, so getting photographic evidence of any malfunctioning equipment is absolutely crucial.
Furthermore, do not use old equipment wherever possible.
Claims against a tour operator
You are only able to claim against a tour operator where you have booked a package ski holiday.
Clause 15 of the Package Travel Regulations, tour operators are liable for any failure or improper performance of the contract agreed at the outset of a package holiday.
An important point to note is that if someone has been sold skiing lessons or equipment on the way to their resort, it will not constitute part of the package and so it would be difficult to show that the tour operator was to blame.
The long and short of it is, make sure you have travel insurance. If you have taken out a policy of travel Insurance and you are unlucky enough to have an accident, it is vital to report the accident to your insurer as a matter of urgency.
The insurer will then consider paying for your medical expenses whilst you are abroad and arrange to send you back to the UK if necessary.
Upon arriving home, report your injury to your GP to ensure that a permanent record of your injury has been made and seek legal advice from a personal injury lawyer with experience of skiing accidents.