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Guidance on liability for accidents on the ski slopes

Posted: 16/03/2023

In order to be successful in a claim for compensation, skiers normally need to demonstrate or prove a breach of a rule, or the negligence of another skier.

If the incident has occurred in England and Wales, it will generally fall within the law of negligence. However, in other jurisdictions liability for skiing accidents can often be decided differently.

For instance, France has Article 1382 of the Civil Code, which deals with speed, and Article 1384, which can create a strict liability for skiers where damage, including injury, has been caused by objects/equipment under their control, which would include skiing equipment (skis, poles etc).

Just because an accident occurs in another country does not always preclude a claim being pursued in the courts of England and Wales. It may be that both parties are permanently resident in England, or that it is possible to demonstrate that an actionable harm, direct or indirect, caused by the wrongful act alleged has/will take place in England.

Before travel, it is sensible to read the Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS) rules of conduct, and any local piste rules relevant to the country/area in which you are skiing.

Some of the most frequently referred to FIS rules in relation to collisions are:

  • Respect for others – a skier or snowboarder must behave in such a way that they do not endanger or prejudice others.
  • Control of speed and movement – a skier or snowboarder must move in control. They must adapt their speed and manner of skiing or snowboarding to their personal ability and to the prevailing conditions of terrain, snow and weather, as well as to the density of traffic.
  • Overtaking – a skier or snowboarder may overtake another skier or snowboarder above or below and to the right or to the left provided that they leave enough space for the overtaken skier or snowboarder to make any voluntary or involuntary movement.

Perhaps the most useful FIS rule for lawyers and insurers looking for evidence, and most frequently ignored by skiers, is:

  • Identification – every skier or snowboarder and witness, whether a responsible party or not, must exchange names and addresses following an accident. Where an independent witness has given your insured their name, every effort should be made to contact them and take as full a note of their evidence as possible.

Always check your insurance before you travel. The costs of medical treatment and repatriation can be extremely high.

In the event of a collision make sure you obtain full details of everyone involved (the responsible skier and any witnesses). If possible, report the accident to the police or piste authorities and obtain a copy of any report.

On your return to the UK, remember to report the incident to your insurer, regardless of fault for the accident.

If you consider the accident to have been caused by faulty equipment, retain full details of who provided the equipment, the process of fitting the skis/bindings, and the issues with the equipment. Keep receipts for the hire or purchase of the equipment and, if possible, take photos/video evidence, and preserve, or request to be preserved, the faulty equipment for later inspection.

Always wear a helmet and check the laws/rules for safety equipment applicable to the country you are visiting.

It is imperative that you approach a firm of specialist lawyers who are able to consider and advise on the likely applicable law and jurisdiction in which any claim might be pursued.

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Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP