Skiing accidents – is there a claim?

Posted by Daniel Scognamiglio on

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BL Claims Solicitors specialise in personal injury, clinical negligence and travel claims, providing our clients with hands-on support, nationally.

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Assistance for those who have an accident on the slopes.

Skiing and snow board accidents can cause catastrophic injuries. The manner in which ski accident claims are dealt with vary substantially depending on where and how a claim may be brought. Daniel Scognamiglio offers his take on skiing accidents, from a claimant's perspective.

In the event of an accident on the slopes:

  • Make sure that the injured person receives prompt medical care;
  • Report the accident to the piste authorities, and ask for a copy of the report;
  • Report the incident to your travel insurers. Usually they are incredibly helpful;
  • Take full details of anyone who may be responsible, including details of their insurer and of any witnesses;
  • Obtain photos of the accident location and get someone in the group to return and make a sketch plan pinpointing where the relevant parties were coming from and going to at the point of impact. 
  • If the accident is caused by faulty equipment, then it is important to have full details of who provided the equipment, what steps they went through when fitting the skis and bindings, and what exactly the problem was with the equipment that caused the injury. Take photos of the faulty equipment or make sure the equipment is preserved for a representative to comment on or for the piste authorities to inspect;

It is worth understanding the importance from a lawyer's perspective as to the gathering evidence as soon as possible after an accident. Such evidence will include the piste report and will be critical to a case. Very often someone who does not have experience of handling a ski case at Court will not understand the precise points that need to be made and the crucial evidence. There are plenty of cases that we have pursued successfully where injured clients thought they may not be able to pursue a particular case and in particular we have been able to use our language abilities to speak to the piste authorities and obtain the necessary evidence.

As a cautionary tale in acquiring evidence early on, one significant claim had a very biased report presented to the court in England by the defendant, who correctly visited the accident scene in France soon after the accident and some time before the claimant was able to get their evidence in order. The judge disliked the way the defendant’s evidence was so unbalanced and biased, and presented in such a way that he considered there was an attempt to distort his understanding of the layout of the slope.

While a judge in England will never leave the Court in a civil claim for damages, other jurisdictions may have a judge who is keen to go to the slope and see the location of the accident. Alternatively, a single expert may be appointed by the Court to meet with the parties at the scene of the accident and to report back to the court as to what they assess happened. Such an expert’s opinion will be very persuasive to the court in this type of jurisdiction.

When looking at liability for an accident The 'Federation Internationale de Ski' (FIS) provides the rules of the slopes for Europe, which can be found on the organisation’s website. The US has a similar code that has actually been enshrined in law in some states, such as Colorado. The codes are reasonably straightforward and have a similar standing to the Highway Code used on UK roads or the Driver’s Handbook in the US. The FIS rules, though, should usually be the starting point for anyone considering liability.

Where someone is injured in an avalanche, the ski guide, resort or authorities can be liable. Often the risk of avalanche is inherent in skiing, but guides should be aware of areas with a high avalanche risk. In Colorado, for example, their Court of Appeal has ruled that a ski resort is liable where it has failed to protect its skiers from an avalanche. The French authorities have decided on only a few occasions that a ski resort is liable. In a recent case, the resort of Font-Romeu was ordered to pay almost €1 million to a young woman who suffered multiple traumas when she hit a patch of ice on a green run, skidded off piste and collided with some rocks. Due to the way French law is decided, this precedent is not as helpful as one might hope and it is rare that one would proceed with a claim against the authorities in France.

There is substantial case law that deals with the liability of ski instructors and guides too. Arguably, the leading case in England is Anderson v Lyotier [2008], which involves a skier who hit a tree whilst in the care of a ski instructor in France. It was possible to bring the claim in England against the tour operator as the tuition formed part of the ski package holiday. The court decided that the ski instructor was liable where there was a foreseeable risk that the pupil would run into a tree if he lost control of his skis. The pupil was also partly responsible as there was an onus on him to tell the instructor if he believed that it was unreasonable for him to attempt to ski there.
So, if you have had an accident, make sure you have good medical treatment, report it to your insurers, and if possible gather the evidence to assist with any potential claim. But most importantly, stay safe on the slopes.

BL Claims Solicitors are here to help

If you would like to talk to someone and discuss a potential claim please call us on 0344 620 6600 anytime between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday, or if you would prefer you can email us at

About the Authors

Daniel leads our travel team. He is a specialist in multi-jurisdictional disputes, travel insurance litigation and tour operator liability and is qualified as a solicitor in England and Attorney at Law (non-practising) New York.

Daniel Scognamiglio
Email Daniel
023 8085 7339

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Eleanor is a Senior Associate in our Travel team. Eleanor has a degree in Translating and Interpreting (German/Spanish) and is also fluent in French.

Eleanor Armstrong
Email Eleanor
023 8085 7319

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