Mountain sports law, Ski law, personal injury in skiing accidents
Skiing and mountaineering accidents are our specialty. Responding quickly after the accident is important. Collecting evidence, keeping a diary of the events and help after the accident is advis-able. Depending on your position, it may or may not be wise to make statements to the police. Remember: the police does not determine guilt! This is done by the judge.
Please call us and ask for Stephan Wijnkamp or email us as soon as possible at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can then quickly contact the local police or the Staatsanwalt (public prosecutor).
It is important that when an accident occurs you seek advice from our law office as soon as possible. Possibly valuable evidence will not be lost or you will not burden yourself during police interro-gations. An initial consultation by telephone is free of charge.
Austria is a very popular travel destination because of the nature and especially the mountains. Mountain tours, mountain walks, mountain biking, rafting, canyoning, mountain climbing, skiing and not to forget ski tours off the slopes are activities that are relaxing and fun but also involve risk. This is something that is often ignored. If an accident happens, the consequences are often not foreseen. These can drag on for years. Both in terms of criminal law (punishment) and civil law (compensation).
If an accident occurs in Austria, Austrian law applies.
Timely advice is important because your claim may be time-barred. The limitation period in Austria is shorter than in other countries, namely 3 years after the accident occurred. If the damages have not been claimed in court or acknowledged out of court by then, you are too late.
Please note that in Austria the damages and in particular the compensation for pain and suffering (Schmerzengeld) are calculated differently compared to other countries and may even be higher as in your home country. Therefore, do not settle your claim in your home country without first in-vestigating how high the damages would be according to Austrian standards. We have seen more than once that foreign claims handlers have settled the case according to standards lower than in Austria and have sometimes forgotten to claim tens of thousands of Euros.
A ski or mountaineering accident occurred and now what?
In case of a skiing accident causing bodily harm, an investigation and a report will be made by the police. During this investigation the police will hear witnesses, take photographs to secure the evidence and hear the possible culprits and victims. After this investigation is completed, the re-port will be handed over to the Staatsanwalt, the public prosecutor. The Staatsanwalt will then assess the circumstances of the skiing accident under criminal law. If, in the opinion of the State Attorney, there is sufficient evidence, the law requires that the case be brought to trial. If there is insufficient evidence, the criminal proceedings are discontinued and the case is dismissed.
Once the case goes to court there are three possibilities:
1. The case is settled by means of a transaction, a kind of compromise, in which the suspect pays an amount as compensation for the administrative work of the judicial system. In addition, the suspect will usually also have to pay an amount of compensation to the victim. The accused does not admit guilt, which means there is no compulsory proof for any civil procedure.
2. The accused is acquitted
3. The accused is convicted.
The civil procedure
Recovering personal injury damages in skiing accidents requires specific knowledge. Not only of the legally relevant regulations but also skiing knowledge.
Of course we first try to settle the damage amicably with the other party or their insurer. Only if this is unsuccessful, after consultation with you, legal proceedings will be initiated.
Before starting proceedings, the chances of success must first be assessed. In Austria, the legal costs awarded by the court depend on the litigation value. It is for this reason that we consider it very important to make the initial analysis very accurate.
Sports science and medical science
Sometimes we also call upon the Sports Science Faculty of the University of Innsbruck to carry out, for example, speed calculations, possible alternatives to the way in which the fall occurred, energy absorption, etc. Investigations by medical specialists working in cooperation with us also occur. Based on the injuries, it is often possible to assess the fall or the truthfulness of witness statements.
Mr. Wijnkamp, who in addition to being a lawyer is also active as a Ski instructor and Mountain rescuer, has gained specific practical skills during these courses and has also followed theoretical subjects such as kinetics. He is therefore able to analyse the skiing accident with this technical knowledge.
Usually the victim himself does not know exactly how the accident happened. Skiing accidents happen way too fast for that. We see it as our first task to get some clarity on this.
What is important for the lawyer.
Objective evidence: Photos before and after the skiing accident, weather conditions during the skiing accident, snow conditions during the skiing accident, the exact location of the skiing acci-dent. It is also relevant to know whether there was a police report of the skiing accident. Silent witnesses (damage to clothing and shoes, skis or snowboards) can also be important. Our advice is not to throw them away!
Subjective data: what did you see, what is your impression of the skiing accident, do you have witnesses etc.? Was the skiing accident caused by another skier/snowboarder or did the skiing accident occur because the mountain lift operator did not do enough to ensure safety on the slope?
Damage assessment and compensation as a result of skiing accident:
The damages for ski accidents awarded in Austria are significantly higher than those awarded by judges other countries. In addition to compensation for the pain and discomfort suffered, there are separate compensations for scars, physical or psychological strain that has negatively affected your quality of life. Compensation for the costs of help, because the victim could no longer help himself in the household, nursing by members of the victim’s family, etc., also belong to the awarded benefits. Of course, there is also the material damage and adjustments that the victim has suffered.
An example: The damages for a knee injury, which is common in skiing accidents, can quickly be calculated at more than Euros 20.000 apart from the legal costs and loss of working capacity. In other countries this is much lower.
Austrian court knows a lot about ski accidents. A recording of findings on the ski slope
In the unlikely event of legal proceedings, it is wiser to bring the case to court in Austria. The Aus-trian court is specialized in ski accidents and there is always a recording of findings on the ski slope. As the victim, you can then explain exactly how the accident happened.
Our office uses a special checklist for Austrian law, which is filled out by our clients so that no ele-ment is forgotten.
Which law in the case of a skiing accident?
An important aspect that we pay attention to is where the proceedings should be conducted and according to which law this should then take place. If the skiing accident takes place in Austria and involves people from other countries, this requires knowledge of international private law. Not only liability is important, but also the question of where a judgment obtained can be enforced.
Many countries are parties to treaties or are subject to European regulations. These are also as-pects that must be taken into account. Also the chances for execution of a positive verdict for clients must be taken into account in the assessment.