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Sports accidents: Important legal questions

Having a skiing accident while on vacation? What law applies?

In particular for winter tourists whose country of origin is not Austria, the important question arises, relating to skiing accidents on Austrian ski slopes, which law is to be drawn upon to assess the circumstances of the case. Based on the EU regulation (Rome II), for EU citizens it is the case that Austrian law applies if the damage, e.g. the bodily injury, occurred due to a collision with another skier in Austria. Even in cases where only indirect consequences of damage occur in Austria, Austrian law forms the legal basis for any subsequent proceedings concerning those losses.

Collision between two skiers: Compensation for damage

Claims for compensation for damage may accrue to the skier not acting culpably due to a collision between skiers. The general basis for compensation for damage for bodily injury relates to remuneration of the medical expenses, the loss of profits incurred by the bodily injury and reasonable solatium. In order to assert damage claims, the skier who caused the accident must, in addition, also have behaved illegitimately. In fact, no special legislation exists in Austria in regard to skiing, but, according to case law, the so-called FIS Rules of the International Ski Federation and the so-called “POE” (Ski Slope Regulation Bill of the Austrian Board of Trustees for Alpine Safety) summarise the duties of care that need to be complied with when skiing. These rules of conduct are of considerable significance.

FIS Rule 1, for example, states that every skier and snowboarder needs to engage in conduct that will ensure that he or she does not put anyone else at risk or injure them. To go along with the case law of the Austrian Supreme Court (OGH), the latter concerns a general mutual rule of consideration. Skiers and snowboarders are therefore obliged to keep an eye on the activities on the slopes and pay attention.

It is to be borne in mind that, in the event of a collision between two skiers, the injured party needs to provide evidence of the fault of the tortfeasor.

It is important to note that the contributory negligence of the injured party also has an impact upon the claim for compensation for damage. Should the injured party thus likewise act contrary to his or her duties of care, the claim for compensation for damage is reduced.

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