Skiing and snowboarding may not always seem like high-octane, adrenaline-fuelled extreme sports. But even those sauntering down a green run can get caught up in an accident and injure themselves while on holiday.
Here’s what to do if it happens to you.
Take out suitable travel insurance
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“This might seem like an obvious tip, but I always advise anyone who is going on a winter sports holiday to take out a suitable level of travel insurance cover,” Paul McClorry, head of travel litigation at specialist injury lawyers Hudgell Solicitors, tells The Independent.
“Don’t just buy the cheapest or most basic policy, always make sure it’s the right fit for you and your holiday. Otherwise, you may find you’re only covered up to a certain amount or not covered at all in some circumstances.”
He advises travellers to remember that in most cases, travel insurance will only cover associated medical costs; insurers won’t pay out compensation for pain or suffering, or loss of earnings as a result of injury.
Seek medical care
Broken legs are one of the most frequent injuries McClorry sees when dealing with snowboarding and skiing accident claims. Head injuries, knee injuries, dislocated joints and broken arms are also common.
It’s highly likely that you’ll need medical assistance for any of these injuries, so contact the resort’s emergency service – you’ll usually find the number on a piste map.
“Should you have suitable travel insurance or an EHIC, you won’t need to worry too much about medical costs,” says McClorry.
“However, if you don’t, you or someone acting on your behalf will need to contact the Department for Work and Pensions’ Overseas Healthcare Team to apply for a Provisional Replacement Certificate. This proves you’re entitled to an EHIC and can be used to get the same cover.”
Writing a detailed account of what happened can be helpful for claiming on insurance.
McClorry says: “It might not always be possible if you are incapacitated on the slopes, but get a member of your party to gather as much evidence as possible, whether it’s noting down names and contact details of witnesses or taking pictures of the accident site and your injuries.
“If possible, write up what happened to cause your injury in as much detail as you can, and include details like snow conditions, visibility, markings, signs and location.
“Remember to keep records of when you visited a doctor, clinic or hospital, and keep hold of any receipt for accident-related expenses.”
Report the incident
If you are on a package trip, McClorry advises reporting any accident directly to the tour operator or via the resort.
“After you have established the facts of the accident, you will need to decide whether or not you report it to the local police,” he says. “As well as this, you should contact your travel insurance provider at the earliest possible point. They will advise about your medical and legal situation.”
He adds that it’s important to never admit liability for the accident or engage in any correspondence without the advice of a qualified solicitor or lawyer that specialises in this area of law.
When you get home
The full impact of an injury suffered on holiday might not become apparent until you arrive home. Some injuries can leave people unable to work and facing potential loss of earnings; sometimes further expenses can be incurred through extra treatment such as physiotherapy.
“If your accident was caused by someone else’s negligence, such as another skier, a hidden obstruction, unsafe teaching techniques or faulty equipment, then you could be eligible for compensation,” says McClorry. “I would advise speaking to a solicitor that specialises in this area of law as soon as possible to find out if they’re able to help you.”
Will this advice change after Brexit?
Much will depend on the final terms of any Withdrawal Agreement – there’s still plenty of uncertainty surrounding post-Brexit travel.
If a deal is agreed then the EHIC scheme should still be effective during the originally planned transition period (29 March 2019 – 31 December 2020). If a deal is agreed, some similar form of reciprocal healthcare arrangement should still exist after 31 December 2020, as the government has introduced The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill, which would hopefully allow the EHIC scheme to continue.
“Travel insurers, understandably, are still carefully considering the terms of the policies they will provide post-Brexit,” says McClorry. “We will need to wait and see what the Brexit outcome is but holidaymakers will need to carefully consider whether the travel insurance policy they are taking out actually covers them for their specific holiday.
“Depending on the terms of any Withdrawal Agreement, if any, the ability for an English domiciled individual to bring any claim for injuries and consequential losses in England could be affected.”