International Injury

Retiree receives significant sum after suffering a traumatic brain injury on Austrian mountain walk

April 18, 2024
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Case managed by Michael Hagan, Associate & International Injury Lawyer  

The Incident 

Susan Howard, a 74-year-old grandmother, was injured during a walking holiday in the Austrian Tyrol Mountains, organised by an English Tour company. Sue was a fit and healthy retiree who loved exploring. On the day of the accident, in the Summer of 2019, Sue was part of a group of guests who were being led by a local Austrian guide, and two English guides who were the owners of the holiday company. 

The group safely reached the summit of one mountain, known as the Seefelder Spitze, but at that point it was decided that, rather than press on to the next summit Sue would be led back down by one of the English guides. The nature of Sue’s injury meant she cannot recall why this decision was made. Crucially, it was also agreed that Sue would be led back on the route by which the group had just ascended. However, as she was led back down the summit by the English guide, she was taken back along a different path to the one they had used on the ascent.  

On this path, they came across a hard patch of compacted snow on the path, which was connected to a large snowfield that ran 200 metres down a steep gully off the side of the path. Despite the obvious danger of crossing the snow, the guide led Sue across and, in the process of crossing, Sue slipped on the snow, and into the gully sliding, at high speed, for some 200 metres. Sue was found by an air ambulance crew, who were scrambled to the scene unconscious in a stream on the verge of hyperthermia.  

As a result of the accident Sue sustained multiple injuries including a traumatic brain injury and facial injuries requiring revision surgery. She also lost her sense of smell and her sense of taste has been permanently diminished.  

The Aftermath 

Following the accident her loving family, including husband Alan and daughters, Joanne, Zoe & Kerri flew out to Austria, where Sue remained an inpatient for three weeks before being repatriated to England. Despite the serious nature of her injuries, Sue made a remarkable recovery, leading to her daughters nicknaming her ‘miracle mum’, in recognition of how the accident could so easily have been fatal.  

The Case 

The case was handled by International Injury Lawyer, Michael Hagan.  

Liability was denied by the defendant throughout, but Michael and his team believed in the case and were able to secure a great outcome for Sue, as it seemed clear that she should never have been encouraged to cross the area of snow, given the obvious dangers this posed, when there were a number of perfectly safe alternative routes that could have been taken. 

The Case Outcome  

Despite the defendants deny of liability, due to the determination of Michael and his team, the case was settled, and Sue received a significant sum in compensation.  

Reflecting on the case, Michael commented: 

We are delighted to have been able to secure a great result for Sue, who suffered a horrific accident on what should have been a safe and enjoyable holiday. She has suffered permanent effects from the injuries sustained, but it could have been so much worse. 

“This accident should never have happened, and it is so important for tour operators to ensure that guides are suitably qualified and skilled to lead these activities. It also highlights the importance of guides being able to perform proper dynamic risk assessments when faced with unexpected hazards, something which unfortunately did not happen in Sue’s case.” 

If you’ve had an accident while on holiday, speak to us about making a holiday accident claim. Call us on 0330 013 0409 or start your claim online 

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