Alpe D'Huez Coach Crash

The recent coach crash in the French Alps follows a series of devastating coach crashes involving British holidaymakers in the last decade. The coach was descending the mountain from the French skiing resort of Alpe D’Heuz carrying seasonal workers who had spent the winter working for Skibound Holidays in various resorts across the Alps.

The coach had just commenced its journey back to the UK and it is reported the driver seemed to have lost control of the bus on the notoriously twisting descent. The driver managed to swerve the bus into the rock face of the side of the mountain to avoid it going off the cliff face but lost his life in the accident. The bus is reported to have burst into flames forcing the young seasonaires to jump from the burning wreckage. Several passengers were seriously injured.

On hearing of this accident in the news, I was immediately reminded of an accident six years ago where a school party from Kingsland Grange School in Shrewsbury were being transported by coach from the French Alps ski resort of Vars to Grenoble Airport for their flight home.

The driver lost control of the bus when it hit black ice whilst travelling down a winding mountain road. The coach smashed into a rock face, then spun 360° before demolishing a telegraph pole, and coming to rest against a crash barrier, the other side of which was a steep drop down the side of a mountain.

I acted for 24 Claimants in this case, the majority of whom sustained minor to moderate physical and psychiatric injuries.Unfortunately, Mr Bishop, organiser of the trip, was not so lucky and he suffered a serious brain injury. He secured a £1.9m settlement which will provide for his extensive needs now and in the future. Fortunately, there were no deaths in the case I acted for. This recent accident highlights what could have happened to these children and teachers if the bus had caught light.

At Lanyon Bowdler we have an Accidents Abroad team who have considerable experience of representing injured parties and their families of those affected by coach and bus accidents around the world.

We also acted in accident in France when 11 people, including six from Shropshire, were killed and 60 injured, when their holiday coach careered off a French motorway. The deaths occurred when the double-decker coach crashed on the A6 motorway near Auxerre, about 80 miles south of Paris. The coach went out of control and veered into a ditch. The victims were coming home from the Costa Brava in Spain, when a tyre burst, the driver lost control and the vehicle left the road ending up on its side.

The road on which this recent accident occurred is a tricky descent for any driver, with 21 hairpin bends and a steep drop off to the side. The road is a regular feature in the Tour de France stages. In this instance the passengers were the innocent victims of a devastating accident and may well be entitled to damages to replace loss of earnings, for care and medical expenses as well as compensation for the pain and suffering.

These types of cases give rise to complex issues and many questions:

  • Can a case be brought before the English Courts?
  • Is the applicable law French or English, or does a victim have a  choice depending in which country action is brought?
  • What effect on liability and amount of damages do these decisions have?
  • Is there a date by which court proceedings must be started?
  • How much will it cost, how can legal costs be paid and are costs recoverable?
  • How do I find reputable and skilled French lawyers, Counsel and experts?