Holiday Risk – 6 year old Child Must Pay 38000 Euros Damages After Ski Accident – Swimmers Itch – Parasite Alert in German Lakes

This week the Alpine press carried a report about a 6 year girl who is being sued for 38,000 Euros in damages due to a accident during a ski course in Austria. In addition a duck parasite is wreaking havoc in the lakes in Bavaria with multiple outbreaks of Swimmers Itch. Read on….

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Austrian Vorarlberg Schindlerspitze (Courtesy Alexander Vonbun)

Austrian Vorarlberg Schindlerspitze (Courtesy Alexander Vonbun)

Most of us are careful to ensure we are fully insured when we go on high-risk vacations like skiing. However a trial is currently in progress in Austria which may require those of us with young children to review our liability insurance policies to make sure they really do cover all risks.

This little girl was on a ski course and on her way down the slope she turned in a curve and didn’t see a woman who was also skiing. The two collided and the woman was seriously injured. The woman is now suing the child for damages which the local press reports are of the order of 38,000 Euros.

Austrian Zillertal Glacier

Austrian Zillertal Glacier

Those of us who have lived in Austria are well aware of the fact that children under 14 years of age can not be charged under civil law – the country considers them to be under the age of criminal responsibility. Instead the person looking after the child (e.g. the ski course teacher or a parent) would be held liable for negligence in their supervisory responsibilities. However, according to the reports a legal spokesperson believes children under the age of 14 may be held accountable for damages they have caused under certain circumstances.

The circumstances under which they may be charged are dependant upon whether the child is capable of discerning that it has done something wrong. In other words the prosecution is of the opinion that if a child knows it has acted incorrectly and as a result an accident ensues it can be held liable for the resulting damages.

Kohlmaisbahn Skilift at Saalbach-Hinterglemm

Kohlmaisbahn Skilift at Saalbach-Hinterglemm

The woman involved in this incident is, as a result of her injuries, now unable to ski. In addition she wants the child to be held accountable for any future damages she will incur as a direct result of this skiing accident. So the 38,000 Euro may just be the minimum liability the child will face.

The accident occurred in the ski area ‘Hochhäderich‘, part of the Bregenz Forest (Bregenzerwald) in Austria and the Civil case is being seen in the regional court at Feldkirch. On Monday 24th August 2015 the case was postponed for three weeks to allow the collection of more evidence before going into the next round. The ability of the child to discern whether it has done something wrong may then be evaluated.

Austrian Kaiser Mountains from the South from Chris Dugglebys

Austrian Kaiser Mountains from the South

This case has received quite a lot of attention in the Austrian and other German language press as it could set a precedent in which a child is held directly responsible for damages arising from its role in an accident – if the child can be shown to know it’s action was wrong. As a result this would require the insurer of the child to pay damages rather than the insurer of the person responsible for overseeing the child. Clearly if the child is not insured it will need to have quite a lot of pocket money available!

For German speaking visitors to www.chrisduggleby.com you can see an original article in the Austrian press using the link here.

View from the South of the Kaiser Mountains Austria

View from the South of the Kaiser Mountains Austria

Swimmers Get Attacked by Parasites

While I was enjoying the Alpine sun this weekend I came across another sports related alert in the local press. If you have been swimming in the lakes recently and experience:

  • tingling, burning, or itching of the skin
  • small reddish pimples
  • small blisters

you may well have been infected by a duck parasite – courtesy of a fellow bathing snail.

Schistosomal cercaria - Swimmers Itch Parasite (Photo CDC Minnesota Dept of Health)

Schistosomal cercaria – Swimmers Itch Parasite (Photo CDC Minnesota Dept of Health)

In recent weeks about 10 cases of pustules caused by these infections have been reported by bathers in the following lakes: Tegernsee, Schliersee and Seehamer See. This condition is known as cercarial dermatitis or swimmers itch and results from an allergic reaction to microscopic parasites that normally infect birds or mammals (e.g. ducks, geese, gulls, swans, and, particularly in the US, muskrats and raccoons). Don’t worry I am not going to subject you to more of my horrendous skin disease photos – however similar symptoms to those mentioned above can be found in my Laundry Additives Allergic Contact Dermatitis article using the link here!

Local Ducks in Bad Feilnbach struggling with Swimmers Itch

Local Ducks in Bad Feilnbach struggling with Swimmers Itch

The adult parasites normally live in the blood of the animals named above and their eggs enter into the animals poo which may then be deposited in or near an area where people bathe. As the poo enters the water the eggs hatch to produce small, swimming larvae which then infect snails. The snails then release the parasite as another form of larvae which tries to find a suitable bird or animal to infect and continue its life cycle. However, sometimes the larvae will come across a swimmer and mistakenly infect that person.

People infected by these cercariae larvae develop the allergic reactions mentioned above. Sadly the larvae do not feel at home in their human host and generally will die after a few days.

Cercarial Life Cycle - Swimmers Itch Parasite (CDC Graphic)

Cercarial Life Cycle – Swimmers Itch Parasite (CDC Graphic)

The symptoms of swimmers itch can occur within hours or days after swimming in water contaminated with bird faeces and infected snails. Secondary infections can be caused by scratching the infected areas. Generally speaking most cases do not require medical attention and the Centre for Disease Control suggests that relief can be obtained though corticosteroid cream, cool compresses applied locally, Epson salt/baking soda baths or anti-itch lotions.

In the Alpine press it is recommended that to reduce the chances of infection when swimming in the affected lakes (mentioned above) it is a good idea to quickly remove wet swimming costumes and rub the skin thoroughly with a dry towel. (For German readers a link to the press article is here and the guidance from the Centre for Disease Control – in English – is here). How about a nice photo of the crime scene (taken by yours truly):

View of Schliersee church over lake Schliersee in Autumn (when it gets too cold for the parasites)

View of Schliersee church over lake Schliersee in Autumn (when it gets too cold for the parasites)

If you would like to see more high definition photographs of the Schliersee please check out my Schliersee Photo blog using the link here.

Well that is enough of my risk focused holiday guidance for this week. You will now understand what is happening if you see German bathers rushing to take their costumes off after bathing and then starting to beat each other with bath towels. They are just trying to remove unpleasant parasites. As it is now over 30 degrees I think I will pop down to the local lake and pass on some of my health tips in person.

Have a great week.

Chris Duggleby

Chris Duggleby is a risk management author and music producer. In addition to producing a text book on risk management he is the author of the RiskTuition site which can be found using the link here. His most recent e-baroque musical offerings can be sampled using the video link here.

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