Legality and Responsibilities in Mountain Sports

23 May, 2020
Mountain sports generate adventures that are worth living, but they also come with some responsibilities. What kind of legal actions can be taken for accidents that occur in the mountains?
 

Mountain sports have become a lifestyle that more and more people have adopted. In the past, mountains were an inhospitable terrain that only a few people visited.

Gradually, as humans entered these mountains, it became necessary to establish through the law, responsibilities, and other legal aspects of those who practice a sport in these places.

Mountain sports: main responsibilities

The responsibilities of mountain sports are many and very broad. This is because it’s a terrain without any limits, unlike the ones a soccer pitch or basketball court would have.

It’s a totally open space, where the risk of accidents and injuries is considerably greater than the risk within a controlled space. In fact, safety equipment is much more advanced. So athletes require a high level of learning to understand how to use it properly.

So far, there’s no clear information regarding the issue of civil, criminal, social, and administrative responsibilities that develop in the mountains. What’s true is that there are very few civil regulations. In the majority of cases, the most we can establish is jurisprudential constructions.

Criminal liability

Criminal liability in mountain sports is one of the most prominent elements. This involves imposing fines, prison terms, and other warnings or penalties for crimes. In this regard, the person responsible for the act may go to prison or receive the corresponding penalty.

Two people doing mountain sports with the proper safety equipment
 

In the specific case of Spain, criminal liability can also determine civil liability; the responsible persons may have to provide compensation to the affected party. On the other hand, it’s important to highlight that it’s not possible to get a conviction without a crime.

So, when can criminal proceedings begin? For example, when the death of one or more hikers occurs. Another example is if a child climber completes a route for which they were under-qualified and suddenly falls and dies.

Among other things, it’s normal to wonder if an adult checked the equipment and all the safety implements. For reasons like this, determining the responsibilities in each case is a complex matter; it’s not always easy.

Civil liability

Similar to the criminal aspect, civil liability requires a person to be the cause of damage, either by direct action or by omission. Unlike the criminal aspect, in which innocence is presumed until proven otherwise, in the civil area, guilt can be presumed.

A clear example of civil liability is when a teen suffered an accident while hiking. The school was held responsible because the activity monitors didn’t supervise the fact that the child didn’t wear the appropriate footwear for the activity.

The equipment was one of the most important aspects to untangle the cause of this accident. The boy in question was wearing studded soccer shoes, and they also allowed the children to use branches as a kind of cane.

Mountain sports and legal responsibilities

 

The responsibilities we described above are the most prominent in mountain sports, but they’re not the only ones. In this aspect, it’s also worth highlighting the contentious-administrative responsibility.

A woman hiking in a mountain

The civil order cannot determine the responsibility of the administration, while the criminal order can determine the responsibility of the administration that derives from a crime.

Legality and responsibility in mountain sports is still a highly debated topic. Among other things, it’s because it isn’t easy to determine the corresponding parameters due to the broadness of the situation.

Despite all of the above, it’s important to highlight the responsibility that each athlete must comply with the safety parameters and other regulations inherent to the sport.

Beyond this, in the event of an accident involving serious injuries, minor injuries, or even death, as we’ve seen, it’s possible to determine civil, criminal, and even administrative responsibilities.

 
  • Web oficial de la Federación Española Deportes de Montaña y Escalada. Extraído de: http://www.fedme.es/
  • RESPONSABILIDAD EN ACTIVIDADES DE MONTAÑA. Francisco García Gómez de Mercado. Extraído de: http://www.madrid.org/revistajuridica/attachments/article/113/Responsabilidadenactividadesdemontana.pdf