The relevance of criminal proceedings after leisure and other accidents

21 March 2024

A poorly signposted toboggan run, inadequately maintained mountain carts, a collision between two cyclists: schadenanwaelte regularly receives enquiries from foreign tourists or their lawyers in connection with the liability issues that arise from such accidents. This article shows how important it is to act promptly in such cases and which crucial role criminal proceedings can play in this context.

In these cases, we repeatedly find that no evidence is secured after the accident. In particular, there are often no photos of the scene of the accident or prompt correspondence between the injured party and the person responsible for the accident or the operator of a leisure activity. Because of this, there is a great risk that claims for damages made at a later date cannot be enforced due to a lack of (real-time) evidence.

This is understandable from the point of view of the accident victim, as after an accident with injuries, their own health is prioritised before any possible liability issues. Furthermore, a lawyer is sometimes only contacted months later when the injuries have not healed as quickly as hoped.

Where leisure accidents are concerned, schadenanwaelte recommends that the injured person or the persons who took part in the leisure activity with the injured person immediately take photos of the scene of the accident and record the personal details of the person who caused the accident and any witnesses. If more serious injuries occur, it is also advisable to alert the police immediately so they can secure evidence in real time (in particular photo documentation and questioning of the injured party and the person who caused the accident and/or witnesses).

Criminal proceedings are also a key aspect of liability cases involving personal injury in Switzerland. According to article 31 of the Swiss Criminal Code, an injured person can file a criminal complaint for negligent bodily injury against the person who caused the accident or the operator of a leisure activity within three months of the accident. A very brief statement of reasons is sufficient in this respect. The public prosecutor’s office or the police must then investigate the exact circumstances of the accident. Any evidence collected in this way (by an independent authority) is of great importance in the liability case, as it may enable the injured party to prove, among other things, the course of the accident and possible misconduct by the potentially liable party. We therefore recommend that injured parties or their foreign lawyers file a criminal complaint within the three-month period or seek legal advice in Switzerland. Filing a criminal complaint can ultimately be decisive for the enforcement of damage claims at a later point in time.

Finally, we would like to point out the following in this context: Unlike in Anglo-Saxon countries, for example, Swiss law does not recognise a discovery procedure in which the parties can formally take evidence prior to a trial and, for example, question witnesses or demand the handover of documents. This makes it all the more important to secure the evidence as quickly as possible by other means, which, as explained above, is usually done by initiating criminal proceedings.

Attn Silvio Riesen