Skiing is a popular pastime and, accordingly, skiing accidents are not uncommon. Injuries most often occur as a result of:
- Ski/snowboard collisions;
- Ski-lift accidents;
- Ski area negligence including ski operator negligence; and/or
- Ski equipment failure.
In some instances, it is obvious that another reckless skier is responsible for your injuries. However, liability may not always be so cut and dry. There are many situations where the actual ski resort or other parties may be held responsible.
What are Some Common Injuries Resulting from Ski Accidents?
Ski accidents can be complex and can result in various injuries. These can vary depending on the type of accident and the way that the accident occurred. Some common ski accident injuries include:
- Broken bones;
- Head, neck, or spine injuries;
- Concussion injuries;
- Lacerations or cuts (especially when colliding with another person or object);
- Injuries related to exposure to cold weather for long periods of time; and/or
- Various other types of injuries.
Although the majority of injuries involve broken bones or soft tissue trauma, skiing and snowboarding accidents also results in many fatalities each year. A fatality on the ski slopes may warrant a wrongful death claim.
Why Would the Ski Resort Be Responsible for My Injury?
Ski accident lawsuits are usually based on the theory of negligence. This means that claims are determined by the negligence on the part of one or more parties. There are four elements which must be proved in a successful ski accident lawsuit based on negligence:
- Duty: The ski resort had a responsibility or duty to act with a reasonable amount of care.
- Breach: Through either the commission of an act or through omission, the ski resort breached this duty.
- Causation: It must be shown that the ski resort’s conduct or negligence caused your injuries.
- Damages: To build a successful skiing accident claim, you must be able to show that the resort caused the injuries for which you are seeking monetary compensation.
What if the Injuries were the Result of a Defective Product?
In some cases, ski accidents and skiing injuries can actually be caused by a defective ski product. This can include defective skis, helmets, protective equipment, or other ski-related gear. It can also include defective ski lifts and other aspects related to skiing.
In such cases where a product defect directly caused a ski accident and the resulting injuries, the manufacturer of the ski product may be held liable under defective product laws. Product defects are generally classified into three different categories:
- Warning Label Defects: These are defects where the product does not have the proper warning information or labels when it is purchased. This could lead to serious injury if a product is used incorrectly or is used without fully understanding the risks involved.
- Design Defects: Design defects are failures related to the way the product is engineered or designed. For instance, if the design of a ski makes it such that the foot strap is weak, it could lead to an accident and resulting liability for the manufacturer.
- Manufacturing Defects: These types of defects occur during the assembly of the ski product. For instance, if a ski helmet is assembled and important proper shock-absorbing materials are left out accidentally due to an error, it may result in liability if the defect results in an injury.
The legal remedies in ski accident lawsuits will typically involve a damages award for the non-liable injured party. The damages may cover losses like costs associated with medical bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other losses caused by the accident.
Can I Sue a Ski Resort for My Ski Injury?
Since ski resorts contribute significantly to the local economy, they often enjoy legislative protection. Therefore, it is important to seek legal advice because it may be difficult to make a case against a ski resort.
Some states have “ski immunity laws” that shield resorts from lawsuits based on the "inherent risk of skiing.” This means that it is “reasonable or obvious” that you may injure yourself in a high risk activity, like skiing. Furthermore, in the following situations the ski resort may claim that they are not responsible for your injury:
- Collisions between skiers;
- A skier’s failure to ski within his or her ability;
- Skiing outside a designated area; and/or
- How the ski resort laid out its trails.
Despite the above obstacles, there are many situations where the ski resort will be held responsible and ordered to pay damages. Even the signing of a liability release form from the ski resort will not bar you from bringing a lawsuit. The only way to determine this is to examine your state’s ski liability laws.
Remember, failing to take standard precautionary steps like wearing a helmet, goggles, and other protective gear, can minimize your right to seek a compensation. If a skier does not wear a helmet and crashes into a tree or a rock on the trial, and thus dies due to a head injury, it is very likely that the skier’s family will not be able to file a wrongful death claim. At the very least, they may receive minimum compensation, based on the surrounding circumstances.
Should I Seek Legal Assistance for My Ski Injury?
Each state is different in how they apply their laws when it comes to skiing accidents. An experienced personal injury attorney can evaluate your situation and determine the best course of action. Personal injury attorneys often work on a contingency basis, meaning they do not get paid unless you recover.