A wrongful death lawsuit is a lawsuit brought by a family member of the deceased victim against the person or company who caused the death. In fact, a wrongful death lawsuit is the only remedy against a company that causes a person’s demise. The rationale is that since a dead person cannot bring a lawsuit, it is the right of the family to seek retribution and recover monetary damages.
Most states have statutes which govern wrongful death lawsuits. For example, there are time limits for which to file a claim called a statute of limitations. These vary from state to state, but usually fall somewhere between one and three years.
Can I Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for a Fatal Skiing Accident?
You can bring a wrongful death lawsuit in connection with a fatal skiing accident as long as the accident was due to the negligence of the ski resort or its employees. For example, the victim's family could bring suit against the ski resort or slope operators.
If the accident was caused by a party not affiliated with the ski resort, it may also be possible to bring a lawsuit against the responsible party (e.g., another ski patron).
Although it used to be difficult to bring such a lawsuit against a ski resort, it is now possible to sue the resort or its employees for negligently causing the death of a skier. This is partly due to the rise in deaths and traumatic brain injuries in recent years. An average of 40 people a year die in a skiing accident, many of them children. Common ski deaths result from:
- Snow equipment on the slopes
- Lift failures
- Another skier acting recklessly (which can also result in criminal charges against that person)
- Mountain ski patrols who fail to adequately warn and protect the skiers from dangerous conditions
- Snow mobiles operated by resort employees
What If the Ski Resort Claims the Victim Signed a "Release Form?"
An obstacle that the family of a ski accident victim may encounter is the ski resorts claim that they limited their liability by having the deceased skier sign a release form. Most of these releases state the ski resort is not liable for any injuries suffered as “the result of negligence or any other improper conduct on the part of the snow tubing facility.”
However, you may not be bound by the release form because many states do not consider release forms enforceable. An example is a recent court ruling in Pennsylvania voiding the releases as against public policy. It is important to read your states wrongful death statutes for exceptions and loopholes.
Do I Need a Lawyer to Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
If a loved one died due to a skiing accident and you feel the ski resort was negligent, you should speak to a personal injury lawyer immediately to learn more about preserving your rights and remedies. A lawyer can explain the value of your case based on your state’s laws and help you navigate the complicated legal process. Most personal injury attorneys work on a contingency basis, meaning you pay nothing upfront and they only get paid if you recover.