In the past, skiers were seldom successful in personal injury litigation, but today’s victims of skiing-related accidents are often victorious when seeking damages in court. Resorts now are normally penalized for not keeping a standard of reasonable care in the operation of their facilities.
Suppose you get hurt while at a ski resort, your legal rights in bringing a lawsuit depending on how the injury occurred. If the injury at the ski resort was caused by another individual’s negligence, then you may be able to bring a personal injury claim against the individual. Nevertheless, if the ski resorts cause your injury, your rights may be restricted.
What Is Ski Resort Immunity?
Most states that have many ski resorts have enacted regulations that discourage skiers or snowboarders from bringing a claim for injuries caused by skiing since there is an inherent and evident risk in skiing.
Some of these regulations protect ski resorts from negligence claims because skiing has reasonably obvious hazards that people are aware of.
What Are Common Accidents in Ski Resort Liability Claims?
The following are the most typical types of victorious claims made against ski resorts and their patrons:
- Downhill accidents
- Crash accidents
- Lift Accidents
- Crashes with or because of badly located signs
- Deficient slope upkeep
- Mishaps during ski instruction
- Crashes with resort operated snowmobiles
- Negligent instruction or supervision
- Crashes with other patrons due to negligent traffic control
How Can I Prove a Ski Resort Liability Claim?
Most personal injury lawsuits brought against a ski resort are based on negligence. Under a negligence claim, you need to establish that the ski resort or facility was legally liable and at fault for your injuries.
Your lawsuit may be based on the following:
- You were hurt by crashing with another negligent skier
- The ski resort was poorly maintained
- The ski resort had a lack of warnings
- The ski resort failed to exercise reasonable care
What Is Premises Liability?
In short, premises liability holds property owners accountable for accidents and injuries on their property. This includes any accidents and injuries that happened in and around their business or home.
Premises liability law requires that property owners ensure the safety of any individual who enters their property and take all appropriate measures to accomplish this. As a legal concept, it typically happens in tandem with personal injury cases in which a person’s injury was caused by dangerous or defective conditions on someone else’s property.
Premises liability claims are typically based on the legal concept of negligence, as are many personal injury claims. The legal term negligence refers to a person failing to exercise reasonable care, resulting in the damage or injury of another person. Negligence focuses on a person’s failure to take certain precautions and actions instead of the individual’s direct actions.
To establish negligence and, therefore, premises liability, the plaintiff typically must demonstrate the following elements:
- The owner owed a duty of care to the visitor or individual hurt on their property;
- There was a dangerous, unsafe, or defective condition on the owner’s property;
- The owner knew of the dangerous, unsafe, or dangerous condition but failed to remedy the situation; and
- The injury happened due to the owner’s failure to exercise their duty of care to prevent the accident and resulting injury.
A duty of care is typically owed to another individual in any situation where a person may foreseeably be hurt due to another’s actions or inaction. A breach of this duty arises when a person, such as the property owner, does not act as reasonably or prudent as another individual would under the same circumstances.
Thus, it must be established that the property owner’s negligence was the “actual and proximate” cause of the injuries being claimed (also referred to as causation). Once the other three elements have been established, the plaintiff must then demonstrate that there was some quantifiable loss or damage due to the property owner’s negligence.
Who Can Be Held Legally Liable?
Landowner liability is dependent upon the tort liability status of the victim. A tort is a legal term that describes a violation in which one individual causes damage, harm, or injury to another. Tort liability refers to who is liable for the damage, harm, or injury. A victim might be responsible if they contributed to their injury apart from the property owner’s actions and negligence.
Examples of victims’ statuses in premises liability cases include invitees, licensees, and trespassers. A property owner generally owes this highest duty of care to invitees. They then owe a lesser duty of care to licensees. Ultimately, property owners owe little to no duty of care to trespassers.
The tort liability scale can be broken down as follows:
- Invitees: These are clients or patrons who have been invited onto the property by the owner. The property owner must warn all invitees of risks they are aware of and if the risk of harm is unreasonable. The property owner also must inspect the premises to make themselves aware of any risks;
- Licensees: Licensees are social guests that have entered or stayed on the property for purposes other than business. They have special permission to do something on or with the property owner’s property. The property owner is liable for warning licensees of hazardous conditions that they are conscious of, and if the licensee did not understand or did not have a reason to know about the treacherous conditions; and
- Trespassers: These individuals have entered or remained on the premises without the property owner’s permission. State laws regarding trespassing vary, but a property owner generally does not have a duty to warn the trespasser of dangerous conditions. This is especially true if the property owner is unaware of the trespasser’s presence.
Property owners must warn known or tolerated trespassers of any hazardous conditions.
Special duties apply to child trespassers in that property owners must take special precautions to stop harm to child trespassers because of the attractive nuisance doctrine.
Suppose the property owner is found to be negligent or breached their duty of care to stop an accident or injury from happening on their property. In that circumstance, the plaintiff may be awarded damages.
These damages could include:
- Pain and suffering;
- Future and present medical bills;
- Lost income or loss of earning capacity; or
- Punitive or treble damages.
The property owner may also be ordered to repair or fix the dangerous condition that led to the injury.
What Are Exceptions to Ski Resort Immunity?
Even though some ski resorts are immune from liability, some exceptions exist. Ski resorts may be liable for injuries that occur under their premises if:
- There are malfunctioning chairlifts
- Dangerous conditions caused by the ski resort’s negligence
- Malfunctioning ski resort machines
- An improperly parked or stored snow machine
What Are Some Defenses to Ski Resort Liability?
Ski resorts may be shielded from liability under some state regulations since skiing and snowboarding are known to be potentially hazardous activities. Since the activity is risky, the ski resort may raise an “assumption of risk” defense.
Under this defense, the ski resort can claim that the skier or snowboarder understood the risks involved in the activity and assumed the risk by participating in it anyways.
What Kind of Damages Can I Recover From a Ski Resort Accident?
If you successfully bring a personal injury claim for an injury that happened while you were at a ski resort, you may be entitled to monetary damages. The damages that you may recover depend on the severity of the injury. The most typical types of compensation you may receive are:
- Medical expenses
- Future medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Compensation for pain and suffering
Should I Contact a Personal Injury Attorney?
If you have been hurt at a ski resort and hope to pursue a lawsuit against the ski resort, you may find the guidance of a personal injury attorney to be beneficial. An experienced personal injury lawyer can help determine the strength and viability of your case.