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If you or your family member were injured while skiing or snowboarding at a resort because of the actions and behaviors of someone else or because of operator negligence, you might be entitled to compensation, even though there is an ‘assumption of risk’ with these inherently dangerous sports.
There are protocols that all skiers must follow while on the slopes, such as skiing paths that are within your ability, always maintaining control, and looking uphill before rejoining a path. Likewise, skiers or snowboarders who are uphill have a duty of reasonable care to those who are snowboarding or skiing below them. Because of this duty, when a collision occurs, the uphill skier or snowboarder is typically at fault unless the skier on the lower hill breaks protocol.
Skiing and snowboarding are activities that are inherently dangerous. Because of this, many states have laws that allow ski resorts to use the ‘assumption of risk’ defense when accidents and injuries occur. But these laws do not provide for the resort to escape all responsibility. If trails are poorly maintained or improperly marked, the resort may be liable for accidents and injuries that occur. Likewise, if the resort leaves a snow machine parked on an active slope, or if an in-area avalanche occurs, the resort may be held liable because these types of incidents are not an inherent risk of the sport. Be aware that the day or season passes you purchase from the resort usually include a waiver that makes filing a liability claim more difficult, but not all waivers are enforceable by law, and no waiver absolves a resort of all responsibility.
Equipment Failures and Injuries
Equipment failures can cause serious accidents and injuries. And while the defective equipment could involve your helmet, pole, or goggles, the most common failures involve boot release bindings that connect the boot to the ski. The bindings should quick-release if you fall or collide with someone. They come in different styles and types, but all should quick-release to reduce injuries.
Accidents on the Ski Lift
Ski lift accidents typically occur during loading and unloading. They may be caused by user inexperience, poor snow maintenance, or inadequate ramps. Accidents that occur while the lift is moving are typically caused by operator error, operator inexperience, equipment failures, or defective design and manufacture. There are laws that dictate how ski lifts are to be operated and maintained. When these rules are not followed, the resort may be liable for injuries sustained.
Snowboard and Ski Accident Injuries
Broken bones are some of the most common injuries sustained in snowboard and ski accidents followed by head injuries. When skiers or snowboarders collide, bone brakes are typical. But in ski lift accidents internal organ damage and shattered bones are more common.
Other types of injuries often seen in ski and snowboard accidents include:
- broken collarbones from impact with fixed objects or other skiers or snowboarders, and when a skier or snowboarder falls with their arms stretched out.
- head injuries are common in high-speed impacts with fixed objects and other skiers and snowboarders, though sometimes just falling can cause serious head injuries.
- spinal injuries caused by high impact collisions and tumbling falls
- knee dislocations that occur in tumbles, falls, and collisions
- dislocated shoulders occur during falls in which the skier or snowboarder stretches out their arms to stop their fall
- thumb damage, called Skier’s thumb, occurs when a skier doesn’t let go of the pole during a fall and tears the tendons of the thumb.
It doesn’t matter how common ski and snowboard injuries are, if they happen to you or a family member, you will be left with significant medical costs and you may have to make special modifications to accommodate your particular needs, or you may need assistive devices. If you have to miss work because of your injuries, you may suffer even more hardships. If you were injured in a snowboard or ski accident because of the negligence of someone else, you have rights. We defend those rights and ensure you receive the maximum compensation available for your injuries and losses.
Lawsuits for Ski and Snowboard Injuries
Every resort in the country has a duty to ensure all resort property is properly maintained and safe from risks and hazards. This involves ensuring signage and fences have bumpers, keeping the snowmaker from areas where it could be hit by someone coming down the slopes, and adequately marking all paths for skill levels. All paths are to be kept free from dangers and hazards, rental equipment is to be well maintained and in proper working order, and chairlifts are to be regularly inspected and maintained. Any resort that fails these duties may be held liable for injuries caused by this negligence.
However, state laws may vary in where they place the threshold between negligence and assumed risk. This means that in some types of accidents, such as when a skier impacts with an unpadded post and breaks their leg, the skier would be entitled to seek compensation for their injuries in some states, but not in others.
If You’ve Been Hurt, We Can Help
It doesn’t matter if you have been skiing and snowboarding for years or you just started, accidents happen. But when accidents occur because of the negligence of someone else, and you sustain an injury, you may be entitled to compensation. If you or your family member is injured at a resort on the slopes, contact us today.
Whether you were injured in a skiing or snowboarding collision, or because of dangerous equipment or poorly maintained chairlifts, you have rights. While the laws that govern the duty of care resorts hold for their customers are complex, we have spent decades defending the rights of those harmed by the negligence of someone else, and we stand ready to fight for you now.
Interview with the Attorney
When accidents happen on the slopes of a snowboard and ski resort, determining liability and seeking compensation for injuries is very important for the injured. Here, we discuss the complexities of resort accidents and what you should do to help make your case as strong as possible.
Question: What’s the first thing you should do if you are in a ski or snowboarding accident?
Attorney Pulaski: Most states have laws that require you to do three things if you are in an accident: 1. Stop immediately. 2. Offer assistance. 3. Offer aid. Anyone who is involved and able, or who witnessed or came upon an accident should stop and help or get help for the victims.
Question: Okay, you are laying there hurt, what do you do?
Attorney Pulaski: If you can, or if you can ask someone to do it for you, get pictures of the accident scene and note what injuries you sustained and what injuries the others involved sustained. Get the contact information for the other people involved in the accident as well as any witnesses. This is important because not all states require resorts or ski patrols to collect accident information or verify identities.
Question: So, it’s not like a car accident where the police collect and verify victim information?
Attorney Pulaski: No, in some states it is very different. For example, an expert level skier at a Colorado resort was hit by a snowboarder and sustained serious injury. The skier ended up having to hire a private investigator to find out the identity of the snowboarder because the resort didn’t collect identifying information.
Question: What does a resort do after an accident is reported?
Attorney Pulaski: If a serious accident occurs, the resort will investigate and build a thorough report of the accident, the people involved, the cause of the accident, and the events leading up to it. If the accident involves a ski lift, the resort must report it to the authorities who will also investigate the details.
Question: After the report is completed, does the resort send that information to the victims?
Attorney Pulaski: Well that would be nice, but typically your attorney will have to subpoena the report because most resorts don’t want to turn over that information for injury claims. And if the accident occurred due to the negligence of the resort, you may be surprised at just how strongly the resort will defend itself. Your attorney will probably have to request a subpoena for the accident report.
Question: When do you need to hire an attorney?
Attorney Pulaski: If you were seriously injured in a skiing accident or while snowboarding at a resort, you should talk to an attorney. Because the laws vary by state and because resorts are typically going to focus on protecting their bottom line, an attorney can help you level the playing field and get the compensation you deserve for the injuries you sustained because of negligence.