A ski accident can be serious and may cause severe injuries or even death.  While skiing and snowboarding may be fun, they are dangerous sports. Ski resort workers are especially at risk of injury or death.

Ski resort deaths are tragic and may leave you at a loss for what to do.  These accidents might happen as a result of someone else’s actions.  This article can help you understand what a wrongful death claim is, and whether you may be eligible to bring a claim.

If you lost a loved one who experienced a wrongful death as a ski resort employee, call our personal injury lawyers of Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation.

What is Wrongful Death?

A wrongful death lawsuit is brought by a family member of the deceased victim.  When a person loses their life as a result of someone else’s actions, that person has no way to seek compensation for their death.  A family member seeking a wrongful death lawsuit is the only remedy against another person or company that causes a death.

A wrongful death claim is a civil action that attempts to compensate for the death of a family member.  While nothing can replace a loved one, the law can help compensate in other ways financially for the loss and related costs.

Colorado also recognizes survival claims.  This is another type of claim filed against a responsible party for your loved one’s death.  Instead of claiming losses like a wrongful death claim, a survival claim is for the person who actually suffered the loss.  A survivor can claim pain and suffering and recover for what the deceased person would have recovered instead.

Can I Bring a Wrongful Death Lawsuit for a Fatal Skiing Accident?

A wrongful death claim can only arise for certain incidents and is not available for all deaths.  Another person must have caused the death.  The death must have been caused intentionally, negligently, or recklessly.

You can bring a wrongful death lawsuit for any death that was due to the actions of someone else.  This includes the negligence of the ski resort or the employees.  If the negligence of someone else caused the death of your loved one, you might have a claim against the ski resort, the slope employees, or another skier.

A skiing death may be considered wrongful in the following scenarios:

  • The ski resort or employee allowed the skier to go into a dangerous area
  • The ski resort or employee failed to warn of dangers in the area
  • The ski resort or employee failed to block off a dangerous area
  • Negligence of a ski lift operator
  • Failure to maintain a ski lift in proper working order
  • Faulty equipment or ski lift failures
  • Snow equipment on the slope
  • Another skier acting intentionally, negligently, or recklessly (this may also result in criminal charges)
  • Any other scenario where the resort or another employee acted negligently

Read More: Can You Sue a Ski Resort?


Accidents happen in the workplace, but ski resort employees work in an inherently risky setting.  If a workplace accident results in death, there may be different claims that a family member can pursue on behalf of their deceased loved one.

Workers’ compensation provides funeral expenses death benefits to spouses, children, or other eligible dependents if the employee dies on the job.  In some cases, these benefits are essential income for the surviving family member that is dependent on the employee who passed.  If the deceased employee was the family’s sole provider, then it is possible that benefits could be recovered to compensate.

In some cases, an employee’s death is caused by the negligence of a third party.  In these cases, a family member may be better off seeking a wrongful death claim against the at-fault party, rather than the employer.  Depending on the circumstances surrounding the death, a loved one may be entitled to workers’ compensation death benefits, a wrongful death claim, or a combination of both.


In Colorado, the surviving spouse of the deceased is the only person who can bring a wrongful death claim for the first year after their death, unless the spouse authorizes surviving children to join the claim. After one year, surviving children can bring a claim either way. If there is no surviving spouse or children, surviving parents of the decedent may bring a wrongful death claim. 

There must be substantial evidence to show that a wrongful death occurred.  The standard of proof for wrongful death is a preponderance of the evidence.

To be successful in a wrongful death claim, you must be able to first be able to show that you are a surviving family member.  You must be able to show that you are entitled to bring this lawsuit and that you or your family has suffered a considerable loss as the result of your loved one’s death.

For a negligence claim for wrongful death, you must be able to show that the responsible party owed your loved one a duty of care, that the duty was breached, and the breach caused your loved one’s death.   If there is already a criminal proceeding initiated against the other party, then it may be easier to prove wrongful death.

Read More: Can You Sue a Ski Resort?

What Do You Need to Prove Workers’ Compensation Death Benefits? 

Workers’ compensation is designed to provide financial benefits to an employee if they are injured on the job.  Additionally, workers’ compensation may be available to dependents of the deceased employee who is killed on the job.

To file a workers’ compensation claim, surviving family members to not have to prove that the employer caused the death of their loved one.  However, agreeing to collect workers’ compensation death benefits may mean that the surviving family members have to give up their right to sue.  It is important to consult with a wrongful death attorney to know your rights.

Types of Damages Recoverable

The type of damages available depends on whether the victim’s family is receiving workers’ compensation benefits or bringing a wrongful death suit. 

Death benefits are usually calculated based on how much the deceased employee earned before their death.  Some employers may choose to pay out a lump sum while others may choose to pay out weekly benefits.  It is important to consult with a knowledgeable attorney who focuses on the wrongful death of employees to understand your rights.

However, in a wrongful death lawsuit, as opposed to a workers’ compensation claim, families may recover both economic and non-economic damages. While no amount of money can bring back or replace a loved one, financial compensation may help cover the costs associated with the death.  These may include:

Economic Damages

  • Funeral expenses or medical costs leading up to the death
  • Loss of future earnings by the deceased if the dependent relied on the deceased
  • Loss of future benefits belonging to the deceased

Non-Economic Damages

  • Pain and suffering in dealing with the death
  • Emotional or mental anguish caused by the death
  • Loss of consortium or companionship, especially by a spouse
  • Loss of support, care, and guidance, especially by a child
  • Loss of inheritance

Punitive Damages

Although punitive damages are very rare, some states will allow it for willful or grossly negligent acts.  Punitive damages are meant to punish the responsible party and deter others from the same behavior.

What If the Victim Signed a Release Waiver?

A release form or waiver is meant to release liability or fault.  A ski resort may require skiers to sign a waiver before they engage in any activities on the slopes or at the resort.  If the victim signed a release form, this obstacle may limit the liability available to the family.  Most release forms at ski resorts will state that the ski resort is not liable for injuries suffered as a result of activities on their property.

However, you might not be bound by these release waivers in all scenarios depending on the circumstances surrounding the death.  A Colorado wrongful death attorney may be able to advise you on the law in your state.

How Common Are Skiing Deaths?

According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), there were 42 reported fatal incidents during the 2019-2020 season.  The majority of these fatal incidents resulted from collisions.  Of the 42 reported deaths, over 83% of the riders were male.  The males were between the ages of 21-30.  The majority of fatal incidents also occurred on difficult terrain rated intermediate or advanced.

Collisions continue to be the leading cause of fatalities for skiers and snowboarders.  The number of reported fatalities is higher than the 10-year industry average of 39 fatalities per season.  Approximately 66% of riders involved in the fatal accidents were wearing a helmet.  Overall, approximately 86% of all riders during the 2019-2020 season wore helmets.

NSAA also reported 29 catastrophic injury incidents during the 2019-2020 season.  This is below the 10-year average of 45 catastrophic injuries per season.  Most of the catastrophic injuries resulted from collisions and males represented 79% of the victims.

Do I Need a Wrongful Death Lawyer?

If a loved one lost their life as a result of a skiing accident and you feel the ski resort or someone else was responsible, then you should speak to a wrongful death lawyer.  Speaking with a wrongful death lawyer will help you know your rights.  A lawyer knowledgeable in wrongful death will be familiar with the laws regulating ski resorts and wrongful death, and may be able to help you navigate the complex legal process.

We May Be Able to handle your ski resort employee wrongful death claim

At Zinda Law Group, our experienced wrongful death lawyers have handled many cases involving ski accident victims.  We have the knowledge and resources necessary to help you determine what to do next and to help recover the best possible outcome for your case.

Call us today at (800) 863-5312 for a free and confidential consultation with one of our Denver personal injury lawyers.  We work on a contingency fee basis, which means you will pay nothing unless we win your case.

Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.