WHO IS RESPONSIBLE IN A SKI ACCIDENT?
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A ski accident can be serious and may cause severe injuries. While skiing and snowboarding may be fun, injuries can sometimes happen.
Determining who is responsible for a ski accident can be complex. To hold another party liable for damages, they must have behaved recklessly, negligently, or intentionally. Colorado also offers some protection to ski resorts to shield them from liability for certain types of ski accidents.
Who is Responsible in a Ski Accident?
A person can get injured for a variety of reasons. If the person caused their own injuries, then no one is at fault. If the injuries were caused by another person who can be found at fault, they are liable or responsible for the injuries. Injuries caused by another person may be recovered in the form of damages.
Skiing and snowboarding may be considered dangerous sports. However, it is still possible to contribute to another person’s injury due to negligent or reckless actions. Another person could be held partially or fully responsible for an injury. Examples of parties who may be responsible are:
- Ski teachers who fail to properly instruct or lead students into dangerous situations
- Other skiers or snowboarders on the slopes
- Property owners of the slope
- Ski resort owners
Read More: The Colorado Ski Safety Act of 1979
Be Cautious of Liability Waivers
Many ski resorts may require you to sign a liability waiver before participating in any snow sports. Some of these waivers may include absolving the ski resort of liability should you be injured during your time on the slopes. Read through these documents thoroughly before agreeing to sign and skiing at the resort.
While you may be required to sign a waiver before you begin any snow activity, be wary about signing a waiver after an injury has occurred. If you are presented with a release of liability waiver after an injury, contact one of our experienced lawyers first before signing. Signing a release waiver after an injury could reduce damages you are entitled to.
Reasons for Finding Fault in a Skiing Accident
Generally, someone must be found to be at fault for your injuries to recover damages from them. There are several ways that fault can be found depending on what your state follows:
To prove negligence, you must show that the other person owed you a duty of care, they breached that duty of care, and their actions caused you harm. The other person must have acted unreasonably.
An example of negligence would be failing to follow the ski resort rules when it comes to riding or failure to follow common sense on the slopes. An example that does not demonstrate negligence would be if two riders collided even though they followed all of the rules and acted with care to avoid a collision.
Recklessness or Gross Negligence
Recklessness is more severe than standard negligence. In Colorado, gross negligence requires that the defendant acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of others.
An example of recklessness is if a more experienced skier chose to ride down the slope going very fast. The slope may have dangerous conditions such as ice. Imagine that there is a class of new skiers learning to ski on this slope. If the experienced skier continues and hits someone, the behavior is likely reckless.
Assumption of the Risk Defense
Skiing and snowboarding are considered to be dangerous activities with risks attached. An assumption of the risk defense would potentially prevent any recovery if it can be shown that you knew of the risk and engaged anyway. However, a ski resort or other skiers can still be held liable if there was a risk that was atypical or a bigger risk than anticipated.
Some examples of risks that might be assumed include:
- Injuries resulting from snow conditions and terrain
- Rocks, trees, or other natural landscaping
- Collisions with objects such as signs, fences, or ski lift towers
- Collisions with other skiers or snowboarders
Read More: Are Colorado Ski Resorts Open? Safety Tips
According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), there were 42 reported fatal incidents during the 2019/2020 season, with most resulting from collisions. Males represented over 83% of the fatalities. The majority of incidents occurred on difficult terrain.
There were 29 catastrophic incidents reported in the 2019/2020 season, with most resulting from collisions. Males represented about 79% of the catastrophic incidents and approximately 72% were reportedly wearing a helmet.
NSAA Skier Responsibility Code
The seven-point responsibility code combined with common sense will help reduce the chance of ski accidents on the slopes. The NSAA recommends wearing a helmet at all times when on the slopes. To protect yourself and others, the NSAA Skier Responsibility Code serves as a guideline to make riders aware of the risks involved in snow sports.
- 1. Always stay in control, and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
- 2. People ahead of you have the right of way. It is your responsibility to avoid them.
- 3. You must not stop where you obstruct a trail, or are not visible from above.
- 4. Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
- 5. Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
- 6. Observe all posted signs and warnings. Keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
- 7. Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride and unload safely.
Causes of Accidents
There are many factors that could be involved when injuries are sustained during skiing or snowboarding. Some of the most common causes of accidents include:
- Collisions between skiers
- Collisions with objects such as trees, fences, snow vehicles, or equipment
- Accidents on ski lifts
- Improperly maintained slopes
- Improperly marked trails
- Defective equipment
Types of Injuries
Injuries could be mild or severe. Some of the most common types of injuries in a ski accident include:
- Sprains or strains in the legs or knees
- Wrist or hand injuries due to breaking a fall
- Broken bones
- Head and spinal injuries
- Bruising or internal bleeding
Prevention of Ski Accidents
Many ski accidents can be prevented. Some of the most effective ways of preventing skiing and snowboarding accidents include:
Proper Training and Equipment
Gaining proper instruction before attempting any dangerous sport is important. Teachers should instruct beginners on techniques such as how to stop and other safety tips. Teachers should advise when riders are ready to move to more advanced levels of slopes, which are typically rated and distinguished by a symbol.
Equipment should also be properly fitted and worn, such as a helmet. Bindings should be fitted appropriately so that they do not come loose. Additional safety gear such as wrist guards, elbow or kneepads should be considered.
According to NSAA, approximately 86% of skiers and snowboarders wore helmets during the 2019/2020 season. Helmets have been effective in preventing some head injuries, but will not prevent all injuries.
Common Sense Precautions
Most injuries occur later in the day when fatigued. Be sure to properly hydrate and to take breaks. Do not attempt higher level slopes that are beyond your skill level unless you have an instructor with you. Follow warning signs and pay attention to changing snow conditions.
Be careful to always be in control when skiing. Do not ski too fast when there are others around you or when snow conditions do not permit. Collisions are the leading cause of ski-related injuries and deaths.
Be careful on ski lifts and know how to safely load and unload. Ask for assistance if needed. For skiers, remember to hold on to your poles and remove pole straps from your wrists.
Why Hire a Ski Accident Lawyer?
In determining who is responsible in a ski accident, there may be many parties involved and the situation might become complex. It is important to have a lawyer that is experienced in ski accidents and personal injury handle your claim. A lawyer experienced in ski and snowboard accidents will be beneficial to you in gathering all the relevant evidence.
Zinda Law Group May Help You Seek Damages
At Zinda Law Group, our experienced Denver personal injury 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 personal injury lawyers. We understand that while you are recovering from an injury, you are overwhelmed with financial and emotional stress. We believe our clients should not have to worry about the expense of hiring a lawyer as well. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you will pay nothing unless we win your case.