Skiing and snowboarding are among the most exhilarating outdoor sports. Unfortunately, they are also inherently dangerous and can cause grave injuries. Participants need to be aware of the risks.
Skiing and snowboarding accidents are not like “car crashes on the slopes.” While a skiing injury can fall under personal injury, the dynamics of a skiing accident and determining liability are different from that of a car crash.
The risks associated with the thrilling outdoor sports are so apparent that all ski resorts in Colorado require customers to sign a negligence liability waiver. These liability waivers protect ski resorts and can make customers feel anxious. It implies that the resort is protected regardless of the circumstances. But in Colorado, ski accident liability laws are not so black and white. You will want to hire a qualified ski accident attorney to determine if you even have legal recourse and reach the best outcome.
Can You Sue for Accidental Injury?
The state of Colorado recognizes that skiing is a dangerous sport and has created legislation accordingly. The Colorado Ski Safety Act protects ski resorts and operators from liability. In other words, ski resorts cannot be held liable for injuries that happen as a natural consequence of engaging in a dangerous sport. The Ski Safety Act covers all activities carried out on a ski hill, slope, or trail and includes the use of :
- Snow tubes
- Snow bikes
- And skibobs
The law states that people assume risk by choosing to proceed with a dangerous sport even though they know of the associated risks.
Although the skiing responsibility statute seems in favor of the ski resorts, it serves to benefit both business operators and skiers. The law gives ski area operators specific safety guidelines and standards of care to follow. These guidelines help protect business owners and also ensure the safety of skiers.
Colorado’s Ski Safety Act does not grant immunity if an operator’s negligence or recklessness caused injuries. Examples of this would include:
- Failing to put up proper signage
- Lack of or poor ski lift maintenance
- Any other violation of standards of care
So, even if a customer signs a liability waiver, the Colorado law will nullify that waiver if the business owner has caused injury to victims by violating the ski responsibility act. Let’s say, for example, you are walking and fall down a steep, sharp downslope. You then break your arm and come to realize there was no warning sign of the downslope. You might be able to pursue a legal claim since your injury was not a result of the inherent danger associated with skiing.
Are Ski Resorts Liable for Accidents?
The Ski Safety Act does not protect ski resort owners or business operators for negligence or recklessness. Negligence can be classified into two categories – ordinary or gross.
- Ordinary negligence would be careless mistakes or lack of attention to essential details. This is a very gray area and dealt with on a unique case-by-case basis.
- Gross negligence is intentional, reckless behavior. Colorado law does not protect actions of gross negligence, even if a customer signed a liability waiver.
Failure to Put Up Proper Signage
The ski responsibility act is very particular when it comes to signs. Ski resort owners are required to use a sign system. Any dangerous areas must be clearly marked and labeled with appropriate warning signs. It’s also obligatory to put up safety guidelines and emergency protocols.
Safety guidelines and slope rules must be clearly stated and printed on the back of every customer’s ticket. Ski resort operators should explicitly post risks of the lift train. Slope steepness and difficulty levels should also be clear and visible. Warning signs must be conspicuously written with “WARNING” in big, bold red letters. Owners are also responsible for warning customers of future weather conditions like the risk of snow or fog. Failure to do so is considered negligence.
Poorly Maintained Skiing Areas, Equipment, or Devices
Certain areas of ski resorts, like tubing hills, are groomed with machines to ensure no obstructions. If a ski resort fails to clear obstacles or safely prepare hills for customer use, it could be held liable. For example, if you are tubing down a hill and hit a sharp rock that causes you to lose control, you might be able to file a lawsuit.
Any poorly maintained devices will also warrant liability on the owner or operator. Since renting equipment is popular at ski resorts, owners must properly maintain the gear and equipment. Any injury a customer suffers due to problems with a snowmobile engine, snow tube chute, or other devices is the fault of the resort operator.
Can You Sue Another Skier?
By far, the most common ski accident is a skier collision. This type of accident would be classified as a personal injury lawsuit against another skier. The liability waiver that customers sign only protects the business owner, not other skiers.
Liability waivers deem responsibility on the customer to avoid colliding with other people to the best of their abilities. Suppose you wish to pursue a personal injury case against another skier. In that case, you will need to prove that their negligence caused your injuries. You could, in that case, hire a Denver ski accident attorney to start a claims or negotiation process with the other party.
It’s also possible that there are several parties involved. For example, if another party crashes into you due to defective equipment, the ski resort owner or operator would be held liable. Or, if an employee of the ski resort was involved in causing your injuries, the ski resort could ultimately be held accountable by way of vicarious liability.
Limitations of Negligence Liability
The law allows injured victims to take legal action against ski resorts under the right circumstances. Here are a few instances where a person would not have a valid claim to pursue:
- The injured person was proven to have ignored safety signs and proceeded into dangerous trails despite warning posters.
- If the person sustained injuries due to their improper conduct. Tampering with resort equipment or harassing other business patrons are examples of inappropriate behavior.
- The person suffered the injury from improperly disembarking the tram or ski lift in non-designated areas for landing.
- The injured person does not file a lawsuit within the statute of limitations. Injury victims must file personal injury claims in Colorado within two years of the date of the injury.
Contact an Experienced Ski Accident Attorney in Denver, Colorado
If you’ve sustained injuries from a skiing accident, it’s in your best interest to seek out an experienced ski accident attorney. The right attorney will know the slopes and reconstruct the accident properly.
Call us today to schedule your consultation. Our proficient legal team will investigate and compile evidence to ensure that the correct party is held liable. With our attorneys on your side, you won’t have to worry about prolonged recovery times or overwhelming medical bills. We will fight aggressively to get you the fair compensation you deserve.