Skiing and Snowboarding Accidents and Lawsuits

Skiing accidents and snowboarding mishaps can cause serious injuries and may even spur a personal injury lawsuit.

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As interest in skiing and snowboarding has increased in recent years, so have the incidents of serious injuries, including death. If you or a family member has been injured in a skiing or snowboarding accident, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit and receive compensation for your injuries and losses. This article discusses skiing and snowboarding injuries and the kinds of legal issues that often arise in lawsuits over these injuries.

Types of Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries

Injuries resulting from skiing and snowboarding accidents range from relatively mild injuries (knee injuries, lower leg fractures, and wrist sprains) to severe, life-altering conditions like serious head and spinal injuries, even death. (For more information about traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries, see Nolo's articles Brain Injury Basics, Brain Injury Lawsuits, and Spinal Injury Lawsuits.) As skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts pursue greater speeds and more challenging moves, the number and severity of injuries due to skiing and snowboarding accidents are on the rise. A recent CDC study found a dramatic increase in traumatic brain and spinal cord injury as a result of skiing and snowboarding accidents, with children and adolescents particularly affected. Snowboarding alone accounts for more injuries than any other outdoor activity.

Common Causes of Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries

The most common types of skiing and snowboarding accidents include:

  • collisions with other skiers or snowboarders
  • falls or collisions with objects such as trees, fences, barriers, or signs
  • chair lift accidents
  • accidents due to inadequate instruction from a skiing or snowboarding instructor, and
  • accidents due to skiing or snowboarding equipment failure.

Legal Basis of Skiing and Snowboarding Injury Lawsuits

Skiing and snowboarding injuries caused by negligence. Most personal injury lawsuits are based on a legal theory called negligence. If your skiing or snowboarding injury case is based on negligence, you will need to prove that the party you are suing (the "defendant," in legalese) is legally responsible or "at fault." To learn about what you must prove in a negligence lawsuit, see Nolo's article Proving Fault in Personal Injury Accidents: General Rules.

Your lawsuit may be based on the theory of negligence if your injury was due to any of the following:

  • you collided with a skier or snowboarder who was behaving carelessly or recklessly
  • the mountain terrain on which you were skiing or snowboarding was poorly maintained, marked, or designed, or
  • your skiing or snowboarding instructor led you to terrain that was beyond your capability level.

Skiing and snowboarding injuries caused by defective products. If your skiing or snowboarding injury was caused by a defective or dangerous product -- such as a defective chair lift or ski binding -- you may be entitled to compensation from the companies that designed, manufactured, and distributed the product. For more information about defective product cases, see Nolo's Product Liability FAQ.

"Assumption of the Risk" Defense

Skiing and snowboarding are known to be potentially dangerous activities. Because there are inherent risks in participating in these sports, the defendant (such as the ski resort owner or operator or even another skier or snowboarder who ran into you) may raise the "assumption of risk" defense. By raising this defense, the defendant is arguing that you are not entitled to compensation because you chose to take part in an activity that was likely to cause you harm. To learn more about common defenses in negligence cases, read Nolo's article Defenses in Personal Injury Cases.

Compensation in Skiing and Snowboarding Injury Cases

The general purpose of a monetary award (called "damages") in a personal injury case is to compensate an injured person for the losses caused by their injury. The damages you may recover in any lawsuit over skiing or snowboarding injuries would depend on the specifics and severity of your injuries, but would typically include reimbursement for medical expenses, lost wages, and compensation for pain and suffering. To learn more about compensation in personal injury cases, see Nolo's article Damages: How Much Is a Personal Injury Case Worth?.

Getting Help

Skiing and snowboarding injury lawsuits can be complex. Outcomes may depend on local statutes, rules, and regulations, which differ from state to state. If you're thinking about filing a lawsuit based on a skiing or snowboarding injury, you may want to speak with a personal injury lawyer, particularly one with experience in litigation over skiing and snowboarding accidents.

For help in choosing a good personal injury attorney, read Nolo's article Finding a Personal Injury Lawyer. Or go to Nolo's Lawyer Directory for a list of personal injury attorneys in your geographical area (click the "Types of Cases" and "Work History" tabs to find out about the lawyer's experience, if any, with cases involving skiing or snowboarding injuries).

Updated by: , J.D.

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