Skiing and Snowboarding Accidents and Lawsuits

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

Updated by , J.D. · University of San Francisco School of Law

As interest in skiing and snowboarding has increased in recent years, so has the number of serious winter sports-related injuries. You may be able to file a personal injury claim and receive compensation for losses related to a skiing or snowboard accident, but there are a number of critical questions that need to be answered.

Types of Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries

The number and severity of injuries due to skiing and snowboarding accidents are on the rise due to a number of factors, including:

  • performance-related improvements in equipment
  • resorts playing to the "extreme" side of winter sports, and
  • skiing and snowboarding enthusiasts aiming for greater speeds, and execution of more challenging moves,

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. It's estimated that snowboarding alone accounts for more injuries than any other outdoor activity.

Injuries resulting from skiing and snowboarding accidents can include:

  • wrist, hand, and thumb sprains and fractures (including "skier's thumb")
  • ankle and foot sprains and fractures
  • knee ligament (ACL, MCL) sprains and tears
  • shoulder/collar bone fractures and dislocations
  • spinal cord injuries
  • concussions and
  • traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Common Causes of Skiing and Snowboarding Injuries

The most common scenarios leading to skiing and snowboarding injuries include:

  • falls
  • collisions with other skiers or snowboarders
  • 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.

Most Skiing/Snowboarding Injuries Don't Lead to Lawsuits

This is an important note to keep in mind as we dive into the legal basis for a valid injury claim over a skiing or snowboard accident: Just because you were injured while skiing or snowboarding, that doesn't mean the resort, another skier/snowboarder, or anyone else is on the legal hook for what happened. A whole host of key questions need to be answered before it becomes a good idea to pursue a claim.

What's the Legal Basis For Skiing and Snowboarding Injury Lawsuits?

Skiing and snowboarding injuries caused by negligence. Most personal injury lawsuits are based on a legal theory called "negligence." Your skiing or snowboarding injury case will likely be based on negligence if:

  • you collided with a skier or snowboarder who was behaving carelessly or recklessly
  • the resort at 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.

Learn more about how negligence works in a personal injury case.

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 improperly-manufactured ski binding—you may have a valid case against the company (or companies) that designed, manufactured, and distributed the product. Get more details on who to sue for a defective product and proving a product liability case.

Skiing/Snowboard Accidents and the "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 in your lawsuit (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 isn't disputing the nature and extent of your injuries. Instead, they're arguing that you're not entitled to compensation for those injuries, since you chose to take part in an activity that might foreseeably lead to injuries. Learn more about 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 of medical expenses necessary to treat the injuries
  • lost wages and other financial harm caused by the accident and resulting injuries, and
  • compensation for your physical and mental "pain and suffering."

Learn more about how damages work in a personal injury case.

Next Steps After a Skiing/Snowboarding Accident

Skiing and snowboarding injury lawsuits can be complex. Much depends on the specifics of the underlying accident and the law in your 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 in your state. Learn more about finding the right personal injury lawyer.

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