Colorado Ski Accident FAQs
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Skiing is an increasingly popular sport; as more skiers hit the slopes, though, the more accidents are likely to occur. Despite its undeniable appeal, snow skiing often results in severe, debilitating injuries. Unfortunately, these injuries often leave victims struggling to recover financially when they should instead be focused on recovering physically.
At Zinda Law Group, we believe no ski injury victim should be forced to face the aftermath of an accident alone. We pride ourselves in providing excellent legal representation and in working to help you secure maximum compensation while you focus on recovering from your injuries.
If you or a loved one has been hurt in a skiing accident, call Zinda Law at (800) 863-5312 for a free case evaluation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys. Our attorneys in Colorado can provide you with more Colorado ski accident FAQs, and our clients pay nothing unless we win their case.
What are some of the most common ski accidents and injuries?
Skiing injuries are as diverse as their underlying accidents. Rocks, trees, ice, uneven ground conditions, avalanches, ski-lift malfunction, and equipment failure can all result in accidents when skiing.
However, according to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), the majority of fatal incidents are a result of collisions. There were 42 reported skiing fatalities in the 2019/2020 season; this is somewhat higher than the 10-year average of 39 between 2010 and 2020.
By contrast, there were only 29 “catastrophic incidents” in the 2019/2020 operating season. Unlike fatalities, this number actually fell well below the 10-year average of 45 catastrophic injuries per season—perhaps as a result of reduced skiing during the Covid-19 pandemic. The NSAA defines “catastrophic injuries” as including:
- injuries with significant neurological trauma,
- major head injuries,
- spinal cord injuries (full or partial paralysis), and
- injuries resulting in limb loss.
These numbers may appear low. Though not all injuries rise quite to the level of seriousness as a “catastrophic injury,” comparatively milder injuries may still be very serious in their own right. For example, broken bones and harm to internal organs can also lead to pain, suffering, and significant medical bills; you should not underestimate the impact these injuries can have on your wellbeing and on your case. An experienced attorney can help you create a strategy to secure maximum compensation for these damages where possible.
Note, the NSAA measurements provided above include only those injuries and fatalities that occur during normal operating hours of ski areas and resorts. Injuries and fatalities resulting from after-hour accidents are not included.
what are the laws governing ski accidents in colorado?
Colorado is a world-renowned skiing destination. Accordingly, in addition to traditional laws governing personal injury compensation, Colorado has developed laws tailored specifically to one of its most popular outdoor activities.
Colorado Ski Safety Act
Skiing in Colorado is primarily governed by the Colorado Ski Safety Act, originally passed in 1979. In light of the “inherent dangers” associated with skiing, this law is designed to balance to duties of skiers to ski safely and the duties of ski area operators to mitigate dangers where reasonable.
While ski area operators must maintain certain minimal conditions to ensure safety, each skier is responsible for knowing the range of their own ability to negotiate the dangers of skiing. Further, each skier is presumed to accept the risk and legal responsibility associated with the risks and inherent dangers of skiing.
However, the law makes clear that the risk of skier-to-skier collision is not inherent and can be avoided through safe practices. The law further explains that, though each skier has a duty to operate safely, skiers going downhill have the primary duty of avoiding collision.
Echoing this concern for safety in the context of skiing, the NSAA Responsibility Code recommends following these seven guidelines when skiing:
- Always stay in control and be able to stop or avoid other people or objects.
- People ahead of you have the right of way; it is your responsibility to avoid them.
- You must not stop where you obstruct a trail or are not visible from above.
- Whenever starting downhill or merging into a trail, look uphill and yield to others.
- Always use devices to help prevent runaway equipment.
- Observe all posted signs and warnings; keep off closed trails and out of closed areas.
- Prior to using any lift, you must have the knowledge and ability to load, ride, and unload safely.
When a skier is involved in a collision resulting in injury, the law imposes a duty to not abandon the scene of the collision without giving their contact information to ski patrol or an employee of the ski area. The only exception to this rule is when one leaves the scene to secure aid.
Read more here, C.R.V. § 33-44-103, where “inherent dangers” are defined.
Negligence is the most common cause of action in personal injury cases, including in skiing accidents. This cause of action is based on the idea that individuals owe each other a general duty to exercise reasonable care in their actions to ensure that we do not cause each other harm; for example, the law imposes a duty to exercise caution when driving a roadway motor vehicle or a snowmobile. In the skiing context, the meaning of “reasonable care” is largely defined by the Ski Safety Act. Showing that another party is liable for negligence requires proving:
1. A legal duty was owed by the defendant to the plaintiff.
2. The defendant breached that duty.
3. The plaintiff suffered an injury.
4. The plaintiff’s injury was caused by the defendant’s breach.
Statute of Limitations
Importantly, the Ski Safety Act also prescribes a statute of limitations for ski accidents, which simply creates a time limit after which securing compensation for an accident can no longer be filed. In Colorado, the statute of limitations for ski accidents is two years; once two years have passed after the accident, you cannot file a case seeking compensation. The lesson to be learned here is that once the two-year countdown begins, it is better to consult with an attorney as soon as you can so that they have plenty of time to gather and prepare what is needed to file the case.
How much can i recover from a ski accident?
The Ski Safety Act caps the amount plaintiffs can recover from a ski accident in Colorado at $1 million. The statute also caps derivative claims by another party based on the same accident at $250,000, which is included in the underlying $1 million limit.
However, in cases of wrongful death, a plaintiff may also be awarded additional “exemplary damages;” exemplary damages are distinct in that they are designed not to compensate the victim but instead to punish the wrongdoer. Exemplary damages in wrongful-death cases are governed not by the Ski Safety Act but by the Wrongful Death Act. Though courts award exemplary damages sparingly, an experienced Colorado ski accident attorney can evaluate the viability of your path to compensation given the facts of your unique case.
WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I COLLIDE WITH ANOTHER SKIER ON THE SLOPE?
Skiing accidents happen quickly and can be disorienting. If you are ever involved in a skiing accident in Colorado, take the following steps.
Exchange Information and Report the Accident
Exchange information with the other skier, including your name, telephone number, address, and insurance information, as is required by the Ski Safety Act. You should also attempt to collect any witnesses’ names and contact information. Report—or have a family member, friend, or bystander report—the accident to the ski patrol and cooperate in their investigation.
Document the Scene
If it is safe to do so, take pictures of the area of the collision, the area uphill and downhill of the collision, any signs in the area of the collision, and any apparent injuries or equipment damage or malfunction. If you are too injured or otherwise unable to do so, have a family member or friend photograph these things for you.
Seek Medical Attention
Of course, your wellbeing is the top priority in any accident. Seek immediate medical attention through the mountain’s ski patrol service to ensure your injuries receive proper treatment and documentation. Even if you feel fine after the collision, there is the possibility that you have suffered serious injuries that may take longer to present themselves.
Hire a Lawyer
Finally, you may need to file a lawsuit to recover adequate compensation. An experienced attorney in Colorado can help you understand your rights and options. Even if your case does not ultimately go to trial, an attorney who has handled many similar cases is well equipped to help you negotiate a fair and satisfactory settlement.
Remember to exercise caution when speaking to insurance companies; unfortunately, insurance companies—even your own—are not neutral third parties and do not always have your best interest in mind. Having a skilled personal injury attorney evaluate your case first can ensure that you are being treated fairly and do not damage your own case. He or she would remind you, for example, that anything you say to an insurance company can be used against you in litigation; therefore, never sign forms or waivers provided by an insurance company and never admit fault before consulting with an attorney.
Read more: How to Negotiate with an Insurance Company
LET US HELP YOU
Regardless of whether you are an avid skiing enthusiast or simply a wintertime vacationer, skiing accidents during Colorado ski season can be catastrophic all around. To recover maximum compensation, it is often necessary to consult with an experienced attorney. Our Colorado ski accident attorneys are here to help.
At Zinda Law Group, we believe that no victim of a skiing accident should have to worry about their ability to afford excellent legal representation. We pride ourselves in providing that representation. Tell us about your case, and we will tell you how we can help.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a skiing accident, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys in Colorado. You pay nothing unless we win your case. That is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.