Denver Ski & Snowboard Accident Lawyers
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Skiing and snowboarding are some of the most common winter pastimes in Colorado, especially near Denver where there are numerous well-regarded ski resorts tucked away in the Rocky Mountains. These fun but dangerous activities have a high potential for accidental injuries that often leave people wondering how they will financially recover. At Zinda Law Group, we believe no skiing or snowboarding accident victim should face this challenge alone. Our Denver ski accident lawyers have the experience and understanding of CO law to help you maximize your compensation and restore you to where you were prior to the accident.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a ski or snowboard accident in the Denver area, contact Zinda Law Group. We have Denver ski accident lawyers who can help you seek maximum compensation for your injury. Call (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation today.
How Do Ski and Snowboard Accidents Happen?
Skiing and snowboarding accidents happen in many ways. Sometimes the injured party is at fault, such as by going too fast and colliding with an immovable object, such as a tree. On other occasions, injury is the result of another skier/snowboarder colliding with the injured party, poorly maintained slopes, malfunctioning equipment, or inadequate guidance from resort instructors.
One common area for skier injuries to occur is on a ski lift. A ski lift accident often occurs when a party has difficulty getting off or on the ski lift. At other times, the ski lift itself is not properly maintained by the resort, or a party falls off the ski lift from a great height.
Many accidents are not the fault of the injured parties; these we cannot always avoid. Yet there are ways to lower your risk of an accident. To do so, experts recommend that you:
- maintain physical condition
- ensure that your gear is properly fitted and secure
- remain aware of the people and objects in your surroundings
- be ready to safely stop and yield to skiers/snowboarders going by you
- not wander off of the designated paths
- be ready to stop the activity and head home if you are feeling fatigued (accidental injuries have a greater risk of occurring when there is exhaustion)
What Type Of Skier Injuries Are Common?
Despite their similarities, skiing and snowboarding usually result in different injury patterns. Because snowboarders do not use poles to maintain balance, injuries to snowboarders often occur when the injured party falls forward or backwards with outstretched arms. That is why snowboarders have a higher likelihood of suffering upper-extremity injuries during an accident.
Conversely, because skiing requires a lot of twisting and turning, particularly with knees, skiers are more prone to lower-extremity injuries during accidents. The NSAA reported that there were 41 “catastrophic” injuries during the 2020-21 ski season. A catastrophic injury includes:
- significant neurological trauma
- major head injuries
- spinal cord injuries leading to some form of paralysis
- the loss of a limb
The NSAA only accounts for ski and snowboarding injuries that take place during normal business hours. Other examples of common injuries include:
- dislocated elbows and shoulders
- broken bones
Michael Schumacher Ski Accident
A well-known ski lift accident occurred to famous Formula 1 driver Michael Schumacher. While skiing outside of a designated ski area, Michael Schumacher fell and landed on a rock, causing a serious head injury. Despite having a helmet on, the injuries caused a traumatic brain injury, permanent paralysis, and loss of speech.
What To Do After An Accident?
If you were injured in a ski or snowboarding accident in Denver, Colorado, please take the following actions:
Evaluate Your Health
In the aftermath of an injury, you must examine your injuries to determine whether immediate medical care is necessary. Your health and safety are of utmost importance.
The location where you are skiing or snowboarding will have a patrol that can provide you with medical services. Even if your injuries are not dire, you should still seek medical care. It may take several days before the severity of your condition becomes apparent.
Keep Your Equipment On
Do not remove any ski or snowboard equipment. This is because the equipment could then slide down the mountain, becoming lost (making a potential defective product claim near impossible to prove) or tripping up a fellow skier/snowboarder, causing them injury.
Report the Accident
Whether your injury is from colliding with an unseen object, another skier/snowboarder, or the result of the operator’s failings, contact ski patrol and the police. If the injury resulted from another skier/snowboarder, you must by Colorado law exchange contact and insurance information with the other party. If there are any other parties around who saw the incident, ask for their contact information, as well.
Document the Ski Accident
Assuming you are not putting yourself at great risk by doing so, take photos of the scene of the accident. If you are unable to, have another party (either a friend, family member, or nearby bystander) do so.
Focus on taking photos that demonstrate poorly maintained slopes, equipment malfunction, the immediate area uphill as well as downhill of the accident, and any injuries suffered as a result of the incident. Documenting the accident will assist the ski patrol and police with their investigation and can be an asset to you and your personal injury lawyer later, for litigation purposes.
Hire a Personal Injury Attorney
To receive maximum compensation for your skier injuries, do not rely on the responsible party’s insurer to have your best interests in mind. Instead, hire an attorney who will fight for you every step of the way.
In case you are wondering, “Is there such an injury lawyer near me and is he or she affordable?” Rest assured, there is! Zinda Law Group Denver has a team ready and available to assist you. In fact, our experienced Denver ski accident lawyers can guide you in your legal battle as well as navigate the difficult and confusing Colorado ski and snowboard accident laws.
Talk to the Insurance Company
After retaining a lawyer, you will want to then talk to the insurer of the party responsible for your injuries. The lawyer, on your behalf, will negotiate with the insurer so that you increase your likelihood of receiving the best settlement outcome. If the insurer is unwilling to meet your demands, your injury attorney may then recommend that you pursue the case at trial.
With Colorado a popular state to ski and snowboard in, the state legislature has crafted laws designed to make it clear to all involved parties what their legal rights and obligations are. The most relevant state law is the Ski Safety Act.
The Act, which the state legislature passed in 1979 and later amended in 2006, lays out the legal responsibilities, liability, and requirements for ski area operators and skiers/snowboarders. The most relevant provision of the Act is that the law protects operators from injuries arising from the “inherent dangers and risks of skiing.”
Inherent danger means that the risks are clearly an expected aspect of the sport itself. For example, this means that a skier/snowboarder cannot bring a lawsuit against a resort operator when the skier/snowboarder pushes their capabilities beyond what they are capable of successfully navigating, getting hurt as a result.
Importantly, there are two important clarifications. The first is that the Ski Safety Act does not prevent skiers/snowboarders from suing another skier/snowboarder with whom they collide, causing an injury.
Under the Act, the uphill skier is presumed to be at fault. That is because the law requires that an uphill skier or snowboarder has a duty of care to avoid any skiers or snowboarders below them on the mountain.
The second is that as of 2020, an operator may not be sued if the injured party previously signed a waiver. Therefore, even if an operator was negligent in certain aspects of maintaining the ski resort, the operator must go beyond negligence in order for a victim to successfully bring a lawsuit.
Colorado laws are incredibly strict regarding when you can file a lawsuit for a ski or snowboard injury and how much you are allowed to recover. That is why hiring an experienced accidental injury attorney is crucial. By doing so, you can strategize with your lawyer on whether you have a valid claim and what your best approach is for obtaining maximum compensation.
When Should I File A Claim?
After a ski or snowboarding accident occurs, a victim is likely confused and unsure of how to proceed with a potential lawsuit. Knowing whom could be held responsible is a good place to start.
When the Responsible Party is the Resort
Skiing and snowboarding resorts have a high level of protection: a shield from negligence if the injured party previously signed a waiver. However, resorts may still face responsibility when they are at fault. Operators must still ensure that the ski lifts are functioning properly, the equipment is maintained, and that there are no dangerous objects on the skier/snowboarder’s main path, such as a tree shrouded by snow.
When the Responsible Party is Another Skier/Snowboarder
A skier/snowboarder who is injured by the negligence of another skier/snowboarder will likely receive compensation from the responsible party’s insurer. If the party does not have insurance, you may be able to receive compensation from the insurance of a family member of the party.
Not every collision with another skier or snowboarder will result in a successful claim. If the accident was not the fault of the party who collided with you, then you will likely have to consider bringing a claim against the ski area operator or an equipment manufacturer instead.
When There Is Negligence
A party is liable for damages if you can show that they were negligent. To prove at-fault negligence in a ski and snowboard accident, you must prove four things:
1. The Other Party Had a Duty of Care
Skiers and snowboarders owe each other a duty to be proactive and avoid putting themselves in positions where they could harm one another. While on the slopes, you must be aware that all skiers/snowboarders in front of you have the right of way on a trail, and you must yield to those trying to merge onto a trail. You also must not obstruct a trail when stopped.
2. They Breached Their Duty of Care
A fellow skier or snowboarder breaches their duty of care to you by ignoring guidelines for expected behavior, which may include skiing under intoxication or ignoring signs indicating that skiers may only go down the slopes at certain speeds. Proving a breach of the duty of care becomes easier when there are witnesses to the accident, who can attest to how reckless the at-fault party was behaving on the slope.
3. There is Causation
At this juncture, you would need to show that the accident happened because of the other party’s actions. If the accident would have taken place regardless of what the other party did, you cannot show causation.
4. There are Compensable Damages
Lastly, you will need to provide evidence that you suffered compensable injuries as a result of your ski accident. Compensable injuries include medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.
When the Responsible Party is the Manufacturer
Although not as common, sometimes the responsible party is the manufacturer of the faulty equipment that you used when the injury occurred. If your ski or snowboard equipment were defective, the manufacturer of the used product may be liable for your injuries.
How Much Money Can I Recover?
Liable parties in Colorado are responsible for up to $1 million in economic damages and $250,000 in noneconomic damages. The Denver Post conducted a review of 30 years of lawsuits against ski and snowboard resort operators and determined that the lawsuits have encountered a $250,000 cap for noneconomic damages. Non-economic damages refers to non-monetary compensation such as for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and loss of enjoyment of life.
An exception to the economic/noneconomic damage caps are punitive damages for wrongful death. Punitive damages punish the offending party, which contrasts to economic/noneconomic damages that are meant to make the victim “whole again” and are not bound by damage caps. Consult with your injury attorney to see if you have a viable case for punitive damages.
How Long Do I Have To File A Claim?
Under the Colorado state law statute of limitations, a victim of a ski or snowboard accident has two years from the day of the injury to file a lawsuit seeking damages against the resort operator or any of the operator’s employees. Once the two-year period expires, you are no longer able to file a claim against the responsible party. That is why you should consult an injury attorney as soon as possible after your accident; they will need time to evaluate your claim and conduct a thorough investigation to better your likelihood of receiving maximum compensation.
Our Denver Ski Accident Lawyers Are Here To Help
At Zinda Law Group, our personal injury lawyers believe that no victim of a ski or snowboarding accident should be worried about affording excellent legal representation. Our injury accident attorneys have the knowledge and capabilities to provide you with the legal services you need to recover full compensation for your injury.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a ski or snowboarding accident in any of the Denver area ski resorts, call Zinda Law Group at (800) 863-5312 for a 100% free case evaluation with one of our Denver ski accident lawyers. You pay nothing unless we win your case; that is our No Win, No Fee Guarantee.
Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.