Each ski accident is unique, but common elements are often involved. We provide an overview of the most common types of ski accidents with links to significant ski cases involving collision accidents, lift accidents or ski area negligence.
Cases in which skiers or snowboarders collide with another on the ski slope. Liability is determined by state law, but common elements include determination of who was the uphill skier, skiing out of control or jumping blind.
In some states, if a fatal collision is caused by a reckless skier or by negligence of the ski resort operator, a wrongful death claim against the responsible party may be filed. In cases of recklessness, the at-fault party may be criminally charged with manslaughter.
Cases in which a skier is injured as a result of a faulty, defective, or improperly maintained or operated ski lift. Though the responsible party is the ski area operator, the lift cases are distinguished from other ski area negligence claims because the operation of a ski lift, as a mode of public transport, typically demands a higher duty of care on the part of area operator.
Accidents in a ski area resulting from improperly designed or maintained trails, unmarked man-made objects or groomed slopes. Accidents may also result from negligent operation ski patrol and snow maintenance vehicles such as snowmobiles or snow cats.
Less Common Ski Accident Claims-
These cases are less common but, with facts demonstrating a breach of duty, may be pursued.
Negligence of Ski Instructor
Cases in which a skier, under the supervision of an instructor, is led into unmanageable terrain and injures himself, or when a skier, under the supervision of an instructor, injures a third party and that injury is a result of inadequate supervision or instruction. Ski instructors are under a general duty to exercise due care when teaching. This generally means that ski instructors should not encourage individuals to take blind jumps and instructors should refrain from leading classes into terrain beyond their ability.
Ski Equipment Failure
Injury cases resulting from faulty ski equipment generally involve alpine release bindings. These faulty equipment cases are due to the failure of alpine bindings to release under circumstances in which the injured person would have expected them to have opened and prevented injury. Liability in these cases will hinge on whether the ski bindings were properly set and/or whether the bindings, if set correctly, were functioning properly. The second issue of liability in these cases concerns the fall which injured the skier. The question is whether the nature and type of fall exerted forces through the binding which, if set and operating properly, should have opened the binding. A number of injuries exist which are currently not altogether preventable even by properly set and operating bindings.
Other cases involving ski equipment failure are very fact-specific, including insufficient helmet padding, broken goggles and broken ski poles.