With winter officially upon us, people are getting ready to hit the slopes. Millions of Americans will go skiing or snowboarding this winter.
Unfortunately, some of those skiers will wish they hadn’t. According to the National Ski Areas Association, an average of about 40 people are killed in ski and snowboard accidents at U.S. ski resorts each year. Dozens more incur serious injuries and thousands will likely be hurt in some way this year.
Many believe the only way you can hurt yourself on skis or a snowboard is in a collision or a fall during a run, but there are several other things that can injure a skier:
Ski lift accidents -- Cases that involve a skier getting hurt due to faulty or improperly maintained lift.
Ski area negligence -- Accidents caused by improperly maintained trails or the negligent operation of maintenance vehicles, such as snowmobiles.
Ski equipment failure -- Cases involving a faulty ski, which generally means the alpine bindings on the skis, failing to release properly to prevent injury.
“Even a negligent ski instructor can cause an injury if he leads a skier into an improperly managed ski area or to a hill that is too advanced for the skier’s level of expertise,” says attorney Martin Sweet of legal information website DenverLaw.TV.
One of the easiest ways to avoid a serious skiing injury is to wear a helmet, but this doesn’t guarantee complete protection. A 23-year-old snowboarder was wearing a helmet when she was killed in a fall during a run at a Southern California ski resort last month. Besides wearing protective gear, skiers and snowboarders should always follow the rules of the slopes.
Obey signs designating slow zones and intersecting areas.
Always stop in a safe place and avoid hills that could be too advanced for you.
If your precautions fail and you are involved in a skiing or snowboarding accident that you believe was not your fault, you should contact a personal injury lawyer.
“If you are injured on the ski slopes due to the negligence of the resort or another skier, then you may be entitled to recover monetary damages for medical bills and personal injury,” says Denver personal injury attorney Linda Chalat of Chalat Hatten Koupal & Banker PC.
In some states, if a fatal collision is caused by a reckless skier, the at-fault party could be criminally charged with manslaughter.
Skiing and snowboarding are activities enjoyed by millions of people each year. It’s important to do everything you can to ensure your ski trip is a safe one. But if your trip does turn painful, make sure you consult an attorney.