Colorado Ski Safety Statute
Colorado law protects ski area operators from liability claims based on the inherent dangers of skiing and snowboarding. The statute states that “…no skier may make any claim against or recover from any ski area operator for injury resulting from any of the inherent dangers and risks of skiing.”
This does not mean an operator can never be held liable for injuries or death. They owe patrons a duty of care. Bringing a claim against an operator requires evidence of their negligence.
How Can Someone Else be Liable?
There are three legal theories accident victims can use to hold someone else liable for injuries or a death resulting from a skiing or snowboarding accident. With any of the theories, there must be proof that injuries were caused by someone else, and that you sustained financial, health, or other damages as a result.
- Negligence is the failure of a party who owes a duty to care to deliver on that duty of care. Claims could be based on an operator’s failure to clearly mark hazards or maintain slopes. A ski instructor (and therefore, their employer) would be negligent if they put you on a slope with a difficulty level higher than your ability.
- Defective product claims result from a product failure that led to your injuries. Depending on the failure, you may be able to hold the designer, manufacturer, and/or distributor or retailer liable for your injuries caused by defective bindings, poles, helmets, skis, snowboards, or defective chair lifts and other equipment.
- Recklessness involves more unreasonable behavior than negligence, raising it to the level of a grossly negligent act. This could include, for example, a proficient snowboarder racing down a low-difficulty hill (such as a green run) among skiers and snowboarders they know to be less able to avoid collisions.
In any personal injury or wrongful death action brought against any potentially liable party, attorneys for the defendant will argue that because skiing and snowboarding are known to be high-risk, you assumed that risk when you chose to participate in them.
How to File a Claim
Preservation of evidence is key to filing a personal injury or wrongful death claim against a liable party. Taking photos of grades, sightlines, signage, lift equipment, track marks, gear, and injured people at the collision site is recommended. Your injuries may prohibit you from doing so, but others with you can. Gathering statements from anyone who witnessed the event is also a sound method for gathering evidence.
Availability of insurance is another hurdle to filing a claim. Although operators, product manufacturers, and other businesses should have liability policies, many individuals do not. If you are injured by a negligent or reckless skier or snowboarder, they will need to have some sort of liability insurance to file a claim against — for example, a homeowner’s or renter’s policy. If there is no insurance coverage, there is no claim, even if they were at fault for your injury.
Finally, claims are jurisdictional, based on where the accident occurred rather than where the injured party lives. If you were injured in an accident in Colorado, you need an attorney licensed in Colorado to represent you.
Trust a Team of Skilled Attorneys
Unlike an auto accident, legal liability is often very difficult to prove in skiing and snowboarding accidents. Due to the nature of these activities, you are held largely responsible under Colorado law for assuming the risk of injury or death. It behooves you to have a personal injury attorney on your side who has successfully represented clients in these types of personal injury and wrongful death claims.
Your attorney understands the challenges of proving negligence, product defects, or recklessness, as well as documenting evidence, identifying insurance coverage, negotiating with insurance companies, and litigating claims in court.