Dozens of people are killed and many hundreds experience serious, life-altering accidents on ski and snowboard slopes every year. With California’s dense population and abundance of ski and snowboarding resorts, our state is a prime location for such accidents to occur. A skiing or snowboarding accident can result in serious brain, spinal, or other injury which can mean years of high medical bills, inability to work, and immense pain and suffering. Oftentimes, a personal injury lawsuit which results in a settlement or verdict is the only way for an accident victim to obtain full recovery for their injuries.
Pursuing a lawsuit over skiing and snowboarding accident in California, however, presents complicated legal issues to navigate, and accident victims are strongly encouraged to work with a personal injury attorney with a wide range of experience and skills in pursuing serious injury cases. Below are a few of the challenges skiing and snowboarding lawsuits present in California.
Release / Waiver of Liability Issues
Essentially any ski or snowboarding property owner will require users to sign a waiver or release of liability as a condition to using the facilities. California courts will generally honor these waivers in threatened litigation, but signing a waiver does not necessarily mean you have no recourse.
If you have suffered a serious injury, you should have an attorney review the waiver you signed before assuming you do not have a case. The waiver might be worded in a way that does not prevent you from bringing suit, and it may well be the case that the waiver does not cover the particular error or omission that resulted in your accident. This is particularly the case when the defendant’s acts were grossly negligent or reckless.
Furthermore, it may be the case that a waiver will be deemed ineffective, which can be the case where a defendant seeks to prevent a child from bringing suit.
Assumption of Risk in Skiing and Snowboarding
A common defense raised by defendants in skiing and snowboarding accidents is the assumption of risk defense. This says that a person who voluntarily enters into an activity should understand the inherent risks involved with that activity, and that they will be barred from bringing suit over injuries caused by a risk that is inherent to that activity. In the case of skiing or snowboarding, this could mean risks that are common to the sport, such as collision with other skiers or loss of control by a skier.
Again, this is an issue that an experienced attorney will need to assess to determine whether the cause of your injury (which may not even be clear without further investigation by your attorney) is one that was an inherent risk to the activity and/or one which you were aware of prior to the accident.
For example, if the ski course was negligently designed (which may only be apparent to your attorney after further inquiry), or an employee of the defendant acted (or failed to act) in a way that made the risk of skiing and snowboarding unnecessarily dangerous, you may be able to overcome the assumption of risk defense.
Contributory Negligence in Skiing and Snowboarding
Similarly, defendants in skiing and snowboarding cases will often try to pin the blame for a serious injury on the injury victim himself through the concept of contributory negligence. While a plaintiff’s own negligent conduct is relevant for determining how much financial compensation the plaintiff is entitled to, the fact that a skier or snowboarder may have acted unreasonably does not by itself bar the plaintiff from financial recovery where the defendant violated a legal duty that played a role in causing the accident.
Work with your attorney to counter such arguments presented by potentially liable defendants.
Experienced Skiing / Snowboarding Attorneys in the Inland Empire
At McCune Wright Arevalo, LLP our personal injury team – led by by partner Cory Weck, a Marine Corps officer with over 20 years of service to his country and 15 years of experience litigating personal injury cases – has repeatedly won verdicts and settlements on behalf of clients across the Inland Empire in the millions of dollars. Our attorneys understand that the fear, anxiety, and pain that you and your family are going through following a personal injury, and we are dedicated to doing everything we can to help our clients get the help they need. Contact us today to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys.