Wrongful Death at a Ski Resort
According to the National Ski Areas Association (NSAA), fifty-two ski accidents resulted in catastrophic injuries in the United States, and 32 skiers and snowboarders lost their lives on ski slopes, during the 2013-2014 ski season. Maine is home to ski areas and there have been reports of injuries sustained throughout the most recent season. In some cases, victims may need assistance from a ski accident attorney, especially if a ski area has failed to properly maintain its equipment or if it has failed to report bodily injury accidents according to the laws governing tramways in Maine.
Skiing Risks Are Common
In 1996, the Maine Legislature completely overhauled the Skiers’ and Tramway Passengers’ Responsibility Act. Prior to the 1996 legislation, ski areas were immune from liability for injuries caused by risks inherent in the sport of skiing, and whether an injury resulted from an inherent risk of skiing was determined on a case-by-case basis. Hansen v. Sunday River Skiway Corp., 1999 ME 45, 726 A.2d 220; Merrill v. Sugarloaf Mountain Corp., 1997 ME 180, 698 A.2d 1042; Sanchez v. Sunday River Skiway Corp., 810 F. Supp. 17 (D. Me. 1993). The new statute provides that “each person who participates in the sport of skiing accepts, as a matter of law, the risk inherent in the sport and, to that extent, may not maintain an action against or recover from the ski area operator”. 32 M.R.S.A. S 15217(2) (emphasis added).
Does That Mean a Ski Accident Attorney Cannot Help Me?
While this may sound like a personal injury lawyer cannot help, keep in mind that owners also have a responsibility to maintain the trails, ensure proper signage, and ensure their lifts are in good working order. There are certain situations where an injured party can file a personal injury lawsuit within two years of a ski accident. The most obvious exception is:
- Ski lift maintenance – Owners of ski areas who offer lifts to their customers have a duty to ensure those lifts are safe for use. This means proper maintenance and assembly. In some cases, lifts may have design flaws, which can cause falls or other injuries. If owners fail to maintain a lift, a ski accident attorney may be able to help you recover compensation for your injuries. In the event the lift has a design flaw which results in injury, pursuing a case may also be possible.
The newer statute insulates ski area operators against most personal injury claims arising out of the inherent dangers of skiing. The inherent danger of skiing encompasses almost all ski-related injuries with two important exceptions:
Ski Lift Accidents — Ski area operators are liable for injuries caused by the negligent design, construction, operation or maintenance of a ski lift. Falls from chair lifts and injuries suffered during loading or unloading, may be caused by a defective design, faulty maintenance or negligent or improper operation of the lift. In such cases, the ski area operator may be liable for damages.
Skier Collision — if another skier or snowboarder collides with you or knocks you down, that person can be held liable. The high-speed impact of a ski accident often results in broken clavicles, sternums, arms, legs, or serious spinal, facial, or head injuries. Compensation is typically recovered through the negligent party’s homeowner’s insurance.
Ski patrol will often investigate ski accidents and then complete an accident report containing identifying information. We utilize both the ski patrol reports and private investigators to identify witnesses. The law requires ski lift operators to report lift accidents to the State, but often the operator claims that the accident did not involve a lift malfunction and so does not report the accident. We also use weather and engineering experts to determine the cause of ski lifts problems.
The Potential Risks of Ski Accidents
Although falling in the snow is usually not life-threatening, a ski accident can cause life-long problems, and in some cases, can even result in death. Falling from a ski lift can cause compression injuries in the spine and result in paralysis. When a ski accident occurs and you have suffered an injury that was caused because another person was negligent, you should not have to bear the financial brunt of that accident.
Maine Ski Accident Case Verdict
In 1996 we (our personal injury lawyers) obtained what was reported at the time as the highest personal injury verdict in the history of the State of Maine — a $4.4 million verdict against Mt. Abram in Greenwood, Maine.
We represent our ski accident clients on a contingency fee basis. Our personal injury law firm generally advance all expenses in pursuing ski accident claims and do not expect repayment unless there is a recovery. If we recover nothing, you owe us nothing.