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Ski Resort Liability: How Far Will The Courts Go?

The Colorado powder is famous, drawing skiers and snowboarders from around the world to the slopes along the Rocky Mountains. Our ski resorts are among the best in the world and attract many thousands of visitors each year. 

While many people come to Colorado searching for that perfect weekend ski getaway, there's an unfortunate group of people who sometimes leave with injuries or even the death of a loved one due to serious accidents. 

One Family's Tragedy May Lead to Changes

Recently, one family's visit to the Granby Ranch Colorado ski resort ended in utter tragedy, after a 40-year-old mother fell to her death from a chair lift at the resort. Eyewitnesses reported that the chair lift was swinging fast and seemed to be out of control, prior to the woman and her two young daughters, ages 12 and nine, slipping out and falling onto the slope below. The mother and her daughters had not pulled down the safety bar on the chair lift prior to the accident, leaving some witnesses (as well as safety experts) to wonder if the tragedy could have been prevented.

While the mother was pronounced dead at the hospital after the accident, the two girls were treated for their injuries and released.

Did the Woman Ignore the Safety Rules? Or Was The Resort to Blame? 

The fact of the matter is, the woman did not do anything wrong by not using the safety bar. In the state of Colorado, safety bars are considered an optional safety measure, for skiers to use as they wish. In fact, currently only the state of Vermont requires skiers to use the safety bars.

This tragedy highlights the importance of taking precautions while enjoying an exciting and inviting outdoor sport, such as skiing. It also begs the question: Who is responsible in the event of an accident or injury at a ski resort?

Comparative Fault in Colorado

Colorado is a comparative fault state, which means that in the event of a personal injury lawsuit, both parties involved can share partial blame for the incident. In the event of a ski accident at a resort, for example, the court would rule on the amount of blame that both the injured party as well as the resort share in the incident. This is determined only in the event that negligence can be proved.

For instance, if a skier is injured on a slope that is not well-maintained, they may be able to prove that the resort was negligent in caring for the mountainside course. The court would look at the evidence of negligence, and determine the fault associated with each party in the suit. If the injured party is found to be more than 50 percent at fault in the incident, they will not be able to collect any damages in the suit. If the injured party is found to be 20 percent at fault in the incident, the amount of damages that they are filing for will be reduced by 20 percent.

Improving Safety Measures at Ski Resorts

One national group feels that ski resorts need to be held more responsible and reliable for monitoring safety protocols and ensuring that everyone enjoying the resort is protected while there.

The SnowSport Safety Foundation is a California group that is focused on developing a set of safety guidelines and regulations that ski resorts across the country must abide by and enforce at their properties, according to an article published on DavisEnterprise.com. The article states: "There are no slope and trail safety laws, regulations or standards set by federal or California law ... So each resort uses its own discretion in choosing how to administer safety policies and practices."

By advocating for greater safety regulations at the resort level, the group hopes to prevent tragedies like the chair lift accident that occurred in Colorado in 2017. In injury cases when the skier was doing everything to remain as safe as possible on slopes, these regulations could help demonstrate whether there was clear negligence on the part of the resort.  

Don't Make Assumptions: Discuss Your Ski Injury With an Attorney

Don't assume you waive your legal rights when you take to the slopes. It is critical to contact a qualified legal professional who specializes in personal injury law in Colorado as soon as possible after an injury has occurred. Your attorney can work with you in order to collect evidence and prove negligence in your case, allowing you to maximize the damages that can be collected in the incident. You will need to be able to cover not only medical expenses but also the expenses that you occur as a result of missed work and a diminished quality of life.

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