Determining Fault in Ski Resort Accidents

The question of liability in the event of a ski or snowboard accident is very important.  If you have been injured in a ski accident and the fault is your own – if, for example, you were skiing under the influence of intoxicants or if you were skiing recklessly – then you will in all likelihood shoulder the cost of your injuries.  In 2010, the state of Oregon abolished its “assumption of the risk” doctrine in negligence cases, which had provided an affirmative defense to ski reports and ski area operators in the case of personal injury to skiers and snowboarders.  Assumption of the risk in essence said that those who voluntarily participate in dangerous sports assume the risk of injury and thus are barred from recovery for injuries sustained as part of those activities.

In 2010, the Oregon Legislature struck down this plaintiff-penalizing doctrine and replaced it with ORS 30.9770-30.990, which provides that “an individual who engages in the sport of skiing, alpine or Nordic, accepts and assumes the inherent risks of skiing insofar as they are reasonably obvious, expected, or necessary”.  This new rule defines the  inherent risks of skiing to include:

  • Changing weather surfaces
  • Variations on the steepness of the terrain
  • Surface or subsurface conditions
  • Bare spots
  • Creeks and gullies
  • Forest growth
  • Rocks and stumps
  • Lift towers, and other structures and components
  • Collisions with other skiers, and
  • A skier’s failure to ski within his or her own ability.

If another skier or snowboarder caused your injuries by their reckless conduct on the slopes, then you may be able to recover damages from that other party.  If your injuries result from improperly maintained slopes, however, then you can bring action against the ski resort to be compensated for your injuries, pain, and suffering.

In the next installment of this series on ski and snowboard accidents and personal injury law, I will review how and when you must bring a claim against the negligent party.  Be safe on the slopes until then!