ski resort accidents

How to Bring a Ski Resort Accident Claim

Regardless of who is legally responsible for causing your ski or snowboard accident injury,  if you have been injured at a ski resort then you must notify the ski area operator of the injury by registered or certified mail within 180 days of discovering your injury.  Failure to notify the ski resort within a time designated by Oregon law bars a claim for injury or wrongful death.  However, there are a few exceptions to this rule:

  • If a ski operator had knowledge of the injury or death within 180 days of its occurrence, then failure of the injured party to provide notice will not bar the claim;
  • If there is good cause for the failure to give notice, then the claim will not be barred; and
  • If the ski resort operator failed to inform the skier or snowboarder of these notice procedures, then the claim will not be barred if it is submitted after 180 days.

After proper notice has been given to the ski area operator where the injury occurred, Oregon law requires that the injured party or his/her representative either settles the claim or files a lawsuit within two years of the date of injury.  As with all personal injury claims in the state of Oregon, there is a two-year statute of limitations on these types of cases: if you snooze, then you lose your ability to recover damages for your ski or snowboard injury.

There are several exceptions to this general statute of limitations rule.  First, claims brought on behalf of minor children and mentally disabled individuals have a longer statute of limitations because these classes of individuals are protected.  Second, if someone injured in a ski resort accident dies before two years have elapsed after the time of their injury, then an action may be commenced by that injured party’s representative within one year of that person’s death.

Oregon case law provides examples of scenarios that do not fit within skiing’s “inherent risk” as defined by Oregon’s Legislature as well as other examples that fit squarely within the definition.  For example, assume you are riding a ski lift when it breaks, sending you crashing to the ground.  You are severely injured in this accident and later you learn that the ski lift had not been regularly maintained in the months preceding your accident.  The ski area operator in this scenario is negligent and you have a good claim: falling off of an unmaintained lift is not an inherent risk of skiing even if riding a lift is.

The bottom line in ski resort accident and personal injury cases is that they are fact-specific and that it is difficult to prove a third party’s fault since skiers and snowboarders assume certain risks when they decide to hit the slopes.  That said, if you or a loved one has been injured in a ski resort accident and you believe that the negligence of another skier or the ski resort itself is primarily responsible for your injuries, then contact an experienced personal injury attorney immediately.  The personal injury attorneys at Dwyer Williams Dretke PC can evaluate your ski resort injury case and advocate on your behalf with adverse parties and insurers.

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!

Personal Injury Expertise is Vital in Ski Resort Accident Cases

Living in the beautiful state of Oregon affords us many wonderful outdoor recreational activities all year round.  This time of the year, when days are dry and cold, conditions are wonderful for skiing and snowboarding in our state’s mountainous terrain.  There are several ski resorts located throughout Oregon, but before you hit the slopes it is important to give some thought to personal safety and injury issues on the mountain.  Skiing and snowboarding are fun winter activities, but they aren’t without risks: every year people get injured while skiing or boarding in Oregon.

The personal injury attorneys at Dwyer Williams Dretke PC regularly receive calls from individuals who have been injured in Oregon ski accidents.  The first question that we must answer when evaluating a potential ski injury claim is “who was at fault”.

In general, there are three possible responses to this question.  Sometimes the skier himself or herself is at fault and because they have assumed certain risks by engaging in skiing or boarding – which are considered to be inherently dangerous sports – then they will be unable to recover damages from the ski resort where their accidents and injuries occurred.  My next blog post in this series will discuss assumption of the risk doctrine as well as Oregon’s current law surrounding ski accidents.

If an individual skier or snowboarder has been injured due to the negligence or reckless conduct of another, then damages can be sought from one of two external sources.  First,  you can seek to recover damages from fellow skiers or snowboarders, or even from non-skiing individuals who are out on the slopes, if those people were in some way responsible for your injuries.  Finally, if the ski resort is truly responsible for your accident and injuries because of their negligence and failure to maintain their trails and equipment in proper conditions, then you can sue the ski area operator.

Consult an Expert as Soon as Possible

If you have been injured in a ski resort accident and you yourself were not negligent, it is important to remember that your claim may be against the resort itself or against another skier or snowboarder.  If, for instance, a skier races downhill at a speed so great that he or she looses control and slams into you, breaking your arm, then that skier was negligent in a number of ways and a claim could be brought against him/her.

Ski and snowboard accidents are complicated and many do not stand up in court because Oregon law states that skiers knowingly and willingly assume some risks each time that they strap on their skis or their board and get in line for a lift.  For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you contact an experienced personal injury attorney if you have been injured on Oregon’s slopes.  The experienced attorneys at Dwyer Williams Dretke PC can evaluate your ski accident case and advocate on your behalf in negotiation with insurers and adverse parties.