Victims injured in a Colorado skiing accident have certain rights established under Colorado law. When a skier is injured due to another person's or business's fault, he or she can file a lawsuit for money damages.
The Ski Safety Act
There is a lot of skiing in Colorado. Because of this fact, the state has enacted a specific Ski Safety Act that sets forth certain guidelines, rules, and regulations.
One of the most important determinations made by the act is that:
- the uphill skier (the skier higher up on the hill or mountain)
- is presumed to be responsible for an accident
- that occurs with a downhill skier (a skier lower on the hill or mountain).
Common Causes of Accidents
Ski accidents are caused by all kinds of reasons, but some of the most common include:
- collisions with other skiers;
- ski lift injuries;
- poorly designed and maintained slopes;
- lack of warnings about known hazards;
- lack of training and supervision; and
- defective ski rental equipment.
Whatever your injury, you deserve financial compensation for your injuries when it is another person's fault.
Below, our Colorado personal injury attorneys address frequently asked questions about skiing accidents and injuries in personal injury lawsuits and the injuries you may have suffered.
- 1. Can I file a personal injury lawsuit as the result of a Colorado skiing accident?
- 2. What is the Colorado Ski Safety Act?
- 3. What duties are imposed upon Colorado ski passengers under the Act?
- 4. What duties are imposed on ski operators under the Ski Safety Act in Colorado?
- 4.1 What signs and warnings are required to be posted under Colorado law?
- 4.2 Are ski lift operators responsible for ensuring the signs are present?
- 4.3 What other duties do ski operators have in Colorado?
- 5. Are there specific signs required to be posted about slope difficulty under Colorado law?
- 6. What duties are imposed upon individual skiers on the slopes under Colorado law?
- 7. Can a company be sued for not maintaining the slope properly?
- 8. Can a company be sued for lack of training and supervision of employees?
- 9. Can a company be sued for renting or selling defective ski equipment?
- 10. What is the statute of limitations for a lawsuit under the Ski Safety Act?
- 11. Are my damages limited in this type of ski-related personal injury lawsuit?
A person who is injured as the result of a skiing accident has the right to file a personal injury lawsuit for money damages.
Most personal injury cases are based on Colorado negligence law. To prove a case for negligence, a person who is injured (the plaintiff) must prove:
- that the person being sued (the defendant) owed a duty of care to the plaintiff;
- that the defendant breached that duty of care;
- that the defendant's breach was the cause of the injury; and
- that the plaintiff sustained monetary damages from his or her injuries.1
If the plaintiff can show that the defendant was negligent in causing the skiing accident, the defendant will be responsible for the plaintiff's damages.
Due to the important impact of skiing tourism in Colorado, the state has gone the extra step of creating the Ski Safety Act to set forth certain rules and regulations concerning this important sporting activity.
The act sets forth pages worth of responsibilities imposed on:
- individual skiers;
- ski lift companies; and
- ski lift operators.2
Negligence per se in Colorado occurs when a person violates a:
- safety law;
- regulation; or
in the state and is presumed to have been negligent.3
To prove his or her case, the plaintiff (the injured party) under the Ski Safety Act must prove that:
- the defendant violated a statute, law, or regulation;
- the statute in question was created to prevent the same type of injury suffered by the plaintiff;
- the victim is part of the "class" of people who were meant to be protected by the law; and
- the defendant's violation of the law was the cause of the victim's injuries.4
Under the Act, negligence is presumed for any person or company who violates the requirements of the Ski Safety Act.5
When a person becomes a "passenger" on a tramway, there are certain duties he or she must follow or he or she will be considered negligent.
- should have the necessary physical dexterity, skill, and ability to safely negotiate the tramway;
- are required to follow the instructions of the operator;
- cannot throw objects from a tramway while riding;
- cannot act in any way that would interfere with the safe or proper operation of the tramway;
- cannot act in such a way that would cause harm to another person;
- cannot place an object in the J-bar, T-bar, platter pull, rope tow, or other surface that could cause another skier to fall;
- cannot go on a closed tramway; or
- cannot disobey any instructions posted or verbal instructions given by the ski area operator regarding the proper use and safety of the tramway.6
If a passenger fails to follow any of these conditions, he or she will be considered negligent and could be sued for negligence in a personal injury lawsuit.
Ski operators have a great many duties imposed upon them under the Act.
This includes certain actions they must undertake, and specific requirements regarding the posting of signs around the area.
Every ski operator is required to maintain a sign system with:
- simple, and
- pertinent information
- for the protection and instruction of passengers.
These signs are required to be prominently placed on each tramway where it is visible and can easily be read even at night.7
Signs are required to show information such as, but not limited to:
- the maximum number of passengers allowed;
- emergency procedures and instructions;
- "Prepare to Unload" signs;
- "Keep Ski Tips Up" signs;
- "Unload Here" signs;
- "Remove Pole Straps from Wrists" signs; and
- warnings about risks of clothing becoming entangled in the ski lift.8
The ski operator is expected to make sure that all signs are present and visible each and every day. Failure to do so is negligence as defined by the Act.9
If the signs were posted and visible, it is presumed that the passengers in fact read the signs. This protects Colorado businesses if they follow the law and punishes them when they do not.
Ski operators also have a variety of other duties listed under the Ski Safety Act, including:
- all motorized snow-grooming vehicles must be equipped with visible lights when moving around a ski slope or trail;
- conspicuous notices must be placed around used areas when maintenance is being performed;
- any and all skiers determined to be acting carelessly or recklessly on the slopes must be removed and their privileges must be revoked;
- all snowmobiles operated on the slopes must have:
- a lighted headlamp;
- a lighted red tail lamp;
- a working brake system; and
- a fluorescent flag at least 40 square inches mounted at least 6 feet above the bottom of the tracks.10
The Ski Safety Act is very specific about the signs that must be posted concerning the difficulty of ski slopes.
- Least difficult slopes: green circle with the word "easiest"
- Most difficult slopes: black diamond and the words "most difficult"
- In-between difficult slopes: blue square and the words "more difficult"
- Extreme terrain: two black diamonds and the letters "E" and "X" in white and the words "extreme terrain.
- Freestyle areas: designated with an orange oval.
- Closed slopes: octagonal-shaped sign with a red border around a white interior containing a black figure in the shape of a skier with a black band running diagonally across the sign from the upper right-hand side to the lower left-hand side with the word "Closed" printed beneath the emblem.11
If these signs are not posted, or are posted incorrectly, the ski operator could be deemed negligent and held responsible for any damages that occur as a result.
It is not only ski operators and companies that have restrictions and rules placed upon them. Individual skiers are expected to follow certain rules, or be deemed negligent.
These include, but are not limited to:
- each person must know his or her own range of ability and skill;
- every skier accepts and assumes the risk of all legal responsibility for injury resulting from the inherent dangers and risks of skiing (unless caused by another person's negligence);
- a duty to maintain control of speed and course at all times;
- a duty to maintain a proper lookout for others with the primary duty of the person skiing downhill to avoid collision with those below;
- a duty to stay off slopes marked "Closed";
- a duty to stay clear of all snow-grooming equipment, vehicles, towers, etc.;
- a duty to read and heed all posted information and warnings;
- an obligation to not cross the location of an uphill track except where indicated; and
- an obligation to not become intoxicated with alcohol or a controlled substance while skiing.12
In addition to being considered negligent for breaching any of the above, a person who willfully violates the rules here is also guilty of a class 2 petty offense and can be fined up to a maximum of $1,000.
A ski operator can be sued for its unreasonable failure to properly maintain a ski slope. While there is always an "inherent risk" associated with skiing, the latter of which a person cannot sue for, a skier can sue for the following:
- dangerous and unreasonable conditions
- that are not normal or expected and
- are the result of negligent maintenance of a ski slope.
Injuries due to the above are compensable.
This applies to slopes that were dangerously and poorly designed, like those that:
- are too close to a severe and unexpected drop;
- are too close to unexpected trees; or
- results in the likelihood of crossing paths with another ski trail.
Companies are responsible for the negligent acts of their employees through the doctrine of respondeat superior.
Respondeat Superior is a legal term that means a person is responsible for the acts of his or her "agents" or employees. If a certain legal relationship exists between two or more parties:
- one party (person or entity) may be responsible for the actions or inactions of the other party
- that led to an injury to another person
- even when that person or business is not directly responsible.13
Ski companies who fail to adequately train and supervise their employees who cause harm to others can be held legally responsible for the damages and injuries suffered by the victim.
A ski operator or business who sells or rents defective ski equipment can be held responsible for the injuries suffered as a result under a negligence standard or a products liability or strict liability standard.
Defective equipment can include:
- pole straps;
- boots; or
If the defective equipment caused an injury to a person, he or she can sue for money damages.
All actions against any ski operator or its employees to recover damages for injury caused by negligent:
- supervision; or
- operation of a passenger tramway or ski area
must be brought within 2 years after the accident occurs.
Failure to file within that time means that the case will almost certainly be dismissed. This means that even a valid claim that could have otherwise won will be thrown out.
Act quickly after an accident to avoid missing the statute of limitations and before you miss out on the opportunity to recover damages for your injuries.
Personal injury lawsuits are often limited by certain damage caps.
The Ski Safety Act sets forth its own special limitations:
- $1,000,000 total for all claims (unless injured as a passenger on a tramway);
- $250,000 for any derivative claims; and
- $250,000 for noneconomic damage claims.14
However, if the court determines that this amount would be unfair in light of the facts and circumstances, the court can lift the caps and award more damages.
Call us for help...
For questions about skiing accident lawsuits in Colorado or to confidentially discuss your case with one of our skilled Colorado personal injury attorneys, do not hesitate to contact us.
We represent clients in and around Denver, Colorado Springs, Aurora, Fort Collins, Lakewood, and several nearby cities.
- Lopez v. Trujillo, 399 P.3d 750 (Ct. App. Div. 1 2016). (To prove a prima facie negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove: (1) the defendant owed a legal duty of care; (2) the defendant breached that duty; (3) the plaintiff was injured; and (4) the defendant's breach caused that injury. citing Vigil v. Franklin, 103 P.3d 322, 325 (Colo.2004). Of these elements, duty is the threshold element.)
- CRS 33-44-103 (Definitions).
- West's Colorado Practice Series, 7 COPRAC 11:13.
- Barsch v. Hammond, 110 Colo. 441, 135 P.2d 519 (1943).
- CRS 33-44-104 (Negligence - civil actions).
- CRS 33-44-105. Duties of passengers.
- 33-44-106(1). Duties of operators - signs.
- 33-44-106(1)(a). Duties of operators - signs.
- CRS 33-44-108. Ski area operators - additional duties.
- 33-44-107. Duties of ski area operators - signs and notices required for skiers' information.
- 33-44-109. Duties of skiers - penalties.
- West's Colorado Practice Series, 7 COPRAC 14:3 (Employees, servants, and agents - Existence of master servant relationship).
- 33-44-113. Limitation of liability.