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Do I have a Valid Claim for Injuries?

Outdoor recreational sports, such as skiing and snowboarding, are one of the best parts of living in the Pacific Northwest. However, these types of activities come with inherent risks that you should be aware of before getting on the slopes. John Hopkins Medicine has reported that roughly 10 million Americans ski or snowboard each year in the United States, with approximately 600,000 injuries reported annually.

In Washington State, skiers and snowboarders impliedly assume the risk of the inherent dangers of participating in the sport, meaning an injured skier or snowboarder cannot sue the area owners or operators for any injuries caused by an inherent risk of skiing or snowboarding.

However, the implied assumption of risks by skiers and snowboarders does not preclude recovery for negligent acts by the area owners or operators which unduly enhance such risks. See Scott v. Pacific West Mountain, 119 Wash.2d 484 (1992) in which a ski school student was injured after losing control on a slalom racecourse after losing control and colliding with a fixed shed. Plaintiff alleged that the ski resort operators and ski school were negligent in placing the racecourse too close to the shed, thus unduly enhancing the risk of injury inherent in slalom racing. The Washington Supreme Court held that the implied assumption of risk was not a complete bar to recovery under these facts and remanded the case to the trial court to determine what, if any, liability the ski resort operators and ski school had for the Plaintiff’s injuries.   

Although skiers and snowboarders do not impliedly assume the risk of negligence that unduly enhances the risk of an inherent injury, they still may release area owners and/or operators from any liability for negligence by signing an exculpatory clause. Have you ever read the small print on the back of a lift ticket, or that you must sign when purchasing an EPIC, IKON, or another type of season pass? This language almost always includes something along the lines of:   

In consideration for allowing the Participant to participate in the Activity, I agree to the greatest extent permitted by law, to waive any and all claims against and to hold harmless, release, indemnify, and agree not to sue [Area Owners/Operators] for any injury, including death, loss, property damage or expenses, which I or Participant may suffer, arising out of Participant’s participation in the Activity, including but not limited to, those claims based on any released party’s alleged or actual negligence or breach of any contract and/or express or implied warranty and/or breach of any statutory or other duty of care…  

This type of language is known as an “exculpatory clause.” Exculpatory clauses seek to protect ski area owners and operators from liability for their own negligence for injuries caused to a skier or snowboarder and are generally valid in Washington. However, exculpatory clauses cannot release a ski area owner or operator from liability for gross negligence. Determining what acts and/or omissions rise to the level of gross negligence is fact-specific. Therefore, you should always consult with an attorney to determine if your injury claim will survive any applicable exculpatory language.   

What if I was injured by another skier or snowboarder?

Washington has adopted rules that skiers or snowboarders must follow while using the slopes which include the following: 

  1. All persons using the ski hills hall exercise reasonable care for their own safety; 
  2. All skiers shall conduct themselves within the limits of their ability and shall not act in any manner that may contribute to the injury of themselves or another person; 
  3. No person shall willfully engage in any type of conduct that may injure any person; 
  4. Every person shall maintain control of his or her speed and course at all times; 
  5. A person shall be the sole judge of his or her ability to negotiate any trail, run, or uphill track; 
  6. The primary duty shall be on the person skiing downhill to avoid any collision with any person or object below him or her; and, 
  7. Any person on foot or any type of sliding device shall be responsible for any collision whether the collision is with another person or object. 

If a skier or snowboarder is negligent in causing injury to another, the injured victim may pursue an injury claim against the negligent party. Most people have either homeowners' or renters’ insurance that will provide coverage for injuries caused to another under these types of circumstances. 

For additional information regarding the duties of resort owners/operators and individual skiers/snowboarders, see RCW 79A.45

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What if I was Injured in a Resort Facility?

If you were injured in a resort facility, such as by slipping on ice or a wet floor, you likely will have a valid claim against the resort owner and/or operators for your injuries. This is because there is no inherent risk of skiing or snowboarding assumed while visiting places like restaurants, gift shops, restrooms, etc. Therefore, under most circumstances, the resort owner and/or operators can be sued for injuries caused similar to any other premises liability claim.

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What is The Statute of Limitations?

There is a time limit to bring legal action for personal injury claims in Washington State. In most cases,  the personal injury statute of limitations in Washington is three years from the date of the injury. However, the statute of limitations may differ depending on the specific facts and type of the case.

If an injured victim fails to either settle their case or file a lawsuit against the correct defendant before the statute of limitations lapses, they will be barred from receiving compensation for their injuries.  This is why it is important to consult with a knowledgable ski injury lawyer as soon as possible to ensure you do not miss any important deadlines that will affect your case or prevent you from recovering. 

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What Damages Are Available?

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Other Damages

Other types of damages injured victims may be entitled to include:

  • Damage to ski/snowboard gear & clothing
  • Damage to personal property such as cell phones or cameras
  • Loss of use for passes during duration of injury
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Economic Damages

Economic damages compensate the injured victim for actual monetary loss. Examples include:

  • Medical Expenses (including cost of medical treatment and/or equipment)
  • Prescriptions
  • Lost Wages/Lost Opportunity
  • Domestic Service Expenses
  • Funeral & Burial Expenses
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Non-Economic Damages

Non-economic damages are subjective, non-monetary losses. Examples include:

  • Pain & Suffering
  • Inconvenience
  • Emotional Distress
  • Loss of Enjoyment of Life
  • Loss of Society & Companionship
  • Loss of Consortium
  • Pre-Death Terror & Fright