Late last month, a snowboarder tragically died after a snowboarding accident at Northstar California Resort in Truckee. According to the resort, the ski patrol responded to an advanced terrain part of the mountain and found the snowboarder had had some type of serious accident. The fire department soon responded, but he was pronounced dead at the scene. The man was in his 40s and was a resident of Connecticut. Similarly, late last year, a ski instructor was killed in an accident at the same resort
Every winter, participants in snow sports are seriously injured or are killed at ski resorts across the country. However, it’s difficult to know how many accidents occur, because there are no specific requirements in place for reporting injuries and deaths at the country’s ski areas. Critics say this lack of oversight allows the winter sports industry to operate with very little responsibility or oversight. Because these injuries and accidents are not recorded, the victims do not become a statistic, which can be tracted. Activists are working to create public awareness campaigns, which could lead to changes in the industry in order to provide more awareness as to what resorts are safe, and those that are not.
Although several different ski trade groups in the ski industry will release figures about the number of skier visits every season, they do not offer statistics related to deaths or critical injuries that occur at their resorts. One spokesman says it does have death counts and will provide those to the public upon request for the current ski year only. Critics say that the ski industry does not practice consistent safety management, and that decisions about safety are basically being driven by attorneys who are trying to protect the resorts, rather than compensate the injured.
Many say that even if the trade associations were willing to release information about injuries and deaths, it would be incomplete, because deaths could occur after the injured person has left the resort, or could happen days later. Injuries also may not be consistently counted. Critics are working to force ski resorts to be more forthcoming with data, but many believe it must occur at the state level rather than the federal law.
California and some other states have laws that insulate ski resorts from liability in most cases. Under most scenarios, skiers and other snow sports participants are prohibited from suing the resort in the case of a death or a serious personal injury. Therefore, those who are injured while skiing or snowboarding at a resort may be unable to recover compensation for their injuries unless the resort was grossly negligent.
In addition, most participants in extreme sports such as snowboarding, skiing, or skydiving may have a difficult time obtaining compensation in the event of injury. Virtually all sponsors of extreme sports require participants to sign a waiver of liability in which you agree to release the sponsor from any liability in the event you are injured or killed. However, if the sponsor was negligent or breached its duty towards the participants, any participant who was harmed could seek damages from the sponsor. Many waivers contain a binding arbitration clause, by which the participant agrees that he or she will settle any disputes with an arbitrator rather than going to court.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that any companies who offer facilities for high-risk sports should make every effort to keep participants safe. If you have been hurt in an accident involving a high-risk sport, such as snowboarding, skiing, or skydiving in the San Francisco area, call Micha Star Liberty, San Francisco personal injury attorney at 510-645-1000. She can help. She works with clients throughout the area, including Oakland, Hayward, Tracy, Fairfield, San Jose, Sacramento, and the surrounding areas. Call today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation.