Although skiing and snowboarding are popular and enjoyable winter sports, accidents occur, and it’s best to be prepared and to know your rights if someone else is responsible for your injuries.
Skiing and snowboarding can be thrilling and enjoyable winter sports, but they also carry a risk of accidents. According to statista.com, more than 13.5 million Americans went skiing in 2021, either in downhill, alpine, freeski, or telemark styles (telemark is a skiing style that incorporates aspects of Alpine and Nordic skiing). The 13.5 million does not include cross-country. More than 7.9 million Americans went snowboarding in 2021. With so many people on the slopes, accidents can and do happen. Knowing your responsibilities and your legal options when another party’s negligence causes your skiing or snowboarding accident is incredibly important in New Jersey, as you may be entitled to compensation.
What Causes Ski Accidents in New Jersey?
The five most common reasons for accidents are:
Loss of control
This is the most common cause of ski and snowboard accidents. It can be caused by going too fast, by skiing or snowboarding on terrain that is too difficult for the skier’s or snowboarder’s skill level, or by failing to properly use the edges of the ski or snowboard.
Collisions with other skiers or snowboarders
Ski resorts are crowded places, and it is not uncommon for skiers and snowboarders to collide with each other. These accidents can be caused by a variety of factors, including one skier or snowboarder not paying attention to their surroundings, skiing or snowboarding too fast, or failing to follow the rules of the ski resort.
Slipping and falling
Skiing and snowboarding can be physically demanding activities, and it is not uncommon for skiers and snowboarders to slip and fall on the slopes. These falls can be caused by a variety of factors, including icy conditions, uneven terrain, or simply losing balance.
Ski or snowboard equipment failure
Ski and snowboard equipment can fail for a variety of reasons, including poor maintenance or manufacturing defects.
Poor weather conditions
Skiing and snowboarding can be dangerous in poor weather conditions, such as heavy snowfall, fog, or high winds. These conditions can reduce visibility, make it difficult to control speed and direction, and increase the risk of accidents.
Another common reason for accidents is fatigue. People enjoy the slopes so much that they stay out past their strength and endurance levels, leading to accidents.
Dehydration is another common cause, as is skiing or snowboarding off designated trails, or in areas that are closed. Failing to obey warning signs posted by the ski resort operator also leads to injuries.
It is important for skiers and snowboarders to be aware of these common causes of accidents and take steps to minimize the risk of accidents on the slopes. This can include skiing and snowboarding at a comfortable pace, paying attention to their surroundings, leaving the slopes before becoming too fatigued to control the skis or snowboard well, and following the rules of the ski resort. Additionally, it is important to properly maintain ski and snowboard equipment and avoid skiing or snowboarding in poor weather conditions whenever possible.
Typical Injuries Resulting from Skiing and Snowboarding Accidents
When accidents do occur, the injuries can be severe because of the speed at which people were moving. Here are the five most common ski and snowboard injuries:
Concussions and head injuries are the most common injury—more than 20%. Often the injured parties weren’t wearing a helmet. Concussions are a type of brain injury that can occur when a skier or snowboarder falls and hits their head on the ground or against a stationary object. Symptoms of a concussion include headache, dizziness, nausea, and difficulty concentrating. Head injuries can be so traumatic as to result in long-term disability, hospitalization, or death. It is important for individuals who have sustained a head injury to seek medical attention and follow the recommended treatment plan in order to have the best chance at a full recovery.
Head injuries are the chief cause of death among skiers and snowboarders.
Sprains and strains
Sprains and strains are the most common ski and snowboard injuries, often occurring when a skier or snowboarder falls and lands awkwardly on their body. Sprains are injuries to the ligaments, which are the tissues that connect bones at joints, while strains are injuries to the muscles or tendons. Both sprains and strains can be painful and may require rest and physical therapy to heal properly.
Fractures, or broken bones, can occur when a skier or snowboarder falls and lands with a lot of force on a hard surface. Fractures can range in severity from simple breaks that can be treated with a cast or splint to more complicated fractures that may require surgery to repair.
Dislocations occur when the bones in a joint are forced out of alignment. This can happen if a skier or snowboarder falls and lands in an awkward position, causing the joint to be stressed beyond its normal range of motion. Dislocations can be very painful and may require medical attention to reduce the dislocation and reset the joint.
Knee injuries, including ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears and MCL (medial collateral ligament) sprains, are common in skiers and snowboarders. These injuries can occur when the knee is subjected to excessive force, such as when a skier lands a jump or falls and twists their knee. Treatment for knee injuries may include rest, physical therapy, and in severe cases, surgery.
To sum it up, ski and snowboard injuries can range from mild to severe and can be caused by falls, collisions, or improper technique. It is important for skiers and snowboarders to take precautions to prevent injuries, such as wearing protective gear, skiing or snowboarding within their ability level, and following safety guidelines on the mountain.
If I Get Hurt Snowboarding or Skiing, What Should I Do?
If you are injured in a skiing or snowboarding accident, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Even if you think the injury is minor, it is always better to be safe than sorry and have a medical professional assess the injury.
If the injury is severe, you should call for emergency medical assistance immediately. Ski resorts typically have a team of ski patrol members who are trained in emergency medical procedures and can provide first aid at the scene of the accident.
If the injury is less severe, you should still seek medical attention as soon as possible. The ski patrol or a nearby medical clinic can provide appropriate care and treatment for the injury.
It is also important to report the accident to the ski resort or to the appropriate authorities if the accident occurred off the resort property. This will ensure that the ski resort or authorities are aware of the accident and can take any necessary steps to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future.
Finally, it is important to document the accident and the circumstances surrounding it as thoroughly as possible. An official medical assessment is essential if you are going to file an insurance claim or seek compensation for any damages or injuries sustained in the accident.
Determining Fault for a Ski & Snowboarding Accident under NJ Law
In a skiing or snowboarding incident, multiple parties may potentially be at fault and bear responsibility for any damages or injuries that occur.
One party that may be at fault is the ski resort or ski area operator. These organizations have a responsibility to maintain the ski slopes and facilities in a safe condition and to adequately warn skiers and snowboarders of any potential hazards. If the ski resort or ski area operator fails to do so, and this failure contributes to an accident, they may be held liable for any resulting damages or injuries.
Another party that may be at fault is the manufacturer of the ski or snowboard equipment. If the equipment fails due to a manufacturing defect, the manufacturer may be held liable for any damages or injuries that result.
In addition, other skiers or snowboarders may be at fault if their actions contribute to the accident. For example, if one skier or snowboarder collides with another because they were skiing or snowboarding too fast or not paying attention to their surroundings, the at-fault party may be held liable for any damages or injuries that result.
It is also possible for a skier or snowboarder to be at fault for their own accident if they are skiing or snowboarding in a reckless or negligent manner. In these cases, the skier or snowboarder may be held liable for any damages or injuries they sustain as a result of their own actions.
Ultimately, the parties at fault in a skiing or snowboarding accident will depend on the specific circumstances of the accident. It is important to carefully evaluate all of the factors that may have contributed to the accident in order to determine who may be responsible.
The New Jersey Ski Statute (NJ Rev Stat 5:13-3 (2013)) establishes the duties of skiers and operators in New Jersey and allows them to assume the “inherent dangers” associated with their activity. Skiers are totally excluded from reimbursement where they have violated their own obligations, besides the required acceptance of inherent hazards.
Skiers without proper lift tickets are considered by law to be trespassers.
Skiers’ and Snowboarders’ Duties to Stay Safe
Skiers have certain duties by law to ensure their own safety and the safety of others on the slopes. These duties may vary by jurisdiction, but some common duties that skiers may be expected to fulfill include the following:
To ski within their own ability
Skiers must ski at a speed and on terrain that is appropriate for their skill level. Skiers who ski too fast or on terrain that is too difficult for their ability may be deemed reckless or negligent and may be held liable for any damages or injuries that result.
To ski in control
Skiers must maintain control of their skis at all times and must be able to stop or avoid other skiers or objects. Skiers who lose control and cause an accident may be held liable for any damages or injuries that result.
To ski in the same direction as other skiers
Skiers must ski in the same direction as other skiers on the slope and must not ski against the flow of traffic. Skiers who ski against the flow of traffic may be deemed reckless or negligent and may be held liable for any damages or injuries that result.
To follow the ski resort’s rules and regulations
Skiers must follow the rules and regulations of the ski resort, including any posted signs or notices. Skiers who fail to follow the rules and regulations of the ski resort may be deemed reckless or negligent and may be held liable for any damages or injuries that result.
To yield to other skiers
Skiers must yield to other skiers who are below them on the slope and must not ski over the top of them. Skiers who fail to yield to other skiers may be deemed reckless or negligent and may be held liable for any damages or injuries that result.
By following these duties, skiers can help to ensure their own safety and the safety of others on the slopes.
Injured on the Slopes? Contact NJ Civil Trial Lawyers Handling Skiing and Snowboarding Accident Claims
Our experienced injury attorneys at Cohen & Riechelson, well-versed in all aspects of New Jersey statutes and in filing personal injury claims, can interview you about the circumstances and events that led to your injury. We can discern whether or not you have a case. We can build that case and strengthen it so that you have your best shot at an excellent settlement or best outcome in court in East Windsor, Lawrence, Princeton, Hamilton, Ewing, Trenton, and across Mercer County, Middlesex County, Burlington County, and the state of New Jersey. We can help you file your claim within New Jersey statutes, including the statute of limitations, which is two years unless the injured party is a minor. In that case, they can file their suit when they attain the age of majority.
Our practice also spans New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and we have been practicing in both states since our firm was established over 50 years ago. Call the skilled lawyers at Cohen & Riechelson if you have been hurt in an accident while skiing or snowboarding in New Jersey or Pennsylvania. We concentrate our practice on personal injury cases, so we have all the prowess and trial readiness you’ll need to get the best possible outcome when seeking top compensation. Call us today at 609-528-2596 for a free case assessment.