With its soaring mountains and stunning vistas, Utah is one of the nation’s most popular destinations for winter sports like skiing and snowboarding. World Snowboard Guide ranks Salt Lake City among its top 10 best locations for snowboarding, while resorts in Snowbird, Alta, and Big Cottonwood Canyon have all earned spots on Forbes’ top 10 list for best U.S. skiing destinations.
While Utah is home to world-class snowboarding and ski resorts, an accident can turn a fun day on the slopes into an emergency trip to the hospital. Tragically, a serious accident can even result in the wrongful death of the victim. If you or one of your family members was injured at a ski resort in Utah, compensation for your medical bills and other costs may be available. With over 33 years of experience, Utah skiing accident lawyer Jay Sheen is here to help. Call the law offices of Overson & Sheen at (801) 618-3580 for a free legal consultation.
Can You Get Compensated for a Snowboarding or Skiing Injury in Salt Lake City?
Utah has adopted a law known as the Inherent Risks of Skiing Act, which generally provides that, under Utah Code § 78B-4-403, “[N]o skier may make any claim against, or recover from, any ski area operator for injury resulting from any of the inherent risks of skiing.”
The “inherent risks of skiing” are defined under Utah Code § 78B-4-402(1) as “dangers or conditions which are an integral part of… skiing” and include the following:
- Changing or steep terrain
- Collisions with “lift towers and other structures and their components” (e.g. signs)
- Collisions with other skiers on the mountain
- Conditions of the snow or ice (e.g. hard pack)
- Conditions of the surface or subsurface (e.g. rocks)
- Shifting weather conditions
- The “failure of a skier to ski within the skier’s own ability”
- Training for, or participation in, special events
However, despite these limitations on liability, it is not necessarily impossible for an injured skier or snowboarder to recover compensation for medical bills, lost earnings, and other losses. It depends on the actions taken by the ski resort’s employers, and whether such actions constitute negligence (carelessness). For example, in White v. Deseelhorst (1994), the Utah Supreme Court made the following ruling:
“If risks which skiers do not wish to confront, such as… rocks… can be eliminated by reasonable care, such risks do not constitute ‘inherent risks of skiing’ under [the] statute [that prevents] negligence claims against ski resort operators…”
Additionally, in Ghionis v. Deer Valley Resort Co., Ltd. (1993), the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah made the following ruling:
“Where the ski resort operator is at fault [for an accident]… the Skiing Act does not [prevent] a [law]suit by a patron. Expressed another way, legitimate claims of negligence against ski resorts are not prohibited by the Skiing Act.”
Were You Injured by Defective Snowboard Equipment or a Ski Lift Accident in Utah?
In 2009, the Journal of Trauma published a peer-reviewed study on ski and snowboard injuries. The study, which specifically focused on skiing and snowboarding accidents in Utah, analyzed nearly 1,150 injury cases: 348 snowboarding injuries and 794 skiing injuries. Some of the injury victims were walk-ins, while others were hurt seriously enough to require emergency transportation, including airlifts. The study analyzed two seasons: winter of 2001 to 2002, and 2005 to 2006.
According to the study, “Patients injured while skiing and snowboarding were predominantly men, representing 70.0% of injured skiers and 87.6% of injured snowboarders.” The remaining 30% of injured skiers and 12.4% of injured snowboarders were women. The mean age of injured skiers was 41 years, while the mean age of injured snowboarders was significantly lower at 23 years, suggesting teens and young adults are more likely to be hurt while snowboarding in Utah.
A large portion of both groups sustained brain injuries and head injuries: more than 27% of snowboarders, and more than 20% of skiers. However, skiers were more likely to enter a comatose state. Additionally, nearly all fatalities – eight out of nine – were caused by ski accidents rather than snowboarding accidents.
Skiers were more likely to suffer leg and foot injuries, while snowboarders were more likely to have abdominal injuries or sustain organ damage. A “considerable” number of snowboarders suffered:
- Kidney Damage – 2.2%
- Liver Damage – 3.7%
- Spleen Damage – 11.2%
Other types of injuries commonly caused by snowboarding and skiing accidents include:
- Back Injuries
- Broken Bones
- Cuts and Lacerations
- Facial Injuries
- Internal Bleeding
- Nerve Damage
- Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI)
Utah Personal Injury Attorney Handling Snowboard and Ski Accident Claims
It is always critical to be represented by an experienced personal injury attorney after you or a family member has been hurt in an accident of any kind. The great complexity of Utah’s skiing liability laws makes skilled representation especially important, as your ability to recover compensation will ultimately hinge on a nuanced understanding of how these laws, and former court cases, relate to your skiing accident or snowboarding accident in Salt Lake City.
Salt Lake ski resort accident lawyer Jay Sheen has more than 33 years of experience handling personal injury claims in Salt Lake County and throughout the state of Utah, including wrongful death cases. To discuss your ski injury claim in a free and confidential legal consultation with Jay, please do not hesitate to call the law offices of Overson & Sheen at (801) 618-3580.