Ski Accident Law: Common Injuries & Reckless Behavior

Skiing and snowboarding can be dangerous sports and often result in injuries and even death. But what are the most common injuries and how does the law punish reckless behavior on the slopes? To find out, we asked Jim Chalat, a Colorado attorney with over 30 years experience whose practice focuses on personal injury, and particularly ski accident law. Here's what he told us:

Common injuries

The most common injury for any ski accident is the anterior crucial rupture of the knee, according to Chalat. He explained, "This is a function of the technology of the alpine release binding which has come a long way in protecting the lower leg. However, it's still unable to prevent or avoid injury to the knee in all cases. We handle a number of cases in which this injury, although common, was caused by someone else's negligence and is often a "skier on skier" collision, a lift accident and sometimes accidents caused by collisions with motorized vehicles on the slopes, such as snow groomers."

Chalat says that the large cases his firm handles, and the ones that are most troubling, involve catastrophic injuries. He explained, "These include death, paralysis and severe brain injury. We usually handle several cases a year involving catastrophic injuries which profoundly and adversely affect the victim's earnings capability, require long term care and have generated substantial medical expenses."

Reckless behavior

Chalat's firm, who took the first multimillion dollar verdict in a skier collision case, deals with all types of ski accident cases - including reckless behavior on the slopes. We asked him to comment:

Skiers are sick and tired of reckless snowboarders and skiers causing injuries and sending innocent people to the hospital - or worse. As a consequence of this increased number of skiers and skier accidents, there's a strong impetus toward suing reckless skiers for running down other skiers and snowboarders on the hill. We've been involved in several very high profile cases, some with international implications, involving skier collisions.

You do not assume the risk of someone else's reckless behavior

Snowboarders' accident rates are exactly the same as the skiers, according to Chalat, who says that he's seen snowboarders run down by reckless skiers and innocent skiers who have been run down by reckless snowboarders. "Here's the paradigm. If you are skiing and you lose control because you're going too fast and you hit a tree, it's your responsibility. If instead of hitting a tree, you hit somebody else and injure him or her, it's still your responsibility. Skiing is not a contact sport. You don't assume the risk of someone else's negligent or reckless behavior."

If you've been injured in a skiing or snowboarding accident, contact an experienced injury lawyer whose practice focuses in this area of the law to discuss your situation, evaluate your options and find out more about potential damages. Consultations are free, without obligation and are strictly confidential.

Jim Chalat
Contributing Author: Attorney Jim Chalat Chalat Hatten & Koupal PC

Jim Chalat has been selected a Colorado SuperLawyer each year that members of the Colorado bar have been considered for the distinction. A Colorado lawyer since 1977, he is senior attorney of Chalat Hatten & Koupal, Denver Colorado. Mr. Chalat is Board Certified as a Civil Trial Advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, a nationally esteemed organization, and is a sustaining member of American Trial Lawyers Association and Colorado Trial Lawyers Association. Mr. Chalat has published numerous professional articles, including the definitive articles on U.S. ski law and Colorado ski law. He has frequently been interviewed as a national expert on ski litigation, and he is also a popular speaker for Continuing Legal Education, speaking on ski litigation, attorney ethics and malpractice, and general trial tactics.

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Article last updated or revieewed on June 19, 2018

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