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Wrongful Death on the Ski Slopes of Colorado

Posted in Blog on May 24, 2013

Colorado is a favored ski state for people all over the world. Skiers of all levels head to these slopes to experience fun in the snow. Most of the time, skiing is simply fun. A person may stumble a bit and pick up a few bruises, but since skiing is not a contact sport, when something goes wrong there is normally someone at fault. Whether the ones at fault include another skier or the ski resort the law takes acts of reckless skiing, faulty equipment, and failing to educate employees and skiers about potential dangers all things that are not only answerable in a civil wrongful death suit, but can be ruled as negligence and hold the potential of charging the resort with manslaughter.

Compared to some other types of accidents, death from skiing and snowboarding accidents does not have huge numbers. It is estimated that these accidents claim 40 skiers or Snowboarders each year. Traumatic brain injury plays a role in most of these deaths, and as a result it is highly recommended that if you are skiing, you should wear a helmet, and if you take your child, you should make sure they wear one too.

Photo By Joe Shlabotnik

Criminal vs Wrongful Death Case

When a skiing accident results in death in Colorado responsibility for the accident is evaluated by the police and many times criminal charges are filed against either another skier who exhibited reckless behavior or the ski resort if there is evidence that they failed to maintain safe conditions or if snow equipment involved malfunctioned. In cases where a person is killed, manslaughter charges are often filed.

Criminal cases are looked by seeing how defendants might have violated the Skier Safety Act (SSA). For civil suits, the Wrongful Death Act is applied. Normally violations of the SSA are considered the priority, but that does not mean that both the criminal and the wrongful death cases shouldn’t be pursued. In fact, it is important that both cases are examined because there are less stringent requirements involved with a Wrongful Death case than there is when the possibility of criminal charges are pending.

In one case, a 56 year old beginning skier collided with another skier on a beginner course, resulting in several severe injuries to the 56 year old, which ultimately resulted in his death. The other skier was held and criminal charges including manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide were considered, but ultimately did not stick. Even so, when the wrongful death case was pursued a settlement was made to the victim’s estate.

Taking on the Resort

When a wrongful death occurs it is not unusual for a ski resort and their lawyers to try and strong arm the situation and tell the victims family how tings should go. If this happens it is important not to simply give in to this Goliath type intimidation, because with the right legal representation and support from a wrongful death attorney the “little guy” can come out with a settlement.

In one case in 1993, an 11 year old boy died on the slopes, and his parents believed that the ski resort had not done enough to ensure that proper safety precautions were taken in order to prevent serious injuries and death. They asserted that the technology existed and was available at an affordable price, but the safety provisions were not taken that could have saved their son’s life. Efforts were made by the resort and its lawyers to drop the suit but the parents resisted based on the Colorado Ski Act’s provision that man-made objects could cause serious hazards. In the end, the Colorado Ski Act proved to be unconstitutional because it did not properly weed out frivolous claims, but the parents still received a settlement which was contributed to a foundation that was formed in their son’s memory.

Even though the outcome was not perfect, had the parents not been persistent they would not have either the settlement nor the feeling that they had done what they could to honor their son’s memory and possibly prevent fewer accidents or save someone else’s child.

What’s Right for Your Family

If someone you love has been seriously injured or has died while skiing in Colorado, it is important to remember that no matter how intimidating the big ski resorts and their lawyers seem, you do have legal rights that you need to pursue with a wrongful death attorney of your own.

With medical and funeral bills, loss of potential income, as well as emotional hardship, it’s important to get the representation you need, and not rely on the legal system or somebody’s insurance to just handle it. Take control and let an attorney help you get what you deserve. Learn more at: www.zanerhardenlaw.com.

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