California Ski Accident Law in a Nutshell
Even though California has the most skiers, unlike other states with ski resorts, California has no ski safety statute, no proactive government oversight, and no established ski and snowboard safety standards. Instead, California ski law is a mash-up of several statutes and common law negligence. Here are the key aspects of California ski law in a nutshell.
Ski collision lawsuits allowed against negligent skiers?
Lawsuits allowed against negligent ski resort operators?
Yes. But the bar is high. As a general rule, for a California ski area operator to be liable for a skier’s or snowboarder’s injuries, the operator’s conduct must have exposed the skier or snowboarder to an extraordinary or increased risk of injury.
Yes—for loss of earnings, lost employee benefits, damage to the ability to earn money in the future, loss of time, household expenses, medical and hospital expenses, home and vehicle modification (such as adding a wheelchair ramp, etc.) and other out-of-pocket expenses, permanent injury and disability, physical pain and suffering, physical impairment, mental and emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional stress, impairment of the quality of life, loss of consortium, loss of affection, loss of lifestyle, loss of society, loss of companionship, loss of the aid and comfort of each other, and/or loss of the enjoyment of life.
Punitive damages available?
Yes. But again, the bar is high. Punitive damages are not usually awarded in ski injury cases. In California, punitive damages are only available in cases involving malice, oppression, or fraud.
Statute of limitations?
Yes. A lawsuit must be filed within two years of the date of the incident causing the injury or death, or the injured person will lose his or her right to compensation.
Duties and Liability of Skiers and Snowboarders Under California Ski Law
Under California ski injury law, skiers and snowboarders must ski within the range of their abilities, maintain a proper lookout, control their speed and course, and obey posted warnings. Skiers and snowboarders also must (i) stay clear of all equipment, vehicles, lift towers, and signs, (ii) obey posted warnings and instructions, (iii) not ski on closed slopes, and (iv) not knowingly enter public or private lands next to ski areas.
California ski law further provides that any person involved in a skiing or snowboarding accident must notleave the scene knowing, or having reason to believe, that another person is injured and requires assistance (except to notify the ski patrol or obtain assistance). In short, skiers and snowboarders must adhere to Your Responsibility Code, a widely accepted code of conduct in states with ski areas that applies to everyone on the slopes.
That said, California ski accident law specifically does not limit a skier’s right to sue another skier or snowboarder for colliding with and injuring him or her. When a collision occurs, the uphill skier is presumed to have had the best opportunity to avoid the collision and is generally held responsible.
Violations of California ski law that cause property damage or injure or kill another skier constitute negligence and could result in a civil lawsuit by the injured person or the injured person’s family against the negligent skier or snowboarder.
Duties and Liability of Ski Area Operators Under California Ski Accident Law
Generally, California ski law protects ski resort operators under the common law doctrines of “assumed risk” and “inherent danger” and through contractual liability waivers in ski pass purchase agreements.But these protections only set the bar high. They do not prohibit injured skiers, snowboarders, and chairlift passengers from suing negligent ski area operators for compensation when an operator’s conduct exposed the skier or snowboarder to an extraordinary or increased risk of injury.
But be aware. California ski injury law allows a ski resort operator to obtain a written agreement with a skier or snowboarder, waiving any legal claims they may have against the operator. But these agreements, known as “liability waivers,” are generally not the most well written agreements. So, do not automatically assume you have no case against a negligent ski area operator just because you signed a liability waiver. Whether a liability waiver will stand up in court should be determined by an experienced ski accident lawyer.
Intentional, malicious, or even negligent violations of California ski law by a ski resort operator causing property damage or injury or death to a person can result in a civil lawsuit by the injured person or his or her family against the operator.
Compensation for Injured Skiers and Snowboarders Under California Ski Law
California ski accident law allows an injured person (and sometimes, the family of a person injured or killed while skiing) to sue for compensation for his or her injuries due to the actions of another skier, snowboarder, or ski area operator. The types of damages recoverable include loss of earnings, lost employee benefits, damage to the ability to earn money in the future, loss of time, household expenses, medical and hospital expenses, home and vehicle modification (such as adding a wheelchair ramp, etc.) and other out-of-pocket expenses, permanent injury and disability, physical pain and suffering, physical impairment, mental and emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, emotional stress, impairment of the quality of life, loss of consortium, loss of affection, loss of lifestyle, loss of society, loss of companionship, loss of the aid and comfort of each other, and/or loss of the enjoyment of life.
Punitive damages in ski injury cases under California ski law are available—albeit rarely awarded. Punitive damages are only available in ski accident cases involving malice, oppression, or fraud.
We are experienced ski injury attorneys. We represent skiers and snowboarders, and the families of skiers and snowboarders, who were seriously injured or killed while skiing, snowboarding, or riding a chairlift at Alta Sierra, Badger Pass, Bear Valley, Big Bear, Boreal Mountain, Cedar Pass, China Peak, Coppervale, Dodge Ridge, Donner Ski Ranch, Heavenly, Homewood, June Mountain, Kingvale Resort, Kirkwood, Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Mountain, Mountain High, Mount Baldy, Mount Shasta, Northstar, Palisades (Squaw Valley), Snow Valley, Soda Springs, Sugar Bowl, Tamarack, and other California ski areas—regardless of whether it was the fault of another skier, snowboarder, or a ski resort operator.
If you or your loved one was seriously injured or killed while skiing, snowboarding, or riding a ski lift in California, contact us immediately. Gathering the evidence and interviewing witnesses before they leave the area, or their memories fade, is critical to maximizing your recovery. Time is short. The statute of limitations is running. Call us today.