Maine Ski Accident Law in a Nutshell
The Maine ski safety statutes describe the duties, rights, and liability of skiers, snowboarders, aerial tramway passengers, and ski area operators. Here are its key aspects in a nutshell.
Ski collision lawsuits allowed against negligent skiers?
Lawsuits allowed against negligent ski resort operators?
Yes. Ski area operators and their employees, including Ski Patrol members, whose negligent and/or grossly negligent actions or failure to act cause property damage or injury to a skier or snowboarder, may be held accountable by the injured person or damaged property owner for violating Maine ski accident law.
Yes—may 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 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—Maine allows the recovery of punitive damages when there is clear and convincing evidence that the skier or ski area operator at fault acted with either express malice or implied malice.
Statute of limitations?
Lawsuits against negligent skiers and snowboarders, ski area operators, tramway owners, and their employees must be filed within two (2) years of the date of the injury or property damage, or the claim will be forever barred.
Duties and Liability of Skiers, Boarders, and Tramway Passengers Under Maine Ski Law
Under Maine ski accident law, skiers and snowboarders have the sole responsibility to know the range of their ability to negotiate any ski slope or trail. Skiers and boarders must ski within the range of their abilities, heed all posted and oral warnings and instructions by the ski area operator, maintain a proper lookout, control their speed and course, and generally avoid skiing in a manner that could cause or contribute to the injury of themselves or others.
A skier or boarder must not overtake another skier or snowboarder except to avoid contact and must grant the right-of-way to the overtaken person who is down slope. When a ski collision occurs, the uphill skier is presumed to have had the best opportunity to avoid the collision and is generally held responsible. Maine ski law does not limit a skier’s or boarder’s right to sue another skier or snowboarder for damage, injury, or death resulting from the other skier’s or boarder’s actions or failure to act.
On the other hand, because skiing, snowboarding, and riding passenger tramways are potentially hazardous to skiers or passengers, regardless of all feasible safety measures that may be taken, each skier, snowboarder, and tramway passenger accepts, as a matter of Maine ski law, the “inherent risks of skiing” and, to that extent, may not recover compensation from a ski area operator or its employees, for any losses, injuries, damages, or death resulting from such risks.
“Inherent risks of skiing” are dangers or conditions that are part of the sports of skiing and snowboarding, including: (i) existing and changing weather conditions and visibility, (ii) existing and changing snow conditions, such as ice, hardpack, powder, packed powder, slush and granular, corn, crust, cut-up, and machine-made snow, (iii) variations in steepness or terrain, (iv) snowmaking or snow-grooming operations, (v) surface or subsurface conditions, such as dirt, grass, bare spots, forest growth, rocks, stumps, trees, mud, cuts, rocks, boulders, water, puddles, creeks, streams, cliffs, drop-offs, or tracks from foot traffic or ski area vehicles, ridges, sharp corners, bumps, moguls, valleys, rollers, dips, ravines, double fall lines, and other natural objects, (vi) lift towers, lights, signs, posts, fences, hydrants, water or air pipes, snowmaking and snow-grooming equipment, marked or lit trail maintenance vehicles and snowmobiles, and other man-made structures or objects.
Under Maine ski injury law, skiers, snowboarders, and tramway passengers specifically may not: (i) enter or exit a tram except at designated areas, (ii) throw or drop anything from a tram or act in a way that interferes with running the tramway or causes the injury of another person, (iii) place any object in an uphill ski track that could injure another person or damage or derail the tramway, (iv) ski or otherwise use a slope or trail that is designated “closed” without the ski area operator’s written permission, (v) remove, alter, deface, or destroy any sign or notice placed in the ski area or on a ski trail by an operator; and/or (vi) ski or otherwise use any portion of a ski area that is not a part of a regular network of trails or areas open to the public, including wooded areas between trails and undeveloped areas.
If involved in a ski collision resulting in injury or death, skiers and snowboarders must not leave the scene of the collision before giving their name and contact information to the injured person, a ski area employee, and/or the Ski Patrol—except to secure aid for an injured person. But a skier or snowboarder who leaves an accident scene to secure aid must provide his or her name and contact information after securing the aid. That said, under Maine ski injury law, a ski area operator and its employees are not liable for a skier or snowboarder leaving an accident scene without providing his or her name and contact information to an injured person.
Violations of Maine ski law causing property damage or injuring another skier, boarder, or tramway passenger could result in a civil lawsuit by the injured person against the negligent person or ski area operator. The responsibility for a collision on the slopes, however, is solely that of the skiers or boarders involved in the collision, and not the ski area operator or its employees.
Duties and Liability of Ski Area Operators Under Maine Ski Accident Law
Other than generally requiring ski area operators to properly hire and train their employees and operate and maintain their ski areas in a safe and efficient manner, Maine ski law principally imposes “effective signage” duties on ski resort operators.
Notwithstanding the “inherent risks of skiing” assumed by skiers and snowboarders, Maine ski area operators and their employees, including Ski Patrol members, whose negligent or grossly negligent actions or failure to act cause property damage or injury to a skier or boarder, may be sued by an injured person or damaged property owner. Maine ski accident law specifically allows skiers and boarders to sue ski area owners for injuries and property damage resulting from negligently operating or maintaining a ski area and/or the negligent design, construction, operation, and/or maintenance of a passenger tramway.
Maine Ski Patrol members, however, may not be held liable for their acts or failure to act while on duty, including when rendering emergency care—except if a Ski Patroller’s acts or failure to act involve gross negligence, or willful, wanton, or reckless misconduct. Then, a Ski Patrol member may be held responsible for his or her wrongful acts or failure to act.
Compensation for Injured Skiers, Boarders, and Tram Passengers Under Maine Ski Law
Maine 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 negligent actions (or failure to act) of another skier, snowboarder, or ski area operator. The types of damages recoverable may 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.
Maine also allows the recovery of punitive damages when there is clear and convincing evidence that the skier, snowboarder, or ski area operator at fault acted with either “express malice” or “implied malice.” “Express malice” exists where the conduct of the skier, boarder, or ski area operator at fault is motivated by hatred for the injured party. “Implied malice” exists where the wrongdoer’s deliberate conduct, although motivated by something other than hatred, is so outrageous that malice toward the injured person can be implied.
We are experienced ski injury attorneys. We represent skiers, snowboarders, and tramway passengers (and their families) who were seriously injured while skiing, boarding, or riding chairlifts at Bigrock Mountain, Black Mountain, Camden Snow Bowl, Mt. Abram, Pleasant Mountain, Saddleback Ski Area, Sugarloaf, Sunday River Ski Resort, and other Maine ski areas.
If you or your loved one was seriously injured or killed while skiing, snowboarding, or riding a ski lift in Maine, 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.