West Virginia Ski Accident Law in a Nutshell
The West Virginia Skiing Responsibility Act describes the duties, rights, and liability of skiers, snowboarders, aerial tramway passengers, and ski area operators. Here are the key aspects of West Virginia ski law 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 West Virginia 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—West Virginia allows the recovery of punitive damages when the skier, snowboarder, or ski area operator at fault acted with actual malice or acted with a conscious, reckless and outrageous indifference to the health, safety and welfare of others.
Statute of limitations?
A lawsuit 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 Tram Passengers Under West Virginia Ski Law
Under West Virginia ski accident law, skiers and snowboarders must ski within the range of their abilities, maintain a proper lookout, control their speed and course, heed all posted warnings, ski only in a skiing area designated by a ski area operator, and generally avoid skiing in a manner that could cause injury.
A skier or boarder must not overtake any other skier or snowboarder except to avoid contact and must grant the right of way to the overtaken person. Before beginning to ski from a stationary position or entering a ski slope or trail from the side, skiers and snowboarders must avoid moving skiers already on the ski slope or trail. 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. West Virginia 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.
That said, since skiing and snowboarding are hazardous sports, regardless of all feasible safety measures which can be taken, under West Virginia ski injury law, skiers and boarders assume the risk of, and legal responsibility for, any injury, loss or damage to another person or property which results from the “inherent risks” of participating in the sports. Such “inherent risks” include: (i) variations in terrain including freestyle terrain, (ii) surface or subsurface snow or ice conditions, (iii) bare spots, rocks, trees, other forms of forest growth or debris, (iv) collisions with pole lines, lift towers, and snowmaking equipment that is marked by a visible sign or other warning device. If a skier or snowboarder collides with any object or person, except an obviously intoxicated person of whom the ski area operator is aware, the responsibility for such collision will be solely that of the skiers and/or boarders involved and not that of the ski area operator.
Under West Virginia ski law, skiers and snowboarder also must not (i) place any object in the skiing area or on the uphill track or any aerial passenger tramway that may cause another skier, snowboarder, or tramway passenger to fall, (ii) cross the track of any T-bar lift, J-bar lift, platter lift, conveyor lift, or fiber rope tow except at designated locations, (iii) ski or snowboard on equipment not equipped with a strap or other device capable of stopping the ski or snowboard should the ski or snowboard detach from the skier, (iv) fail to wear retention straps or other devices to help prevent runaway skis or snowboards, (v) ski or board on a ski slope or trail that is posted as “Closed,” and (vi) use any ski slope or trail while such person is under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or any other drug.
Ski and snowboard competitors are a special breed in West Virginia. Prior to the use of any portion of a ski area for competition, a ski area operator must allow each competitor the opportunity to conduct a reasonable visual inspection of the ski slopes and trails or freestyle terrain to be used in the competition. Thereafter, competitors will be held to assume the risk of all ski slopes and trails or freestyle terrain conditions, including weather and snow conditions, obstacles, course or feature location, construction or layout, freestyle terrain configuration and conditions, and other courses, layouts, or configurations of the area to be used. Ski area operators will not be liable for injury or death to any ski or snowboard competitor caused by course, venue, or area conditions that a visual inspection should have revealed or caused by collisions with other competitors.
Tramway passengers also have responsibilities under West Virginia ski law. For example, while riding on a chair lift or aerial tramway, skiers and snowboarders must not (i) board or exit an aerial passenger tramway except in designated areas, (ii) drop or throw any object from a tramway, (iii) act in any way that interferes with the operation of a tramway, (iv) enter the boarding area of or use any chair lift without requesting and receiving instruction on its use unless the passenger has the ability to use it safely without instruction, and/or (v) intentionally or negligently engage in any type of harmful conduct that causes injury to another person.
If involved in a collision resulting in injury or death, skiers and snowboarders must not leave the accident scene without obtaining medical assistance for an injured person when they know, or reasonably should know, that such person is in need of assistance. At the very least, skiers and boarders involved in a collision must not leave the accident scene 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. That said, a skier or boarder who leaves an accident scene to secure medical aid must provide his or her name and contact information after securing the aid.
Violations of West Virginia 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 at fault.
Duties and Liability of Ski Area Operators Under West Virginia Ski Accident Law
Under West Virginia ski law, ski area operators must properly hire and train their employees, maintain an effective and informative signage system for the protection and instruction of skiers and snowboarders, and operate and maintain their ski areas in a safe and efficient manner.
Ski area operators also have specific duties and obligations under West Virginia ski injury law, including (i) marking trail maintenance vehicles with flashing or rotating lights which must be operational whenever the vehicles are working or moving on ski slopes or trails, (ii) marking the location of hydrants or similar equipment used in snowmaking operations with visible signs or other warning devices, (iii) conspicuously marking the top or entrance to each ski slope, trail or area as to whether they are open or closed and their relative degree of difficulty, (iv) maintaining one or more trail boards at prominent locations at each ski area displaying that area’s network of trails and slopes, including whether they are open or closed and their relative degree of difficulty, and (v) placing a conspicuous notice at or near the top of a ski trail or slope that snow grooming or snowmaking operations are being conducted while such trail or slope is open to the public.
Ski resort operators also must (i) post notices at prominent locations about the required use of ski retention devices, and (ii) when no certified ambulance service is available in the vicinity, have on duty at the ski resort during all times that ski slopes and trails are open for skiing, at least one trained and currently certified emergency medical technician.
In West Virginia, volunteer Ski Patrollers who, without compensation, provide medical or emergency aid, rescue, or transport services at a ski area may not be held liable for injury or damages resulting from any alleged act or failure to act while rendering such services. This limitation of liability, however, applies only to an act or failure to act while rendering such services in good faith. Ski Patrollers will be held responsible for their intentional bad acts, inaction, and/or gross negligence.
Notwithstanding the “inherent risks of skiing” assumed by skiers and snowboarders, West Virginia ski area operators and their employees, including Ski Patrol members, whose negligent or grossly negligent actions or failure to act violate their duties under West Virginia ski law and cause property damage or injury to a skier or boarder, may be sued by an injured person or damaged property owner. West Virginia 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. Every ski area operator must have public liability insurance coverage in the amounts of no less than $100,000 per person, $300,000 per occurrence, and $10,000 for property damage.
Compensation for Injured Skiers, Boarders, and Tram Passengers Under West Virginia Ski Law
West Virginia 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 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.
West Virginia allows the recovery of punitive damages when the damages suffered by the injured skier or snowboarder resulted from conduct by the person or ski area operator at fault that was carried out with actual malice toward the injured person, or a conscious, reckless, and outrageous indifference to the health, safety and welfare of others. A punitive damages award may not exceed the greater of four (4) times the amount of compensatory damages or $500,000.
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 Canaan Valley Resort, Oglebay Resort, Snowshoe Mountain Ski Resort, Timberline Mountain, Winterplace Ski Resort, and other West Virginia ski areas.
If you or your loved one was seriously injured or killed while skiing, snowboarding, or riding a ski lift in West Virginia, 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.