Wisconsin Ski Accident Law in a Nutshell
Wisconsin has the third most ski resorts of any state in the country. Wisconsin ski law describes 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 and snowboarders?
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 Wisconsin 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—Wisconsin allows the recovery of punitive damages when the skier or ski area operator at fault acted maliciously or intentionally disregarded the injured skier’s or snowboarder’s rights.
Statute of limitations?
A lawsuit must be filed within three (3) 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 Wisconsin Ski Law
Under Wisconsin ski accident law, skiers and snowboarders must ski within the range of their abilities, heed all warnings, maintain a proper lookout, control their speed and course, and generally avoid skiing in a manner that could cause injury. 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. Wisconsin 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, as a matter of Wisconsin ski injury law, every skier and snowboarder accepts the conditions and risks of the sport, including: (i) changes in weather or visibility, (ii) the presence of surface or subsurface conditions, such as (a) snow, ice, crust, slush, soft spots, holes, grooves, bare spots, mud, loose dirt, cuts, rocks, boulders, water, puddles, creeks, streams, cliffs, drop-offs, or tracks from foot traffic or ski area vehicles, (b) forest growth or debris, including stumps, logs, or brush, and (c) ridges, sharp corners, bumps, moguls, valleys, rollers, dips, cliffs, ravines, and double fall lines.
Also as a matter of Wisconsin ski law, every skier and snowboarder accepts the following additional conditions and risks of the sport: (i) variations in the difficulty of terrain, surface conditions, or subsurface conditions on a single trail or terrain or among trails or terrains that are designated as the same level of difficulty, (ii) the risk of injury or death on trails and terrains that fall away or drop off toward hazards, (iii) the risk of colliding with other snowboarders and skiers, ski area employees, and/or ski area infrastructure, (vi) variations in the location, construction, steepness, or configuration of ski trails or terrains, and (vii) an increased risk of collision, injury, or death in treed areas, ski competition areas, and freestyle terrain areas.
Every Wisconsin skier and snowboarder also: (i) is presumed to have seen and understood signs posted by ski area operators, (ii) accepts that the failure to wear a helmet or wearing an improperly sized or fitted helmet increases the risk of severe injury or death, (iii) accepts that natural or man-made obstacles within a ski area, including ski area infrastructure and service vehicles, may not be sufficiently padded, and (iv) accepts that there may be a higher risk of injury or death with an insufficiently padded obstacle or vehicle.
Wisconsin skiers, snowboarders, and sledders also must: (i) obey all posted warnings and signs, (ii) keep off of closed trails and out of closed areas, (iii) assess the difficulty of the ski trails and terrains, (iv) comply with any posted limits regarding the number of passengers or weight limits for sleds, (v) not stop at a point that obstructs a ski trail or terrain, (vi) yield to other skiers, boarders, and sledders who are uphill when starting downhill or merging onto a trail, and (vii) board and exit chair lifts only at designated sites.
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 the injured person(s). That said, 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.
Violations of Wisconsin ski law causing property damage or injuring another skier, boarder, or tramway passenger—such as a collision with another skier or boarder—also could result in a civil lawsuit by the injured person against the negligent person or ski area operator.
Duties and Liability of Ski Area Operators Under Wisconsin 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, Wisconsin ski law principally imposes “effective signage” duties on ski resort operators.
But ski area operators also must: (i) post and maintain maps of the ski trails and terrains, including the name of each trail and terrain and a description of their level of difficulty, (ii) mark hydrants, water pipes, and any other man-made structures in a ski area that are not readily visible under ordinary conditions from a distance of at least 100 feet (but variations in steepness or terrain, whether natural or resulting from slope design, snowmaking, or grooming operations, including roads, catwalks, or other modifications, are not considered man-made structures), (iii) adopt a written protective padding policy identifying which man-made structures require padding and the type, height, thickness, and color of such padding, and (iv) ensure that ski area vehicles on a ski trail when chair lifts are operating display the required warning lights and flags.
Under Wisconsin ski law, a Ski Patrol member is immune from liability for his or her acts or failure to act while he or she is on duty, including when rendering emergency care—except if a Ski Patrol member’s act or failure to act involves reckless, wanton, or intentional misconduct. Then, a Ski Patrol member may be held responsible for his or her acts or failure to act.
Ski area operators and their employees, including Ski Patrol members, whose negligent and/or grossly negligent actions or omissions cause property damage or injury to a skier or boarder, may be held accountable by the injured person or damaged property owner for violating Wisconsin ski accident law. Ski area operators, however, are not liable for the death or injury of a person or property damage caused or suffered by a skier or snowboarder who knowingly enters an area outside the boundary of a ski area and/or an area not designated for skiing or snowboarding.
Compensation for Injured Skiers, Boarders, and Tram Passengers Under Wisconsin Ski Law
Wisconsin 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.
Wisconsin allows the recovery of punitive damages when the skier or ski area operator at fault acted maliciously towards an injured skier or snowboarder, or intentionally disregarded the injured skier’s or snowboarder’s rights. An injured person entitled to punitive damages may collect up to twice the amount of their compensatory damages or $200,000, whichever is greater. These punitive damages caps, however, do not apply to situations involving injuries resulting from the operation of a snowmobile while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
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 Alpine Valley, Camp 10 Ski Area, Cascade Mountain, Christie Mountain, Christmas Mountain Village, Devil’s Head Resort, Granite Peak, Little Switzerland Ski Resort, Mt. La Crosse Ski Area, Nordic Mountain, Trollhaugen, Tyrol Basin, Whitecap Mountains Resort, Wilmot Mountain, and other Wisconsin ski areas.
If you or your loved one was seriously injured or killed while skiing, snowboarding, or riding a ski lift in Wisconsin, 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.