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Head Injuries Leading Cause of Death for Skiers

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Akron, OHWith the start of December comes the beginning of the ski season, and the beginning of stories about serious ski hill injuries. Although the majority of skiers—and ski resorts—practice safe enjoyment of the hills, every year there are stories about ski hill lawsuits, brought about when a person suffers a ski injury as the result of a resort owner or operator's negligence.

Ski hills are a great place to have fun and get some outdoor activity, but they can also be the site of serious injury. According to a report in the Billings Gazette (11/22/12), approximately 600,000 Americans report injuries each year on the ski hill, and up to 20 percent of those injuries are head injuries. Of those head injuries, 22 percent are serious enough that the person who sustains them loses consciousness or suffers a concussion. And head injuries are the main cause of death among people who ski or snowboard.

Skiers and snowboarders can do their part by ensuring they wear helmets, which protect against serious head injury. But resort owners and operators must also ensure their slopes are safe and free of unreasonable hazards.

It is not just head and back injuries that can occur on the ski slopes and cause severe damage, although they are the most-reported injuries. Skiers can suffer torn ligaments, whiplash and broken bones, which can affect their ability to earn a living while they recover from their injuries. If the accident was the result of negligence or failure to maintain a reasonably safe environment on the part of the ski hill owner or operator, the patient could file a lawsuit to recover lost earnings and medical costs.

Of course, there are some accidents that ski hills or other skiers cannot be responsible for. For example, the Ohio Supreme Court recently ruled that skiers assume "ordinary risks" that come with skiing, according to the Beacon Journal (11/23/12). In dismissing a lawsuit against a 14-year-old skier, the court found that a collision between the plaintiff and defendant was a result of the risks associated with skiing, rather than recklessness on the part of the defendant. If the plaintiff had been found to be reckless in causing the accident, the lawsuit may not have been thrown out of court.

There is a lot skiers can do to ensure they are safe on the ski hills. At the same time, ski hill owners and operators have a duty to ensure their resorts are reasonably safe for their patrons.


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