BWG Consumer Alert: February 2011

Be Careful Skiing, Snowboarding and Sledding
Skiing and other outdoor sports can be a great way to enjoy New England winters. But they can also be dangerous if you fail to take the necessary safety precautions.

An average of 40 people die each year in the United States from skiing and snowboarding accidents, according to the National Ski Areas Association. Many others suffer serious injuries. Make it a priority to keep your family safe. Here are our winter sports safety tips:

Skiing and Snowboarding Safety Tips
  • Wear a ski helmet. Although helmets do not provide complete protection against head injury, they do help in many circumstances.
  • Wear other protective gear as well, including eye and wrist protection.
  • Take lessons from a qualified instructor. Skiers should receive instruction on how to control their speed. Without knowing how to maintain safe speed, skiers expose themselves and others to the risk of severe injury.
  • Stop skiing or snowboarding before you become fatigued.
  • Learn how to properly ride a ski lift and how to load and unload equipment.
  • Be sure that the ski equipment you are using is appropriate for your level of expertise. Skis designed for expert skiers go faster than skis designed for beginner skiers.
  • Ski on trails which are designed for your level of ability. If you are a beginner, ski on terrain which is designed and marked for a beginner.
  • Dress for the cold in multiple layers.
  • Do not listen to music using headphones. Music can distract you and the use of
  • headphones limits your ability to respond to other skiers and snowboarders.
Sledding Safety Tips
  • Check sleds for sharp edges and protruding rivets.
  • Do not let children go sledding alone or with friends. Always have parental supervision and keep a cell phone nearby.
  • Teach children the importance of inspecting the sliding area before sledding.
  • Make sure you and your children know how to stop or bail off the sled in an emergency.
  • Children are more vulnerable to hypothermia. Make sure they are appropriately dressed for the cold in multiple layers and are wearing hats, mittens and scarves. For extra warmth, purchase plastic handwarmer packets to place in mittens.

A BWG Case Highlights Dangers of Ski Programs

Downhill skiing is great fun, yet is presents significant dangers that can be minimized by taking important precautions.

I recently represented a high school student who skied into a tree and suffered a brain injury during a ski class administered by his private high school. The injury could have been prevented had the school taken basic precautions to protect its students.

In this case, the school offered a "ski class" as part of its academic curriculum. Students who signed up for the class were given credit for the course. The class was conducted at night.

Shockingly, the school did not provide ski lessons as part of the "ski class." The students were told to obtain their own ski equipment but were not given any instruction on what equipment was safe for their level of ability. They were not required to wear helmets and they were not taught how to control their speed. To make matters worse, they were not instructed on what terrain was safe for their level of ability.

As a result of the school's failure to instruct the students on these basic safety precautions, my client, who was a beginner skier, skied into a tree while skiing at night on expert skis which he borrowed from a friend. He, like many of his classmates, was not wearing a helmet. He was skiing on terrain beyond his level of ability, because no one informed him of the risks of skiing on more difficult trails, particularly when he had not been instructed on how to control his speed. The horrific accident was predictable and preventable.

The case was successfully concluded after extensive litigation. The school paid the student a significant sum to compensate him for his injuries. After the case concluded, the school changed its ways by implementing a policy making ski lessons a part of the "ski class". The lessons include instruction on terrain selection, helmet use, equipment selection, and speed control. The ski class will now take place during the day, increasing visibility.

Be smart and be careful. And, chances are, you'll have a great time skiing. For the complete trial report of this case, please click here.


Rough Seas: The Truth Behind Cruise Line Liability

In this hard New England winter, many people are thinking about warm weather escapes. Cruise line ships may sound like a fun, affordable way to get away, but there are a few things you should know before making your reservation:

  • How to read your ticket.
  • What recourse you have if you suffer injuries.
  • What happens if the cruise ship changes its travel itinery.
  • How much cruise ships are required to compensate you for lost luggage and valuables.

Click here to learn more about cruise ship travel.

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