Ski season has arrived once again and with it comes concerns about injuries, hospitalization costs and liability.
If you fall while skiing and are hurt, your medical insurance helps pay the costs. But what happens when you crash into and injure someone else? Or when your injury is another skier’s fault? Who pays?
If you’re a homeowner, or perhaps a parent with children who ski, then those damages are often covered by your homeowner’s insurance policy. Renter’s insurance does the job, too.
In a case that illustrates the point, a Chicago paramedic recently made headlines after winning a $263,454 jury award for injuries he suffered at Keystone Resort in 2015. Because the offending skier lived with his parents, he was covered under their homeowner’s insurance. Consequently, the insurer paid the jury award.
Not a lot of people understand this because most ski accident-related litigation – like most litigation – is resolved out of court and, thus, out of the public eye.
Before we get too far, it’s important to note that skiing is a relatively safe sport, despite the occasionally upsetting headlines.
According to the National Ski Areas Association, an average of 38 people in the U.S. are killed each year while skiing or snowboarding. U.S. resorts reported nearly 43 million “skier visits” in 2014-15, meaning the death rate for skiing is 0.65 deaths per 1 million skier visits. In other words, you’re more likely to be killed driving to the ski slopes.
To be sure, plenty of injuries do happen and under Colorado’s Ski Safety Act, the “uphill” skier or boarder is presumed to be at fault. That’s because the overtaking skier has the primary duty to avoid the skier below. Failing to ski in control or to maintain a lookout can leave a skier on the hook for the injuries they cause to others.
So, how does homeowner’s protect us from liability when we (or our children) trigger collisions on the slopes? And what will a policy cover?
Very simply, a homeowner’s policy provides coverage for negligent behavior. That ranges from hitting a baseball through a neighbor’s window to slamming into another skier.
Beyond medical bills, your homeowner’s insurance also pays for property damage and the pain and suffering caused by the injury. Your coverage also pays for your litigation costs, such as expert witness and jury fees, as well as the other side’s legal fees.
However, keep in mind that a homeowner’s policy is only as good as its limits. Most homeowner’s policies provide a minimum of $100,000 in liability insurance. That’s hardly adequate any longer, not when medical expenses can quickly run into the six figures. Instead, you should consider purchasing at least $500,000 in liability protection and, better yet, add an umbrella policy, which is a relatively inexpensive add-on that kicks in when your regular homeowner’s limits are exhausted.
Finally, don’t expect your insurance company to pay when you’ve injured someone intentionally. If you’ve deliberately plowed into another skier, your policy will not pay.
Mike Rosser leads the Private Client practice at CCIG. Reach him at MikeR@thinkccig.com or 720-212-2068.