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Sledding: Not All Fun and Games

Steve Wagner

It’s that time of year where children are dreaming not only of Santa and his sleigh, but also of the perfect Indiana snowfall. When it comes, people of all ages excitedly dig out their sleds and head for the nearest hill. The winter tradition of sledding gives families and children a much-needed outdoor activity, to spend time together and to burn some of the pent-up energy causing restlessness in so many homes. Unfortunately, this beloved pastime has a dark side, specifically children and adults who are seriously injured, even paralyzed, due to accidents involving a sled.

Research shows that approximately twenty thousand children under the age of nineteen visit emergency room each year due to sledding accidents. The largest percentage of these patients are between the ages of ten and fourteen, and nearly 60% are boys. The greatest contributors to these accidents are speed and unsafe conditions, including objects hidden by snow, as well as trees and roadways.

While most adults who grew up with snowy winters probably experienced a few bruises and scrapes after an unfortunate incident with a sled, there are those whose injuries include paralysis, internal injuries, spinal cord injury, and/or traumatic brain injury. These are people whose lives are changed forever, who may need extensive surgery, therapy, and life-long support. Depending on the details of their accidents, the city may be liable for their injuries.

Cities Pay for Sledding Accidents

Lawsuits against cities for sledding-related accidents have found success, with judgments recognizing the responsibilities of municipalities toward residents who end up facing lifelong disability and impairment. In Omaha, Nebraska, a family was awarded $2.4 million after their five-year old was paralyzed during her first sled ride. Sioux City, Iowa paid out $2.7 million to a man who sledded into a sign and injured his spinal cord. Boone, Iowa’s city council paid $12 million after a sledder slid into a concrete tube at the base of a sledding hill. The result has been an increase in cities that choose to restrict sledding in the face of possible liability.

Are Sledding Bans Helping or Hurting Children?

Over the past two years, some cities have moved to ban sledding or to severely limit approved locations for sledding within their confines. Though sledding is not banned in the city, Indianapolis provides a list of approved sledding locations. Some of the more stringent restrictions across the country have led some to question whether or not the bans are actually helping or if they might actually be encouraging sledders to choose more dangerous locations for their wintertime fun. Regardless, there are precautions that can be taken to increase safety levels while sledding.

  • Wear a helmet.
  • Children should not sled without adult supervision.
  • Sled away from roads and obstacles such as trees and signs.
  • Look for suspicious spots where dangerous objects might lurk under the snow.
  • Hills and sleds should be selected with the sledder’s age, size, and experience in mind.

Has your child been injured in a sledding accident? Wagner Reese is an Indianapolis-based personal injury law firm with years of experience, and we may be able to help you recoup costs for hospitalization and ongoing medical services. We don’t collect payment unless you collect payment. Call us now for a FREE consultation: (888) 204-8440.


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