According to the International Association for Amusement Parks, an estimated 355 million people visit amusement parks in the United States each year. Amusement parks are a place for families to experience excitement and adventure while riding rollercoasters and eating carnival foods. However, thousands of people are injured at amusement parks each year and far too many people have lost their lives due to the lack of safety precautions taken by the park. The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that there were around 30,000 emergency room visits from amusement park-related accidents in 2016.
There is no way to know exactly how many people have been injured or killed due to amusement park accidents. This is because data is limited and there are no consistent state or federal regulations to record data or enforce safety standards for the rides. Any existing data is highly guarded and if a lawsuit is filed, the final settlement specifics are held in strict confidence at the request of the park involved.
What Contributes to Amusement Park Accidents?
Some very basic, yet crucial, functions must be in place to ensure amusement park-goers have the safest possible experience. For example, each attraction or ride has to have functioning parts with fully stable structures, and the ride operators must be properly trained and deliver proper oversight during the entire operation of the ride.
If injuries do happen, they are generally the result of one or more of these reasons:
- Structural Failure – Attractions and rides commonly experience corrosion.
- Mechanical Issues – Cables may snap and restraints or brakes may fail. This could cause a ride to become stuck.
- Collisions – Rides may collide with walls, patrons, structures, tracks, or ride cars.
- Operator Error – The rider operator may stop a ride too abruptly, fail to restrain patrons properly, fail to deploy safety features or nets, or fail to place the correct spacing between patrons
- Poor Design – Designs of some rides, even with restraints, are inherently too dangerous.
- Patron Error – The riders may fail to obey safety instructions, health warnings, and height requirements
- Ride Ejections – Riders may fall from slides and swings or out of cars.
Inflatable devices and water slides have much greater safety risks due to their lack of restraints. Owners and operators must adequately inform patrons of the major risks of these activities.
Liability of Amusement Park Accidents
It should go without saying that entities inviting consumers to participate in special attractions are tasked with a basic duty to ensure the safety of their grounds and equipment. There are two separate types of liability laws that cover these basic duties: premises liability and product liability.
Premises Liability – This is the guarantee to individuals that they will be safe when moving from one attraction or ride to another, and it further guarantees that possible hazards will have clear labels and markings. The amusement park is considered to be “at fault” for any injuries occurring in hazardous areas that are not clearly noted with barriers or appropriate signage.
Product Liability – This is the guarantee that equipment and products used at the amusement park are in good working condition and are safe. The park and/or manufacturer of any unsafe product can be held liable for injuries if they fail to properly maintain this level of safety.
There are cases, though, where park visitors will be held responsible for injuries they receive. For example, failure to listen to and obey instructions given by a ride operator, or failure to adhere to posted safety notices, or behaving in a reckless manner will all negate a person’s ability to claim another entity’s fault in a subsequent accident. By acting responsibly, park visitors aid in protecting themselves and in helping to keep others safe as well.
Who is Potentially Liable for Amusement Park Injuries?
The following list makes reference to the parties who may be liable if a personal injury claim is filed on behalf of an injured patron. These entities are:
- Owners of the amusement park
- Ride operators
If the lawsuit proves any of the above parties are at fault for the victim’s injuries, the plaintiff could receive compensation for medical costs; loss of past, current and future wages; pain and suffering; plus other damages.
Amusement Park Injury Claims
If a person is injured at an amusement park, it is important that the incident be reported immediately. When a patron is suddenly slammed against a barrier as a ride malfunctions, he or she should not simply deal with the pain and finish out the day. Likewise, a patron who gets a cut on the arm from falling down unmarked steps should not just leave the park to go home. If these situations are not properly handled at the time, the injured individuals might have little legal recourse in the future.
If individuals sustain injuries on amusement park rides or due to poor maintenance at the park, they should:
- Report the incident immediately to the park manager or the ride operator
- Take pictures of the injury and the faulty ride or the poorly maintained area
- Speak with eyewitnesses who saw what happened
- Use a cellphone or video camera to record these witness accounts
- Use the medical care services provided by park paramedics or contact 911 if needed
- Acquire detailed medical reports, with documentation of long-term care expectations
- Keep all medical bills
- Maintain accurate records of missed work and lost wages
- Consult an experienced amusement park attorney
If contacted by the other parties’ legal counsel or a representative from an insurance company, injured individuals should not discuss their case. Victims should simply advise such parties to speak with the victim’s attorney.
It is likely that the amusement park and insurance companies will be looking to quickly settle all claims to avoid any negative publicity. The problem with this tactic is that the settlements they offer upfront are usually way too small and will not adequately cover all the expenses the victim will ultimately incur from the injury. Experienced attorneys will be able to fully investigate all aspects of the occurrence in order to aim for the highest level of compensation.
Contact Our Amusement Park Accident Attorneys
The highly skilled legal team at The Eichholz Law Firm can take the facts of your case, do an in-depth investigation, then build a strong lawsuit to help you hold the amusement park and any appropriate manufacturers accountable for the injuries you sustained. If there is evidence of recklessness that exacerbated the situation, you might be entitled to punitive damages as well.
Contact us immediately to learn how we can help you find justice.