Fair and Theme Park Accidents on the Rise
United States were treated in emergency rooms for amusement ride-related injuries from 1990 to 2010 – an average of 4,423 injuries a year. Over 70% of those injuries occurred in the summer months – May through September – for an average of 20 injuries every day.
According to more recent numbers from a 2014 International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions report, an estimated 18,062 injuries were caused by theme park accidents between 2003 and 2014. Fair and amusement park accidents are increasing due to two main reasons – negligence and defective products.
Why Are Theme Park Accidents Increasing?
Going to a fair or theme park is fun for everyone and creates many long-lasting memories, but unfortunately, these places can be very dangerous. On some occasions, an amusement park visit could lead to a visitor sustaining serious injuries, and in a few cases, even death. The fact is that theme park accidents are on the rise, mostly as a result of failure to emphasize park safety on the owners or operators’ part.
At present, there are no existing federal safety regulations for theme or amusement parks. Although in some states and municipalities, amusement parks are required to pass strict safety code inspections, the sad truth is that accidents still occur on a regular basis.
Theme Park Accidents Caused by Negligence
If an amusement park accident was caused by the park or park employee’s inattention or carelessness, negligence is the most obvious legal claim. In a standard negligence claim, the plaintiff must prove that the defendant was legally required to be reasonably careful, the defendant failed that requirement, and that this failure to be careful caused the plaintiff’s injury.
Amusement parks are responsible for their employees’ actions. This means that if amusement or theme park accidents are caused by an employee’s negligence, the park can be sued for the actions of that employee. Negligence on the part of the park or its employees may be by doing something or failing to do something, such as:
- Failure to post clear warning signs, e.g. patrons with heart problems or high blood pressure should not go on rides
- Failure to post adequate signs warning riders of the risks
- Failure to provide proper training to ride operators
- Failure to inspect rides regularly
- Failure to maintain equipment for safety
- Failure to properly operate a ride
- Failure to provide correct instructions to riders
In some cases, theme park accidents are caused by defective products, such as rides, components of the ride, etc., and not by improper inspection, maintenance, use or operation of the rides. For example, a flaw in the design of a lap bar may cause it to unlatch during a ride, causing the rider to fall to the ground and sustain an injury – or even experience something worse.
Design or structural defects in the ride itself may lead to product liability claims against the ride’s manufacturer or the defective part’s maker. In claims like these, plaintiffs need to prove that there was a defect in the structure, part, or equipment, and it was the defect that was the specific cause of the victim’s injury or death.
When a person gets injured in a theme park or amusement park and chooses to pursue a personal injury claim against the park authorities, premises liability laws will typically be applied. “Premises liability” is a term that refers to a set of laws that are used to determine who is liable when the particular use or condition of a property (land), building, or other premises leads to an injury. This includes the activities, rides, and general conditions of theme parks.
Although the rules in each state vary somewhat, premises liability often recognizes three types of entrants on the land – licensees, invitees, and trespassers – and different degrees of care that the owner owes to each type of entrant. In some states, there is no distinction between the types of entrants, and instead, these states follow the rule that the owner of the theme park is under a duty to make the theme or amusement park reasonably safe under the circumstances.
Duty of Care
When it comes to theme park accidents, apart from the duty of care applied to rides in a theme park, this duty is also applied to other aspects of the park. Like any other proprietor of a business, the owner of the theme park must ensure that the grounds of the park is kept free from hidden dangers by adequately warning patrons or fixing these dangers so they are no longer a danger.
This includes providing railings on steep stairs, warning of slippery surfaces, cleaning up spilled food, etc. If there is an obvious danger and there is no risk that a reasonable person would not notice the danger under any circumstances, then the owner has no duty to warn.
Similar to any other business, the theme park defendant – typically a corporation or other business entity – can also be liable for the negligence of its employees. This could involve failure to control animals during shows, failure to conduct proper crowd control, as well as others that have been mentioned above.
The court either may or may not technically treat a lawsuit that is based on the negligence of a theme park employee as a premises liability case, but because premises liability is a type of negligence, the plaintiff will need the same type of facts and evidence to win the case, i.e. a duty owed and the breach of that duty resulted in an injury.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim for Theme Park Accidents
If you or a loved one has been injured in a theme park accident and you are unsure about who is liable, you should contact an attorney for help. Make sure that your rights are protected and you get the best legal assistance to win your case with the help of the reliable personal injury attorneys at Leifer Law. Call us at 561-440-7697 for a free consultation.