If you ever get injured at the amusement park, you have to first determine if someone else is liable for causing your injury. Note that most amusement park injuries fall under premises liability or laws that determine liability when an area causes injury. In the case of premises liability, there are three types of entrants in an amusement park – the invitees, the licensees/owners, and trespassers.
Types of Injury Liability in a Park Premises
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Mechanical Malfunction Liability
If there is a mechanical malfunction in any ride, then the person injured has the option to file a product liability claim against either the manufacturer of the ride or of the malfunctioned part. However, you are expected to prove that the equipment was defective and caused your injury.
If the amusement park accident was caused by carelessness from the operator, licensee, or the owner of the park, then you can file a claim for negligence. Howbeit, you will still have to prove that the law required the owner to be careful and that the owner wasn’t careful. If an employee of the park is negligent, then you can still sue the park for any damages caused by the employee.
Nature Of The Ride
Depending on the state, if you understand and acknowledge that the ride is dangerous, then the park will not be held liable for your injuries. However, in other states, this assumption will not serve as a defense for the park. Additionally, the acknowledgment only applies to anything the patron is made aware of. For example, the ride attendee may not be made aware of that broken lap bar on a roller coaster. If the attendee is injured, then the park can still be held responsible.
Failure To Follow The Rules
If the victim of the injury failed to comply with any of the ride’s requirements, then they cannot sue the park for compensation, as the injury would fall under the victim’s responsibility. A good number of people believe that they have no recourse against an amusement park after an injury.
Most parks have signs explicitly stating that you assume the risks of any attraction as soon as you decide to ride it. However, warning signs and waivers do not absolve amusement parks or ride operators of responsibility if they act in a negligent manner.
For an amusement park to be held liable for a visitor’s injuries or illness, the visitor or their lawyer is expected to demonstrate that the park failed to maintain the grounds or rides appropriately, put up warning signs to keep visitors away from dangerous areas, or otherwise take reasonable precautions to protect guests.
In the United States, a good number of relatively common injuries and illnesses make up the majority of reported incidents at amusement parks. Patrons may sustain injuries on rides, including roller coasters, water slides, and even the Ferris wheel. Injuries may occur due to pre-existing conditions, misuse of safety restraints, or a malfunctioning ride.
Other injuries are attributed to inadequate safety measures, both on rides and throughout other areas of the park. Poorly trained employees may improperly operate a ride, fail to check patrons for correct safety restraints, or fail to follow safety protocols. Poorly maintained walkways can lead to slip, trip, and fall accidents.
Howbeit, an injury can also be caused by the actions of another visitor at the amusement park. This is why many amusement parks ban alcoholic beverages and other substances that can influence your decision-making abilities. A drunk or disorderly guest can try to pick a fight, behave inappropriately on rides and put other guests in danger, or collide with other visitors.
Food-borne illness is another risk at most amusement parks. It often sets in rapidly after eating contaminated food and can quickly lead to dehydration, particularly during extremely hot summer months. If you can hold the park accountable for your injuries, you may be entitled to compensation for any expenses related to the treatment of your injuries, physical therapy expenses, any time lost from work, damages for pain and suffering, and more.
Causes of Amusement Park Injuries
According to industry experts, there are several leading contributors to amusement park injuries and fatalities. Most injuries occur due to:
Note that mechanical failures sometimes can result in injuries. Perhaps the rollercoaster’s lap bar doesn’t secure properly. Or the water slide was created with only trial-and-error procedures rather than proper safety-adhering calculations. Or even a transformer or generator of a roller coaster blew. Perhaps the welds or concrete footers of rides have been cracked. A mechanical failure can happen at any time, no matter the amusement park.
Have it in mind that operator negligence remains one of the leading causes of injuries at amusement parks. A good number of deadly incidents tend to happen as a result of negligence. For example, one set of Water Park operators ignored all proper safety regulations in order to rush the opening of the park, which resulted in the decapitation of an attendee on one of the rides.
Additionally, if a malfunction does happen and the sole operator of a ride is not paying any attention, the operator may miss the opportunity to shut the ride down immediately in order to prevent any injuries. Amusement park owners are also responsible for any hazardous areas and conditions that may happen inside the park. For example, a water park may cause slippery surfaces. The park owner is expected to use warnings and/or mats to protect people from these dangers.
The Nature Of The Ride
Unfortunately, many rides are considerably dangerous just by being the rides they are. Even without any mechanical defect, operation error, or rider misuse, an amusement park ride may still cause an injury simply because of the nature of the ride itself.
For instance, consumers have reported cases of cerebral and retinal hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, and loss of consciousness, headache, and dizziness associated with the extremely rapid spinning of some amusement park rides.
Failure To Follow Instructions
Also note that a good number of attendees take care to follow instructions, but there are those who disregard the rules of the park. For example, parents may attempt to sneak their children, who don’t qualify for a ride, onto dangerous rides. Teenagers may refuse to wear a seatbelt, or they may jump off their log in the log flume.
Defenses to Amusement Park Lawsuits
In the United States, there are a various defenses that amusement parks and ride manufacturers may raise in a personal injury lawsuit. Howbeit, these defenses discussed below are more or less common in lawsuits involving amusement park rides.
Assumption of The Risk
If a person voluntarily participates in an activity that he or she knows is inherently dangerous, the person may have assumed the risk that injury may result. Different states have different rules in terms of how assuming the risk affects their claim.
For instance, in some states, a person who is found to have assumed the risk may not be able to recover at all. However, other states treat the assumption as a way to reduce, but not eliminate, the park’s legal liability. Also, note that some states bar this defense completely.
Even in states that allow this defense, the assumption of the risk does not apply in a blanket manner. An individual is expected to be aware of the risks before he or she can be found to have assumed them. Therefore, if there is an unknown danger, such as a defective ride or an inadequate warning, the defense will not work.
For example, if a rider doesn’t know about a loose screw in a roller coaster, that the ride operator received little or no training, or that the park never conducts safety inspections, the rider cannot have assumed the risks associated with those details.
Rider Non-Compliance With Safety Rules
If an injured rider failed to comply with posted age, weight, or height requirements, an amusement park or ride manufacturer may raise this as a defense, especially if the injury was wholly or partially caused by the rider’s small size. However, this defense isn’t fail proof. For instance, plaintiffs might be able to prove that a properly trained rider operator would have noticed the child’s small size and prevented the child from going on the ride in the first place.
But when riders fail to follow posted safety rules and this disregard leads to injury, the amusement park is sure to raise this as a defense as well. For instance, if a rider unlatches his seatbelt on a spinning ride and then is thrown from the car, a court is unlikely to find the park negligent.
Disclaimers on Amusement Park Admission Tickets
Also, note that the amusement park may argue that the disclaimer on the amusement park ticket (the legal language saying you absolve the park of all liability when you enter the park) means you cannot bring a lawsuit against it.
However, these defenses barely hold water in court. Judges understand that most patrons don’t read the disclaimer and usually rule that the disclaimers are so vague and all-inclusive that they are patently unreasonable. Furthermore, it’s questionable whether a child or teenager that is legally unable to enter into a contract can be held to what the amusement park is attempting to do (absolve itself of legal liability) via the disclaimer.
People injured by amusement park rides can bring a negligence claim against the park and its employees or a product liability claim against the manufacturer of a defective ride (or both). However, amusement parks tend to devote substantial resources to their legal representation, due to the expenses that can come from an accident.
Nevertheless, you should avoid negotiating with the amusement park’s representatives or staff on your own. It’s crucial to consult a skilled personal injury attorney who can look at the facts of your case, figure out who’s at fault, and determine whether or not you have a case.