Thrills and danger go hand in hand, and the two are what amusement parks offer to thrill-seekers, both young and old. A good example is roller coasters. Thankfully, roller coaster accidents are rare, but several other amusement park rides are prone to accidents.
While injuries are rare, the ones that occur can lead to severe bodily injuries with lasting implications. The preceding also has financial implications, making people wonder if they can sue an amusement park for their injuries. Our personal injury lawyers will attempt to provide an answer. If you or someone you love suffered an injury in an amusement park accident, contact Glenn Law for legal advice.
How Often Do Amusement Park Accident Injuries Occur?
There are several amusement parks, trampoline parks, water parks, and theme parks entertaining both the young and old all over the United States. Whether you're visiting Six Flags Over Texas or Zero Gravity Thrill Amusement Park, you are sure to find something fun for you. But in the midst of all that fun, mishaps happen.
These accidents can result in severe injury, catastrophic injuries, and at worse, death. A 2013 report revealed that about 4,400 children suffer amusement park injuries yearly. From that number, only about 67 kids a year are injured enough to require hospitalization.
The number of injuries and death varies from park to park. For instance, between 2011 and 2019, Six Flags Parks recorded seven wrongful deaths and 34 injuries. These injuries and death result from:
- Negligence on the part of the park guest. It could be that they failed to follow the safety instructions of an amusement park ride or deliberately violated the park rules.
- The park visitor's known or unknown health issues.
- Negligence on the part of the amusement park owners or an amusement park operator. It could be that they failed to follow maintenance safety instructions or deliberately violated park rules.
- Acts of God like a lightning strike. It means that the accident was not the direct result of anyone's negligence.
Furthermore, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) released the following data from 2003 to 2013:
- Emergency departments treated an estimated 113, 272 injuries associated with inflatable amusements
- 61% of the estimated injuries between 2011 and 2013 involved 4 to 15 years age group
- Most of the injuries were to limbs, with arm and leg injuries at 66%
- The CPSC recorded 12 reported deaths involving inflatable amusements between 2003 and 2013
- More than 90% of the estimated injuries involving inflatable amusements were linked to moon bounces
What Are the Causes of Amusement Park Injuries?
While amusement park accidents may not be common, it is crucial visitors understand the factors that contribute to them. Most of the causes of amusement park injuries are:
- Mechanical failure caused by a manufacturing defect, design defect, or the park's failure to maintain the ride properly. An example is a defective roller coaster train car detaching mid-ride. A defective product often leads to a product liability action.
- Improper operation of the ride. An example is an amusement park employee (operator) who abruptly stops the ride or latches a seat belt incorrectly.
- A passenger intentionally rocks a car, stands mid-ride, unlatches safety restraints, or sits improperly. It could also be that the park visitor holds a child above the safety restraint.
- At other times, the inherent nature of the amusement park ride could cause an injury. This is independent of any poor design problem or park staff error. Park visitors have complained of cerebral and retinal hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, loss of consciousness, and headaches from the rides. Others have suffered dizziness, and they are all from the rapid spinning nature of rides like the roller coaster.
What Are the Common Amusement Park Injuries?
The most common injuries people suffer in amusement parks are:
- Head, neck, and back injuries from bumper car rides or being whipped around on spinning rides and roller coasters
- Stroke from trauma to ligaments in the neck
- Traumatic brain injuries from G-forces and stresses imposed on the brain by extremely rapid speeds
- Brain aneurysms from roller coasters or other fast rides
- Lacerations, broken bones, and torn ligaments
- Drowning on water slides, lazy river rides, or other water rides
After an accident, report your injuries to a park representative. The park employees will then bring you medical attention as soon as possible. If the injury is severe and you're in critical condition, the park staff will rush you to the nearest hospital for treatment.
If the park has medical personnel, they might ask that they attend to you. If you refuse, they can claim later that the refusal aggravated your injuries. Also, park officials will ask you questions on how the injury happened. Be honest and describe events as they occurred.
If the amusement park employee tries to negotiate a settlement with you in any way, politely end the conversation. Contact a personal injury lawyer who will help you commence a legal claim.
Do Amusement Parks Owe Their Visitors a Duty of Care?
A theme, water, or amusement park in Texas must abide by certain laws and safety best practices. These include designing safe rides, properly installing them, and carrying out routine maintenance. In other words, they owe their visitors a duty of care.
Amusement parks must exercise reasonable care and keep their premises safe from dangerous conditions. It means that they must uphold the industry care standard the way any prudent amusement park would. Thus, the park owner and their staff must protect guests from injuries.
If a park breaches this care duty, they will be liable in negligence to guests and licensees who suffer injuries or die. The presence of negligence opens the park up to premises liability lawsuits. The only way for the owner to be free of an amusement park injury lawsuit is to prove that the victim is a trespasser.
This release of liability will not apply when the park causes intentional harm to the trespasser. Also, if the trespasser is below 18-year-old, they can hold the park liable under premise liability. Here, the law expects that an amusement park must be reasonably safe for minors.
Furthermore, it is vital to understand who a guest is at a theme park. A guest is anyone who purchases an amusement park ticket. The ticket grants the person the right to be on the park grounds. Lastly, the onus is on the injured person to prove the liability of the amusement park. You must prove that the park could have prevented the accident but negligently failed to do so.
Can I Sue an Amusement Park in Texas If I Suffer an Injury?
Emphatically, yes! If a park has blatant disregard for safety and fails to take care of potential risk factors, you can sue them for any injury suffered. They will be liable to you in damages, and you can get compensated for any of the following:
- Medical bills
- Cost of emergency care
- Physical, speech, or occupational therapy
- Emotional distress
- Physical pain and suffering
Premises liability law also makes it possible for families of dead victims to seek compensation. They do this through a wrongful death lawsuit. In Texas, the eligible people are the surviving spouse, children, and parents of the deceased person.
How Do Amusement Parks Pay Compensation?
According to Texas law, every amusement ride must display a compliance sticker. One key factor in getting this sticker is having liability insurance. This coverage helps to pay for any injuries suffered by visitors while on a ride.
Therefore, it is safe to conclude that amusement parks pay for injuries through their insurance carrier. So, you can file an insurance injury claim against the park's insurance provider. Note that the amusement park is vicariously responsible for the acts of their employee.
It means that if an operator error caused the accident that resulted in your injury, the park would be liable. Find out more about the tort doctrine of vicarious liability from our Glenn Law legal team.
When Will an Amusement Park Not Be Liable?
An amusement park is liable for the injuries sustained on its ground in almost all instances. But there are times when the park will not be the responsible party. Below are some of them.
- Assumption of Risk: If you know that participating in an activity or event is inherently dangerous but choose to participate, it is said that you "assumed the risk." Thus, if the park can prove that you assumed the risk of a ride, they will not be liable for damages.
- Rider Non-Compliance With Safety Rules: If you fail to comply with the posted age, weight, or height requirements, an amusement park or ride manufacturer may raise it as a defense. This applies mostly where the injury happened because of the victim's small size. In summary, if you fail to comply with safety rules, you will pay for your injuries.
- Disclaimers on Amusement Park Admission Tickets: Always read what's written on a ticket after purchase. Most parks put a liability waiver on their admission tickets, freeing them of liability. However, this disclaimer is rarely accepted in court as not all visitors read the disclaimer, and there's no attorney to explain it to them.
Schedule a Free Consultation With Glenn Law Personal Injury Lawyers
No accident claim journey is easy to undertake on your own. This is why you should work with a legal team and get all the help you need. At Glenn Law, our personal injury attorneys will bring their experience to bear on your case. We will analyze the evidence and ensure we get you the maximum compensation. Contact us today to get started.