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  • Philadelphia Premises Liability Lawyers

    Amusement Parks

    From exhilarating rollercoasters to thrilling water attractions, amusement parks allow people of all ages to enjoy some good fun. As fun as amusement parks are, they can also be dangerous. Data from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) show that thousands of people are injured in amusement park accidents each year. Children between the ages of 10 and 14 years old sustain the most injuries out of any age group.

    Although federal, state, and local laws regulate amusement parks and related attractions, injuries still occur.

    The federal CPSC regulates nonpermanent rides, inflatables, go-karts, carnivals, fairs, and other amusement parks that move from location to location. Fixed-site amusement parks, such as Six Flags and similar attractions, are regulated by local and state agencies and are not subject to CPSC guidelines.

    This exclusion from federal regulation is known as the rollercoaster loophole. It can create dangerous situations because there is no federal oversight. Although some states do a good job regulating and inspecting fixed rides, many will rely on their insurers or third-party inspections to comply with state regulations.

    Many states, including Pennsylvania, require fixed-ride amusement parks to turn in safety inspection reports every month the rides operate. Many parks do not bother to do this even when they have completed the inspections.

    What Are Common Causes of Amusement Park Accidents?

    Amusement Park owners and ride manufacturers are responsible for the safety of their guests. This means providing an environment free from known hazards through regular inspections and promptly addressing issues that arise. It also means training ride operators and employees adequately to give the riders a safe experience. Unfortunately, this does not always happen.

    Dangerous and deadly accidents can occur when amusement park owners, ride manufacturers, or employees act carelessly. A variety of hazards can cause grave dangers to guests, including the following:

    • Mechanical failures: Mechanical failures can include missing safety pins, broken structural components, exposed electrical wires, inability to shut off the machine, broken drive chains, or incorrect ride assembly.
    • Ride structure problems: Problems can include malfunctioning lap bars, faulty harnesses and latches, sudden detachment of cars or structural components, rusty or broken parts, damaged seats or cushioning, and derailment.amusement park accidents
    • Poor inspection and maintenance: Not consistently inspecting and fixing the rides, including brakes, tracks, ride components such as arms, and emergency shut-off systems.
    • Neglectful operator behavior: This could include abruptly starting or stopping the ride, speeding it up or slowing it down, not ensuring riders are safely secured, and not following age and height requirements for riders.
    • Failure to supervise riders: Failure of ride operators to supervise and prevent poor guest behavior can lead to accidents. Dangerous rider behavior includes intentionally rocking cars, standing up, taking off safety restraints, sitting improperly, sideways, or with feet above lap bar, and holding a child above the safety restraint.
    • Design and manufacturing flaws: Design flaws or errors in the manufacturing process, such as taking shortcuts or using substandard materials, can lead to hazardous and even deadly situations. Modifications to the original equipment or design can also cause grave danger.
    • Inherent dangers: Even if there are no mechanical defects, negligence, or operator errors, some rides can cause injury or illness because of their inherent dangers, such as speed, height, and abrupt twists and turns. Passengers should always read the ride warnings and avoid aggravating a preexisting condition or a tendency for illness.

    What Are Types of Injuries from Amusement Park Accidents?

    The g-forces, twists, turns, heights, and speed from a ride can put tremendous strain on the body. Some rides will even render the head and neck uncontrollable. Many amusement park ride injuries are severe and can lead to permanent disabilities. Others cause a great deal of pain and require time off work for healing and physical therapy. Common injuries include:

    • Broken bones.
    • Head and neck strain.
    • Whiplash.
    • Knee injuries.
    • Back injuries.
    • Lacerations and bruises.
    • Torn ligaments and other soft tissue trauma.
    • Stroke and brain aneurysms.
    • Traumatic brain injuries, concussions.
    • Cerebral and retinal hemorrhage.
    • Spinal cord injuries, paralysis.
    • Amputation.
    • Deadly falls or being thrown from a ride.
    • Drowning from waterpark attractions.
    • Slips, slides, and falls on wet surfaces.

    What Should I Do if I am Injured at an Amusement Park?

    The following are suggested steps to take as you are able following an accident at an amusement park, water park, carnival, fair, other location with temporary or fixed rides:

    • Seek medical help. Even if you believe your injuries are not serious, always seek medical care immediately following an amusement park accident and whenever new symptoms arise. Some injuries, including soft tissue trauma, whiplash, and brain injuries, may take some time to develop.
    • Report the issue to park employees and/or the police. Report the accident whether you believe the accident happened because of the negligence of the operator or because of defects.amusement park accidents
    • Capture photograph and video evidence of the injury and the cause. Take close-up shots of suspected failures or worn/loose equipment.
    • Speak to witnesses about the accident. Take notes, including witness names and contact information, and record their statements by hand or video.
    • Keep a file of accident-related documents. This file should include doctor diagnoses, recommendations, and other medical statements, prognoses, therapies, notes from other medical providers, such as physical therapists and surgeons, medical bills and invoices, insurance payments, and other documents. You should also keep records of correspondence with your employer about time off, missed work, lost wages, future income, and other topics affecting your ability to work.
    • If an insurance or amusement park representative contacts you, do not speak with them directly. Give them your lawyer’s contact information.
    • Contact a lawyer. Speak with a lawyer who has experience in premises liability You may have grounds for a lawsuit against the liable party.

    Who Is Liable for Amusement Park Accidents?

    Amusement Park accidents do happen. According to recent CPSC research, there were nearly 9,000 emergency room visits because of amusement park injuries and more than 3,000 water slide injuries in a single year. Someone needs to be held liable for the medical bills, lost wages, and other damages these people suffer.

    There are two main types of liability at stake in most amusement park accident cases: premises liability and products liability.

    Premises Liability

    Premises liability laws govern what happens if a person is injured on someone else’s property. They determine who will be held liable if the condition of a building, land, or other property causes injury.

    Premises liability generally recognizes three types of individuals on a premises: licensee, invitee, or trespassers. The property owner has a different duty of care to each type of individual.

    People who come to an amusement park will most likely be an invitee. They are admitted after they pay and have the right to be there. Trespassers, too, could be on the premises either during or after hours, but an invitee is the primary type of guest for whom the owner owes a duty of care.

    Amusement Park owners and operators must maintain safe conditions throughout the property for their invitees. This includes all rides, buildings, walkways, grounds, and any other part of the property. If they know of or should have known of a dangerous condition, they must warn their invitees. If they do not, they are breaching their duty of care.

    Suppose an invitee is injured because of the negligence of park operators and owners or a third party, such as a ride designer or manufacturer. In that case, they have the right to pursue a legal claim against the liable party. In many, if not most cases, that will be the park owner or operator.

    For example, a park owner or operator can be held liable for the following:

    • A ride operator’s mistake injures a rider. If the ride operator was working within the scope of their duties when the incident occurred, the park owner or operator could be liable for the accident.
    • Mechanical failure that injures a rider. A park operator or owner can be held liable if they did not properly inspect and maintain a ride.
    • A slip and fall accident that injures a water park guest. The entire premises of any amusement park, water park, carnival, fair, or other attraction must be kept properly maintained and safe. An owner or operator can be held liable if a guest is injured from a slip and fall on a wet surface, unsafe platform or steps, a hazardous walkway, or another dangerous part of the property.
    • A child’s foot or hand becomes caught in a temporary merry-go-round that has not been installed correctly. The property owner or operator is responsible for proper safety precautions, even for temporary rides, such as those found at carnivals and fairs.
    • A rider falls from a state fair ride that is routinely assembled and broken down. The state’s regulations require the park owner/operator to ensure that the ride is in good working order for the time it is on their property.
    • A guest trips and falls over a loose unmarked cable while walking near a ride. The property owner is responsible for ensuring that any dangers and hazards are either taken care of or marked by proper signage and safety guards.

    Note that a property owner/manager is not automatically liable in a ride accident lawsuit. If the guest did something unforeseeable or disregarded clear instructions, the property owner has not breached its duty of care. For example, if a rider is hurt after extending their arms outside the car after an employee clearly instructs them not to do so, the owner/operator will likely not be found liable for injuries.

    Products Liability

    Sometimes, a third party is responsible for injuries related to an amusement park ride or attraction. For example, some rides have inherent design flaws not discovered until someone gets hurt while riding them. The company that designed the ride could be liable for injuries or deaths.

    Other times, a manufacturer could be found liable for a ride injury. Suppose they took a shortcut, used inferior products, or veered from the original design. In that case, their manufacturing errors could be the reason for a ride failure and accident. The person could have a valid products liability claim.

    Determining the liable party in an amusement park ride accident is complex and should be led by an experienced lawyer. A lawyer must convene experts to determine design flaws or manufacturing defects. They will call on authorities to review the park’s inspection and maintenance records. They might hire accident reconstruction experts to examine the evidence and help get to the root of who is liable.

    How Can I Be Safe at an Amusement Park?

    First, never assume the park owner/operator has followed all safety rules and regulations. This is particularly relevant at temporary amusement parks, such as state or county fairs, local carnivals, and similar attractions. Even larger parks with fixed rides, such as well-known amusement parks, may not inspect and maintain rides as they should. You should:

    • Use common sense and trust your instincts. If you have a bad feeling about a ride or see something that does not look right, do not get on it or let your children on the ride.
    • Follow any posted signs for height, age, weight, and health restrictions.
    • Follow instructions for seating, loading, and unloading. Always wait for the ride to completely stop before getting off.
    • Always wear safety restraints, seat belts, safety bars, or other provided devices. Tell the ride operator if they are not in good working order and do not continue with the ride.
    • Avoid mall or supermarket rides that do not have child restraint or safety features. That penny horse ride could end up costing a lot more if your child is injured.
    • Avoid engaging in horseplay on a ride. Some people like to raise their arms or do something unsafe while on a ride. Others want to snap pictures or videos of themselves doing something dangerous. This is not a good idea.

    Philadelphia Premises Liability Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Represent Clients Injured in Amusement Park Accidents

    If you have been injured at an amusement park, reach out to one of our Philadelphia premises liability lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP. Our legal team is experienced in advocating for those injured in these types of accidents. Call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. From our offices in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading, Pennsylvania, we proudly serve clients throughout Pennsylvania and New Jersey, including Allentown and Harrisburg.