Amusement parks, theme parks, and quasi-amusement parks, such as carnivals, fairs, and hayrides, are a popular form of family entertainment. Unfortunately, while these parks are typically safe for visitors, amusement park accidents can cause disabling and catastrophic injuries, such as broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and paralysis. Even “safe” amusement park rides can cause injury or death. In some cases, amusement park accidents can also lead to the wrongful death of a park guest or employee.
These accidents can be overwhelmingly difficult for the victims and their families, not only physically and emotionally, but also financially. Victims may have thousands or even millions of dollars in medical expenses, lost income, and reduced ability to work in the future. The amusement park lawyers at the Reiff Law Firm understand how traumatic these injuries can be and are here to help your family fight for justice and fair compensation. Call the car accident injury lawyers at Reiff Law Firm at (215) 246-9000 to schedule a free appointment to discuss your injury and options with our experienced lawyer.
What Type of Amusement Park Injuries do our Accident Lawyers Handle?
When a ride malfunctions at an amusement park, carnival, state fair, or county fair, it is likely that one or more individuals will be severely injured. Even if the ride is operating properly, a park visitor or park employee can still be injured or killed while attempting to enter or exit the ride area, or while attempting to retrieve a lost shoe, hat, pair of glasses, or article of clothing.
Whether an injury occurs on a ride or in other areas of the park, the consequences can be fatal or permanently life-altering. At The Reiff Law Firm, our aggressive Philadelphia personal injury lawyers have been handling accident claims and lawsuits for nearly four decades, giving us deep practical insight into how and why injuries occur, how amusement parks attempt to deny liability and defend against injury claims, and how the victims are financially impacted, both in the short-term and long-term. We apply our knowledge to create a hard-hitting legal strategy tailored to each client’s case, whether that involves negotiating a settlement or taking the park to court with litigation. Types of amusement park lawsuits we handle include:
- Amputation injuries and dismemberment
- Amusement park slip and fall accident injuries
- Back and spinal cord injuries
- Bone fractures (broken bone injuries)
- Burn injuries
- Cuts, lacerations, and puncture wounds
- Facial injuries
- Foot and ankle injuries
- Head and brain injuries
- Injuries caused by falling from heights
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Joint injuries (knee injuries, hip injuries, elbow injuries, shoulder injuries)
- Nerve damage and loss of sensation
- Permanent scarring and disfigurement
- Spinal cord injuries
- Whiplash and other neck injuries
- Wrist and hand injuries
- Wrongful death
Our personal injury firm is prepared to investigate accidents involving all different types of rides and attractions, including:
- Bumper cars and go-karts
- Bungee rides
- Carousels and merry-go-rounds
- Drop tower rides
- Ferris wheels
- Haunted houses
- Kamikaze rides
- Kiddy rides designed for children
- Log flumes, wave pools, and other water park rides
- Pirate ship rides
- Rotor and Gravitron rides
- Swing rides
- Teacups, “scramblers,” and other spinning rides
- Tilt-a-whirl rides
When Are Amusement Parks and Carnivals Liable for Injury or Death?
Amusement parks and ride manufacturers have a duty to fabricate and operate rides safely. Unfortunately, issues such as defective products (“product liability”) and operator negligence can cause serious yet preventable accidents. If an operator or manufacturer breaches safety guidelines, the individual or business entity responsible for the breach may be financially liable for any deaths or injuries that result.
In order to recover compensation for an amusement park injury, carnival injury, or injury at a fair, the victim must prove that certain facts, or elements of a personal injury claim, are true. These elements are:
- The victim was owed a legal duty of care by the defendant.
- The defendant breached their duty, either by acting improperly or by failing to act, which is called an “omission.”
- Harm to the victim was a consequence of the breach.
- The victim suffered a medically-diagnosed injury as a result of the accident.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim for Your Amusement Park Accident
Most amusement parks, hayride, and carnival owners or representatives will not settle a claim unless the victim files a personal injury lawsuit or wrongful death lawsuit. Many amusement park owners aggressively fight catastrophic injury claims in order to discourage other victims from taking legal action. In some other cases, amusement park representatives may try to settle as quickly and cheaply as possible, before the victim realizes what their claim is truly worth. For example, the victim may not be able to anticipate his or her future expenses, which can cause the victim to prematurely accept a settlement that does not account for the full scope of financial losses.
For these reasons, you must contact an experienced amusement park injury attorney before signing any documents or making any statements to a park owner or representative. Simply put, the park’s initial offer is not likely to cover or account for certain damages, such as ongoing medical needs or future losses related to reduced work capacity and diminished employment opportunities.
What Causes Amusement Park Accidents and Ride Malfunctions?
Accidents at amusement parks can arise from a wide range of mechanical errors and operator errors. In most cases, there is a complex chain of improper actions or events preceding the accident, rather than a single mistake. Common risks, defects, and safety issues that can cause amusement park injuries to occur include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Abrupt starts and/or stops
- Damage to ride components during storage or shipment
- Electrical shorts and failures
- Exposed electrical wires and cords
- Failure to post warning notices about potential hazards
- Failure to secure high-voltage areas or other dangerous areas of the park
- Failure to shut off or come to an emergency stop
- Improper assembly or installation of ride components
- Improper height and/or weight restrictions for riders
- Improper machine operation due to lack of proper training or operator misbehavior, such as being under the influence of drugs or alcohol during a shift
- Improper loading and/or unloading procedures
- Inadequate lighting or visibility
- Inadequate security measures, such as missing safety gates or security personnel
- Lack of proper maintenance procedures and/or ride safety inspection procedures
- Loose cables, screws, or other structural components
- Malfunctioning lap bars, belts, harnesses, and safety lock failures
- Mechanical failures, structural flaws, and design defects
- Sharp and protruding parts, which can cause puncture wounds, lacerations, or snare on hair or clothing
Holding Amusement Parks Liable for Injuries
Injuries occur in amusement parks for a variety of reasons, including the negligent conduct of park owners, managers, and employees. This is the same for large amusement parks, such as Dorney Park or Six Flags Great Adventure, and smaller carnivals and fairs.
Traveling Carnivals and Fairs
Traveling amusement parks, such as carnivals, lack the same level of safety oversight that larger parks employ. Because they are constantly changing locations, taking rides apart, and reassembling them, carnival attractions are more prone to mechanical failures and assembly errors. These mistakes can lead to a wide range of injuries, from small cuts or bruises to permanent paralysis and death. When the equipment is not regularly maintained or inspected, the carnival owner and operator could be held legally liable for any harm that occurs.
Attraction Attendants and Park Employees
Accidents often occur on rides and attractions because the attendant was careless or negligent in their conduct. For example, a ride operator could fail to instruct the riders on how to conduct themselves during the ride safely. Additionally, failing to properly secure a passenger in the ride, if a harness or other device is required, creates an unreasonably dangerous situation for the park patron. Many inherently risky attractions have specific age, height, and weight restrictions. When a park employee allows a guest to ride who obviously fails to meet the ride’s requirements, they open up the amusement park to liability for any injuries that could occur. Additionally, rides should be operated safely. Should an attendant operate an attraction too fast or too long, the risk of injury increases.
Proper Warning Signs
An amusement park should post adequate warning signs for people with medical conditions, such as heart disease, pregnancy, and high blood pressure. Guests at an amusement park have a reasonable expectation of being informed of the inherent risks a ride presents. This is especially the case if a guest is likely to experience a dangerous medical consequence while on the attraction.
There are cases where a passenger on a ride contributes to their own injury. Sometimes a park patron will unlatch a safety harness or stand up while a ride is in motion, causing them to either be struck by a part of the moving ride or thrown from the attraction. Even if this occurs, if a passenger was not adequately instructed or if the ride operator failed to react appropriately, the amusement park could still share some liability.
Accidents occur when a ride has been carefully inspected and maintained, passengers have been instructed in the safe usage of the ride, each passenger behaves accordingly, and the ride attendant operates the attraction safely. No matter what precautions or actions park employees take, if a ride has an unknown design defect or a manufacturing flaw, a seemingly safe ride could quickly become deadly.
A personal injury claim can arise from a defective product or attraction. The attraction, or a part of the mechanism, could be defective because of a manufacturing error. For example, connecting bolts in a ride’s carriage could have been misaligned during the manufacturing process and unknown to the management of the amusement park. In addition to a manufacturing flaw, a ride could suffer from a design flaw. In some cases, the ride cannot withstand the force and pressure it is under while in operation. In instances of product liability, our national amusement park accident attorneys only have to establish that the defect existed and caused the injury. Proving negligence is not required.
Amusement Park Injury Statistics
Over 270 million people visit amusement parks every year, yet surprisingly, there is no official source that keeps a complete record of all park-related accidents. While there is a sample of hospitals that track information about amusement park injuries, this survey does not include incidents from some of the nation’s most popular theme parks, such as several Florida establishments, which account for approximately 20% of all U.S. amusement park businesses.
While there is no comprehensive government database for amusement park injury or fatality statistics, the Consumer Protection Safety Commission (CPSC) estimates that the number of serious injuries caused by amusement park rides is on the rise. This phenomenon is primarily due to a lack of reliable and up-to-date data about the causes and consequences of amusement park disasters and breakdowns.
Ultimately, accident data for most amusement parks are a closely-guarded secret. In many instances, strict private settlements are requested. The amusement park industry is poorly regulated, and there is no uniform system in place for reporting guest injuries. Innocent consumers have no way of accessing reliable and consistent data, which creates a real risk for families and their precious children.
Statute of Limitations for Amusement Park Accident Lawsuits
Every state imposes a time limit on injured plaintiffs to file a claim in court. In Pennsylvania, the statute of limitations for a personal injury lawsuit arising from an accident at an amusement park is two years from the date of the accident. These restrictions are set to protect potential defendants from being sued years after an incident occurs and when much of the evidence is either lost or unavailable. However, you should not delay in contacting our skilled amusement park accident attorney if you are injured at an amusement park or carnival. The same reason the statute of limitations exists to protect defendants also applies to plaintiffs. The best evidence, such as witness testimony and surveillance video, is available immediately after an accident happens. Any hesitation could reduce your chances of prevailing in a personal injury lawsuit.
Wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases are often very complicated. If you were seriously hurt in an amusement park accident, or if someone you love was killed in a fatal accident at an amusement park, you must contact an amusement park accident attorney for legal help. The amusement park lawyers of the Reiff Law Firm can analyze the evidence and investigate your situation thoroughly to determine matters of liability. They can advise you regarding the legal strategies which may be available to you and your family.
Amusement Park Accident Attorneys Offering Free Consultations
If you or a loved one was injured while at an amusement park, fair, carnival, or another event with rides and attractions, contact our experienced national amusement park accident lawyers. Our award-winning accident attorneys have nearly 40 years of trial experience and have been featured in major media outlets, including USA Today, US News, and World Report. We have recovered millions of dollars for our clients, and are dedicated to aggressive legal advocacy on behalf of injury victims. For a free legal consultation, contact the Reiff Law Firm online, or call our law offices at (215) 246-9000.