Today’s rollercoasters are equipped with advanced safety systems including automatic stopping devices, advanced safety and should harnesses, multi-operator controls, and many more. However, sometimes accidents still occur due to unique and rare circumstances. In other instances, safety systems can activate without an immediately apparent reason resulting in stranded riders. While extremely rare, these types of difficult situations can occur. If you or a loved one has been seriously injured or wrongfully killed, you may be entitled to compensation for your pain, suffering, lost wages, and more.
Every personal injury lawsuit presents its own set of unique challenges. Claims arising from roller coaster accidents are no different. Our experienced Pennsylvania roller coaster injury lawyers have the resources and practical knowledge to aggressively advocate for your rights. From evaluating your damages to determining what parties should be held liable for your injuries, The Reiff Law Firm will work for your best interests. Call our office at (215) 709-6940 to schedule a free appointment.
What to Do After a Roller Coaster Accident in Pennsylvania
If you are one of the unfortunate few who experiences an accident and an injury at an amusement park, remain calm. If you panic you may make your situation worse or miss important information or instruction. Next, be sure to follow the instruction of all rescue or medical personnel. However, if you suffer an injury, no matter how slight it may see, seek medical care – even if it is not offered at the park or site of the injury. Seeking the opinion of a doctor or other medical professional can rule out any dangerous underlying conditions.
Roller Coaster Accidents at Major Amusement Parks
While rare, when they do occur the consequence of a roller coaster accident or malfunction can range from an inconvenience to a serious or even fatal injury. Recent roller coaster incidents include:
- New Texas Giant — The New Texas Giantis a steel rollercoaster that replaced the original wooden version. Tragically in July 2013, a 52-year-old woman sipped or fell out of her harness and fell to her death.
- The Ninja – On July 8, 2014, at Six Flags Magic Mountain a tree branch fell onto the track of the Ninjaroller coaster. The falling tree branch lodged onto the tracks and was struck by the next roller coaster train that passed through. The impact resulted in the front car partially derailing at a roughly 45-degree angle to the ground. While all 22 passengers were rescued, at least two have filed suit – one alleging traumatic brain injuries due to the crash.
- Joker’s Jinx– This Six Flags rollercoaster stalled and stuck on one of its higher inclines when a safety system tripped disabling the train. The riders of the coaster were rescued by the local fire department who carried riders to safety by way of a cherry picker. Nearly 5 hours elapsed before all of the riders were safely on the ground.
The above represent some of the more recent roller coaster accidents or incidents. Unfortunately, many more incidents have occurred at amusement parks, carnivals, and fairs throughout the country.
Types of Potentially Dangerous Roller Coasters at Pennsylvania Amusement Parks
The most widely known roller coasters include the following:
4th Dimension Roller Coaster – this is a type of Steel Roller Coaster in which riders are rotated independently of the orientation of the track, generally about a horizontal axis that is perpendicular to the track.
Accelerator Coaster – a long, straight launch track that has a tower, known as a “top hat,” and magnetic brakes that smoothly stop the train without touching it. After the top hat, the layout varies widely, ranging from a flat brake run to several inversions.
Bobsled Roller Coaster – uses a track design that is essentially a “pipe” with the top half removed with the cars that go down the pipe in the freewheeling mode
Dive Coaster – has wide trains, usually consisting of two or three rows each seating 6 to 10 passengers. Seating is employed in such a way as to provide all riders a clear view. At the top of the primary vertical drop, a braking system holds the train for 3 to 5 seconds, giving riders a view of the drop ahead.
Common Types of Injuries Caused by Pennsylvania Roller Coasters Accidents
The unique circumstances at play in any accident mean that one cannot reliably predict the exact severity and nature of the resultant injuries. However certain types of injuries are more likely to occur in this type of accident. Unfortunately, due to the high speeds that are often involved, roller coaster accidents can often be quite severe. The injuries can include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Broken bones
- Pinched fingers or limbs
- Lost fingers or limbs
- Heart attack
Pennsylvania Roller Coaster Mechanical and Control Failures
Roller coasters are designed to provide thrills and elevate the heart rates of their riders. These monstrous machines propel eager participants through a series of seemingly never-ending dips, drops, curves, and loops that leave their excited passengers breathless.
In addition to providing excitement, roller coasters in Pennsylvania are supposed to be designed to ensure the safety of their passengers. However, design is only part of the equation. The various safety devices and mechanisms that have been built into a roller coaster’s systems must be properly maintained and repaired when necessary. This means that amusement park owners must regularly inspect these huge thrill rides. Despite the wide variety of coasters that are available to test a rider’s mettle, many share similar safety systems that, if not adequately maintain, could result in an injury or death.
The Block System
Many automated coasters in Pennsylvania run several trains that and have zones called blocks. Only one train is allowed in a block at a time. Sensors are placed that communicated throughout the system, allowing one train to know when a zone is clear. These sensors will cause a delay in dispatching a train, apply brakes, or otherwise prevent a train from entering an occupied zone. When this system is functioning properly, it prevents collisions. However, if the sensors are not maintained or the system is not regularly inspected, a critical failsafe system could be offline.
Some roller coaster trains do not have brakes on the cars themselves. The track system is designed with a system known as a brake run. This system will slow a train down at the end of the ride and at critical junctions throughout the track layout. When brake runs are in disrepair, a train will not slow down and will be traveling at a dangerous rate of speed.
Side Friction and Up Stop Wheels
The first roller coasters would travel along the tope side of a track. Derailing was a potential danger and remains one to this day. However, modern coasters are equipped advance wheel systems that use side guide wheels and additional wheels beneath the track. This system of wheels prevents the train from derailing during massive drops, humps, inversions, turns, and loops. Probably the worst possible accident a roller coaster could suffer is a derailing.
Seat belt systems are becoming a thing of the past. Many roller coasters now utilize the safer lap bar system. A padded metal bar comes down to lock passengers in place, preventing them from being thrown from the car or being subjected to sudden impacts as their body travels through a series of inversions and sudden turns. If this system does not hold a rider in place, they could sustain severe bruising or worse.
As roller coasters increase in height and speed, many are adopting a shoulder harness system to protect their passengers. Padded U-shaped shoulder restraints lock over a rider’s upper body. These types of harnesses are more effective in keeping riders safe and secure, especially through fast inversions and inverted loops. Because of the size and speed of the coasters that employee these systems, a malfunction could be devastating.
Computerized Sensor Systems
As discussed above, a roller coaster’s blocking system is effectuated through a system of sensors. These computerized sensor systems do much more than managing the blocking zones on an automated coaster. Sensors are used to regulate speeds, detect mechanical failures, and keep track of the position of all trains on the system. A working computerized sensor system will prevent some of the more common accidents that could occur. For example, if a sensor detects that a mechanical system has failed, it could stop all the trains on the ride. However, when these sensors are not working properly, accidents are more likely.
Here is a list of some of other mechanical and control failure occurrences:
- Brake failures resulting in collisions between cars or trains in the load station.
- Hard stops usually attributed to a control system error.
- Getting stuck in some portion of the track by various mechanical failures on the car or train.
- Failures of restraint systems resulting in injuries within the vehicle or ejections from the vehicle.
Injuries on roller coasters have resulted from the following:
- Ejections from the ride.
- Neck and back injuries from brake failures, jamming, or rough action of the roller coaster.
- Contusions, pinches, or other injuries from restraints.
- Injuries from falls onto or between the tracks at load stations.
How is Liable for a Roller Coaster Injury in Pennsylvania?
Who could be held liable for a roller coaster injury depends on a number of factors.
To hold an amusement park liable for your injury, you will have to establish that there was negligence. Legally, negligence occurs when a property owner or business fails to provide a safe environment for their guests and riders. This could happen because the amusement park was either careless or paid inadequate attention to the roller coaster. It could also occur in the operation of the ride.
For example, the coaster could have malfunctioned because it was not regularly inspected or repaired. If the amusement park permitted the roller coaster to continue to operate while it was in poor condition, it could be held liable for any injuries.
If riders are not given adequate safety instructions before entering the ride, the park could he held responsible. An amusement park has a duty to ensure its employees are professionally trained in the safe operation of a ride.
Not every ride is safe for every person – especially thrill rides such as roller coasters. If there was a lack of warning signs regarding the risk the ride posed to certain individuals, it could constitute negligence.
Another legal theory to hold a party liable for a roller coaster injury is products liability. A products liability claim arises when a manufacturer either sells or designs a defective product that causes an injury. In terms of a roller coaster accident, a valid claim could arise from a defective piece of equipment leading to the injury of a rider or amusement park employee.
If the company that manufactured the shoulder harnesses sold or designed a defective piece of equipment, it could be held responsible for any injury the defective part caused. In this case, the manufacturer could be considered more at fault than the amusement park or ride operator – especially if the defect would not have been noticed during a routine inspection.
Call Our Pennsylvania Roller Coaster Accident Injury Lawyers
If you are a loved one have suffered a severe injury or was wrongfully killed due to a rollercoaster accident, you deserve justice and compensation for your loss. With more than 3 decades of experience standing up for those harming in accidents, the amusement park attorneys of The Reiff Law Firm can fight for you. If you have suffered a catastrophic injury roller coaster injury, contact The Reiff Law Firm for your free consultation by calling (215) 709-6940 or contact us online.