Faith in Pennsylvania’s Amusement Park Safety Inspection System May be Misplaced

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Pennsylvania has more registered amusement park rides than any other state in the nation with 9,300 registered as of 2013.  In recognition of this figure, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett boasted that safety of amusements is Pennsylvania was unparalleled.  However, such comments may be misplaced.

Pennsylvania amusement and water parks are required to file reports in which certified inspectors swear that all required amusement park safety inspections occurred. However, according to open records requests made by publicsource.org, in 2012 over half of Pennsylvania’s amusement and water parks failed to submit all of the required monthly reports.  One in ten parks failed to file any reports for the entire year.  This failure to inspect and the uneven enforcement of safety regulations by the state endangers thousands of Americans each year. These amusement park accidents can potentially result in serious physical injuries including lacerations, burns, broken or fractured bones, concussions, neck injuries and spinal injuries.  Further, the trauma of suffering a severe injury may lead to emotional issues such as anxiety.  All of these situations may go under-reported in Pennsylvania.

What Are the Main Reasons for Accidents at Fairs, Carnivals, and Water Parks?

Many people consider permanent parks to be safer than temporary set-ups, but whether you are at a water park, state fair, amusement park, or carnival you must be sure to remain wary and follow all operator instructions to avoid injury.  According to National statistics compiled by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (USCPSC):

  • More than 70-percent of injuries occur during the summer months
  • An average of nearly 4,500 amusement injuries every year
  • Approximately 20 injuries occur daily during peak season

Further according to the USCPSC’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), inflatable amusements, common at many state fairs and carnivals, are one of the most dangerous attractions.   Over a 5-year period, from 2003 to 2007, approximately 30,000 injuries occurred on inflatable attractions.  The leading causes of these and other attraction-based injuries include:

  • Improper or Negligent Operation of the Amusement – Human error is responsible for a large portion of amusement injuries.  The failure to ensure that safety harnesses are properly fastened or improper stopping of the ride can result in serious injury.
  • Negligence Inspection or Maintenance of the Amusement – Like all machinery, amusement park and water park rides are subject to wear and tear.  Over time bolts may loosen, protective padding may deteriorate or the motor may develop issues.  If these conditions are not corrected, the likelihood of accident increases.
  • Mechanical Failure – While often associated with a failure to inspect and maintain, a mechanical failure can also occur unexpectedly due to a manufacturing or design defect.
  • Inherent Risks of the Attraction – Sometimes despite proper precautions injuries occur simply due to the nature of the ride.  For example, inflatable attractions like the Moonwalk or Bouncy Castle are known to be susceptible to tipping in high winds.  Similarly, high speeds, bumps and G-forces are inherent to many thrill rides such as roller coasters.

Regardless of your preferred park and attraction type, the risk of an injury is always present.  But, if you have been injured due to the negligence of another, you may be entitled to financial compensation.

Pennsylvania Wrongful Death Act and Survival Act

While uncommon, fatalities at amusement parks and water parks are not impossible. If your loved one has been killed due to the negligence of the park or operator, you may have claims under both Pennsylvania’s Wrongful Death Act and Survival Act.  Damages under the Wrongful Death Act can include:

  • Expenses related to the death – These expenses can include medical expenses, hospitalization, the funeral, and the burial.
  • Contributions to the household – The family of the decedent, the person who was killed, may be entitled to the monetary value of items such as food, clothing, shelter, entertainment, education and gifts.  This amount is limited to purchases the decedent would have made from the time of death to the present.
  • Value of services – The surviving family members may be entitled to the value of the services provided by the killed family member.  One example of such services could include household work.
  • On behalf of the children – If the decedent was a mother or father, the children have suffered a loss of moral guidance and direction.  The plaintiff may be able to recover the monetary value of these services had the death not occurred.

A claim under the Survival Act may be brought concurrently.  However, the golden rule is that there cannot be double recovery.  That is if there is recovery under one act you may not recover the same damages under the other.  Under the Survival Act, a claim may be made for the wages or compensation, including fringe benefits, the decedent would have earned had he or she not been killed.  Further, appropriate compensation for mental and physical pain is typically available under the Survival Act.

If You Are Injured at an Amusement Park

The attorneys at The Reiff Law Firm are recognized throughout Pennsylvania as tireless advocates injured Pennsylvanians.  Our attorneys have been recognized by our peers as being in the top 100 Trial Lawyers.  We offer a no-obligation consultation to better understand your case’s unique circumstances.  Please contact us today by calling (215) 246-9000 or through our web form.

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