It is a general assumption that the busiest time of year for amusement park crowds are during summer months. Although we’re moving into colder seasons, year-round theme parks like Walt Disney World are currently in the throes of the highest foot traffic of the year- the amusement park sees the busiest crowds at the end of December through beginning of January. Families are traveling to warmer destinations to enjoy their Winter holiday breaks, and it’s important to understand not only the safety concerns of amusement park rides, but what your rights are in the event of an injury.
According to the latest “Data Highlights” report from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, there were an estimated 46,189 accidents and injuries to people of all ages in 2015 resulting from amusement park rides and related attractions. The CPSC’s estimate is extrapolated from actual sample data collected from hospitals and includes injuries incurred at amusement or theme parks, mobile attractions such as carnivals and fairs, inflatable attractions such as bounce houses, rides at shopping malls and restaurants and water parks.
Nationwide Children’s Hospital, a leading pediatric hospital and research institute, conducted a broad study in 2013 of nearly 93,000 children who were treated in emergency rooms for injuries sustained from amusement rides over a 20-year period from 1990 to 2010. The study concluded that, while these amusement park rides are generally safe, the number of incidents is large enough to justify a more comprehensive system of national oversight.
What are your options in the event of an injury?
If you do suffer an injury from an amusement park ride or attraction, you should seek the guidance of an experienced personal injury attorney to determine what options may be available to you in terms of a claim against the owner or operator of the park or ride.
Amusement parks and rides generally fall under the category of premises liability. In these cases, the owner of the property – which includes the attractions and rides – on which the injury occurred may be held responsible for injuries sustained by people who have been explicitly invited onto the property, such as guests of an amusement park. Owners have a duty to maintain safe conditions in the park and any rides therein, and to warn guests of any potentially dangerous areas or rides.
Closely associated with premises liability is the concept of negligence, wherein an owner may be held liable if a ride were found to be unsafe or poorly or improperly maintained, or if there were any issues found regarding inspections of those rides.
Employees of the park, and by extension, their employers, may also be found to be negligent if, for example, they provided poor or improper instructions to riders.
It’s important to note that the mere fact of an injury does not by itself make the owner liable for damages. For example, if you blatantly disregard properly administered safety instructions, the owner may not be liable for your injuries. Additionally, owners owe no such duty of maintenance and care to anyone who can be shown to be trespassing on the property.