The family of a man killed in an accident at the Sky Trail attraction at Artegon in Orlando has settled their lawsuit with the mall this week. The lawsuit claimed that the Sky Trail course was defective and the company didn't follow safety standards. What exactly are the premises liability standards for zipline and aerial adventure rides and just how safe are they?
There is a lot of scrutiny surrounding the safety of amusement parks and extreme aerial rides following a tragic accident in Australia’s Dreamworld last week that killed four people and prompted Tampa’s Busch Gardens to close down the popular Congo River Rapids ride.
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It’s true that Orlando’s top theme parks, Disney World and Universal Studios, are legally exempt from government regulation and inspection, but traveling carnivals and small theme parks are supposed to be inspected by the Department of Agriculture. So why are accidents like these happening so frequently?
Zipline Accidents Across the Country
While the Dreamworld accident was truly shocking, zipline and other extreme aerial ride accidents are more prevalent than you would expect. Just this month, a zipline operator in Puerto Rico died after falling from a platform, according to FOX News.
Unfortunately, zipline accidents are occurring more and more frequently, according to a study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy. In 2012 alone, there were more than 3,600 people treated in emergency departments for zipline-related injuries.
This increase in injury could be attributed to the increase in popularity of the extreme activity, according to the study. This popularity has led to thousands of amateur and backyard zipline operations around the country.
Aerial Adventures: An Under Regulated Industry
Zipline and aerial adventure companies generally adhere to voluntary industry standards for equipment, maintenance, and training, but as this is voluntary, these rules may not be uniformly followed. After the fatal accident at Artegon, leaders in the industry like James Borishade, executive director of the Association for Challenge Course Technology, expressed a desire for stricter self-policing for these businesses for the sake of consumers.
"Ideally you would have uniform standards," said Borishade to the [Orlando Sentinel]. "In many industries, that's just not the case."
In Florida, the Department of Agriculture inspects these attractions twice a year, but otherwise the standards surrounding training and equipment in the industry are voluntary, and not set into law, meaning some companies in our state may not adhere to these ideal safety conditions all the time. This is especially true of amateur and backyard zipline operations.
How Can Families Stay Safe?
For families who love the thrill of ziplining and other aerial adventures, how can they do their due diligence to find reputable businesses and avoid accidents?
Check the Better Business Bureau
Check out the company’s online reviews, as well as reports from the Better Business Bureau, to see if there are any shocking complaints against the company’s safety standards. One or two low reviews can be normal for any business, but consistent complaints about safety standards are a major red flag.
Ask About Staff Training
Only give your business to a company that has a competent staff that can clearly explain how their training meets industry safety standards, recommends the researchers behind the Center for Injury Research and Policy study. If any member of the company dodges your questions about staff training, don’t use their ziplines.
Ask for Inspection Reports
Since these smaller amusement parks and businesses are not exempt from regulations, feel free to ask for an inspection or maintenance report. Don’t give your business to a company with a spotty or suspicious record of maintenance.
Follow All Safety Equipment Instructions
This year, Delaware woman fell from her zipline platform and died, not because of any malfunction or poor maintenance, but because she had disconnected herself from the safety system, according to a report by Inside Edition.
These rides rely on strong and secure safety harnesses to keep their passengers safe, so it’s absolutely imperative that you do not loosen or tamper with your harness before your zipline experience, according to the Center for Injury Research and Policy study. Always follow the directions given to you by your zipline operators to have a fun and safe experience.
Sometimes Accidents Still Happen
Whether it’s a zipline operation or one of the nation’s premier theme parks, accidents can still happen due to inadequate maintenance, poor staff training, and more. If you or someone you love was hurt at one of these rides due to the negligence of the operator, we may be able to help.
Read more to learn how our attorneys) can work with you to hold the theme park accountable, even if you signed a waiver, and get the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering. If you are ready to pursue a claim, fill out our free, no-risk case evaluation form today.