When you plan to visit an amusement park, you anticipate a day in the sun, having fun, and relaxing with your kids. After all, what’s the worst that can happen? A ride shuts down? You’re stuck in a long line for your favorite coaster?
Unfortunately, things do go wrong at amusement parks. Even well-known brands like Disney and Six Flags have had incidents reported; some more serious than others.
Do you have questions about amusement park accidents? We’re going to help you find your answers. Whether you want to know about time park accidents over history or are seeking information following your own accident, this guide will help direct you to the answers you seek.
How Common Are Amusement Park Accidents?
According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, or the IAAPA, there were approximately 1,256 ride-related theme park accidents in 2018.
This number, however, includes the most serious injuries. Cuts, scrapes and bumps are not included, and this number certainly does not reflect injuries sustained at “pop up” theme parks such as state fairs.
What Are the Most Common Causes of Theme Park Accidents?
One of the leading causes of time park accidents is simple: operator error. This is especially true for smaller fairs and festivals. Typically, these events make use of local contractors to staff the rides. These inexperienced contractors may not be fully or properly trained, leading to accidents and injury.
Contractors who are not experienced with a particular ride may fail to notice “red flags.” Those warnings could relate to a rider becoming ill, or the mechanical aspects of a ride beginning to fail. While these incidents can occur at any theme park, injury is more likely at smaller amusements.
Another common cause of amusement park accidents is mechanical failure. Whether you’re visiting a smaller pop-up or a long-standing property, the fact is that rides age. Bolts and beams wear down, and that wear can lead to accidents.
Poorly designed rides can cause injury and accidents, but this type of incident is rare. Most amusement park rides are rigorously tested before humans are allowed to ride. However, some rides do slip through the cracks and can cause injury.
Finally, an amusement park accident could be, in part, due to issues with cleanliness. Theme parks have an obligation to keep the grounds clean and free from hazards. However, spills, cables and other obstructions can cause trips and slips.
What Should I Do if I Was Injured at an Amusement Park?
If you’ve been involved in an amusement park accident, the first thing you should do is report it to the park. While a ride breaking down or other large accident can be obvious, some smaller injuries may not be immediately obvious. Visit the theme park’s first aid center to report your injury.
Next, seek medical attention. If an ambulance is offered, it may be in your best interest to accept. Undergoing a physical examination now can save your health in the future.
After your doctor has checked you out, contact an attorney. An experienced lawyer can help you determine whether it’s appropriate to file a lawsuit against the amusement park where you were injured. If you haven’t done so already, your attorney will also help you report the incident to the park itself, and all other applicable governing agencies.
If you’re able, it’s a good idea to snap pictures of the scene where your injury occurred. Use your cell phone or other camera to document the location of the incident as well as your injuries.
Remember not to talk to anyone about your accident. Your doctor and your attorney should be the only people with access to information about your injuries; speaking to others about your incident could jeopardize your case should you go to court.
If I’m Injured at a Theme Park, Can I Sue?
In some cases, you may be eligible for compensation if you’re injured at an amusement park. The claim you file will depend upon the type of injury or accident that occurs.
When you’re in an accident at an amusement park, there’s a good chance you’ll be billed for medical expenses. In many cases, you can sue to recover those costs.
Following your accident you may be required to stay home from work. Lost wages are another type of compensation some accident victims are eligible to sue for.
Pain and suffering claims should be handled with the help of an attorney, but many victims are able to seek damages for the mental and emotional repercussions of a theme park accident.
In short, the answer is yes — you can sue following an amusement park accident. It’s best, however, to seek the advice of an attorney. Your legal team can help maximize the money you win as a result of such a claim.
What if I Was Partially Responsible for the Accident?
Let’s face it; people sometimes do things that aren’t completely in their best interest. For instance, a teenager may decide to climb a roller coaster with a group of friends. Or a grown adult may decide to “jump the fence” to get the perfect selfie for their Instagram page.
Even if you’ve made a not-so-smart decision, you still may be eligible to sue for damages. The court typically assigns a certain percentage of responsibility to each party. For instance, if you fell from a high ledge while snapping a selfie, you are partially responsible for your injuries. However, the park may be liable because they did not have proper precautions in place to prevent you from doing so.
No matter the incident, it’s always best to consult an attorney. A lawyer experienced in theme park accidents will know what you can and can not seek in damages, and will work to ensure that you see the best result in your suit against the amusement park.
Where Can I Find More Information About Amusement Park Accidents?
Every now and then, amusement park accidents will make the national news. If you’re local to a large theme park like a Six Flags or a Disney theme park, the accident will likely be the talk of the town in the days following.
The sad truth is that people do get seriously injured at theme parks, and those accidents don’t always make the news. If you’re planning a trip to a theme park and are a little nervous about the park’s safety record, there are a few actions you can take.
First, you should know that amusement parks are required to report accidents to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (the USCPS). This is a government agency that keeps track of injuries that occur at theme parks. You can visit their website to read about statistics and more.
If you’re interested in learning more about specific theme park accidents, there’s really no better way to do that than with a simple Google search. Whether it’s a particular ride you’re interested in or an overall perspective about safety, you’ll find that your search will return thousands of results!
In the next section, we’re going to take a look at specific accidents at theme parks, and how they were settled with litigation.
Amusement Park Accident Lawsuits
Darien Lake Theme Park, New York
In 2019, double amputee Iraq veteran James Hackemer was killed when he was thrown from a roller coaster at Darien Lake Theme Park and Resort. Hackemer’s daughters, who were three and four years old at the time of the 2011 accident, were the beneficiaries of the suit. Because the children were minors, the precise settlement amount was not disclosed. However, it is confirmed that the award was in the seven figures.
Schlitterbahn Waterpark, Kansas
In 2016, a young child named Caleb Schwab was killed at a theme park in Kansas. Schlitterbahn Waterpark’s Verruckt, German for “insane,” was 168 feet tall. The ten year old boy had been fastened to his raft only by Velcro, which came undone toward the end of the ride. Little Caleb was decapitated and his body washed up in the exit pool. His family sought damages and were awarded almost $20 million.
Even despite its track record for safety, the Disney franchise isn’t a stranger to accidents. In 1998, the Sailing Ship Columbia ride malfunctioned and a metal portion of the ship came free. The cleat hit two guests and a cast member; one 33 year old man later died in the hospital as a result of the injury. Luan Phi Dawson’s family won a settlement against the park and were awarded approximately $25 million.
If you’ve been injured in a theme park accident, hire an attorney. An experienced amusement park accident lawyer can assist you in determining the best course of action. Call the office of Morgan & Morgan at 888-340-1780 or via our contact form to schedule your free consultation today.