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What Is the Settlement Process for Amusement Park Accidents?
On July 26, 1978, a gondola carrying four park visitors slipped loose of its cable, plunging the gondola 70 feet to the ground. The accident killed three passengers inside the gondola, which eventually led to a flurry of lawsuits filed against Six Flags Over Mid America located near St. Louis, Missouri. The park closed three years later in 1981.
Amusement parks remain a summer entertainment hub for millions of visitors. Carousels, bumper cars, water rides, and of course, roller coasters, appeal to the thrill-seeker in many of us. Unfortunately, thrill-seeking has the potential to turn into a serious accident, with injuries caused by negligence on the part of either an amusement park or the manufacturer of a ride.
The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) gathers and presents data that paints an ugly picture for the amusement park industry. According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System NEISS), more than 43,400 park visitors suffered an injury at an American amusement park during 2017. Children between the ages of five and 14 represented the age demographic that had the highest rate of amusement park injuries.
If you suffered an injury while at an amusement park, you might qualify for monetary damages due to the negligence of the amusement park or the manufacturer of the ride that caused your injuries. Contacting an experienced personal injury attorney can help you build a strong enough case to file a civil lawsuit. A lawyer also can explain the settlement process for amusement park accidents.
Since 1988, the personal injury attorneys at Morgan & Morgan have helped clients recover more than $7 billion in compensation. During a free case evaluation, one of our personal injury attorneys will determine which type of personal injury claim you should file. The lawyer that meets with you completes a thorough review of your case to determine the best course of legal action.
What Are the Common Injuries Caused by Amusement Park Accidents?
Many of the injuries that victims suffer from because of a car accident are the same injuries suffered by victims of amusement park accidents. The key to the settlement process for amusement park accidents is to demonstrate you have suffered from a serious injury.
Common injuries suffered by victims of amusement park accidents include fractures, ligament damage, and torn muscles. Whiplash is an especially common injury for riders of roller coasters. The most serious amusement park injuries cause brain trauma and severe spinal cord damage. Some amusement parks with water rides have experienced park visitor deaths caused by drowning.
If you sustain an injury at an amusement park, you should report the accident immediately and then seek medical attention.
What Are the Causes of Common Amusement Park Accident Injuries?
One or more factors might have caused you to suffer from an amusement park injury. Failure to maintain rides and perform frequent inspections tops the list of causes for amusement park injuries. A lack of oversight on the condition of rides can be attributed to one or more acts of negligence. Rides that have faulty parts, such as the gondola ride defect at Six Flags Over Mid America, place park visitors in danger.
Slip and fall accidents caused by tripping hazards and slippery surfaces can cause fractures and back injuries. Park employees that work in maintenance have the primary responsibility to clean up spills and fix tripping hazards. However, every employee bears responsibility for keeping park visitors safe. Lack of trained supervision for all rides is another factor that causes injuries that lead to the settlement process for amusement park accidents.
Park management is responsible for ensuring the comprehensive training of rider operators. However, some ride operators do not receive the training they deserve because of understaffing and other labor issues. Mechanical defects represent a common cause of injuries at amusement parks, which place the legal burden on the shoulder of the manufacturer of the defective mechanical part.
What Are the Monetary Damages for an Amusement Park Accident Case?
If you suffered an injury while visiting an amusement park, you have the right to see monetary damages from the party responsible for causing your injuries. The two main categories of monetary damages for personal injury cases are compensatory damages and punitive damages.
Special Compensatory Damages
Also referred to as economic damages, special compensatory damages cover the costs of medical bills and property damage. Medical expenses can run into thousands of dollars. You might have to pay for diagnostic tests, treatment programs, and physical therapy sessions, as well as assistive devices and prescription medications. Your attorney will ask your insurance company and the judge or jury hearing your civil lawsuit for compensation that covers estimated future medical expenses.
You also have the right to recover lost wages because your injuries forced you out of work. Your physician should submit a statement that describes your prognosis of making a full or partial recovery. If you expect to be out of work for an extended period, you can request compensation for future lost wages as well.
General Compensatory Damages
As a type of non-economic damage, general compensatory damages covers the costs of mental anguish and emotional distress. The Six Flags Over Mid America example we described above included compensation for pain and suffering. Both the families of the deceased and other riders that remained stuck on the ride for hours sought compensation for mental anguish and emotional distress. Since general compensatory damages do not come with a price tag, your personal injury lawyer calculates a reasonable amount to cover your pain and suffering.
Punitive damages punish the plaintiff for committing one or more intentional acts of negligence. For some amusement park accidents, negligence is accidental in that park employees did not know about the potential for an accident. Intentional negligence is knowing about a mechanical failure or a slippery area of the park and doing nothing about it.
How Do I Settle an Amusement Park Accident Claim?
The settlement process for an amusement park accident depends on the type of accident you experience. You can have either a product liability, premise liability, or a slip and fall case. Regardless of the type of personal injury case, you have to follow the settlement process for amusement park accidents to improve your chances of receiving just compensation.
Receive Medical Treatment
The first step of the settlement process for amusement park accidents is to get medical care immediately. Even if you think your injuries are minor, you have to seek medical help to receive special compensatory damages. If you wait to get medical attention, an insurance adjuster and/or the judge hearing a civil lawsuit might conclude that your injuries were not serious.
Meet with a Personal Injury Lawyer
A personal injury attorney can help you file a persuasive insurance claim and a civil lawsuit. Your lawyer monitors the progress of your insurance claim, as well as acts as your intermediary when the time comes to discuss a settlement. For a negligence lawsuit against an amusement park, working with a personal injury attorney is crucial for getting the compensation you deserve. At Morgan & Morgan, we have personal injury attorneys working all over the United States. We will match you with a personal injury lawyer who specializes in your type of amusement park accident case.
Send a Demand Letter
You might be able to settle a personal injury claim before filing a civil lawsuit. Your attorney sends the other party’s legal counsel a demand letter to request compensation for your injuries. An experienced personal injury lawyer does not send the demand letter until you reach a point of medical progress called Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). MMI is the point of medical care when you no longer require treatment. At this point, your attorney should be able to calculate a reasonable figure for monetary damages.
File a Personal injury Lawsuit
Litigation starts when your personal injury attorney files a civil lawsuit. Every state has established a deadline for filing both an insurance claim and a civil lawsuit. Although each state follows different protocols, it typically takes between one and two years for a personal injury case to get to the trial phase of litigation.
Discovery is one of the most important steps of litigation for personal injury cases. Each party reviews the evidence and conducts depositions with witnesses. The point of discovery is to provide the attorneys representing both parties with enough information to determine whether they have a strong chance of winning the case at trial. Discovery is often the reason why two parties decide to negotiate a settlement to avoid costly and time-consuming civil litigation.
The goal of negotiations is to have both parties reach an agreement on what the defendant should pay in monetary damages. Sometimes, negotiations break down for a number of possible reasons. If your attorney cannot reach an agreement with the defendant’s lawyer, then the only way to avoid a trial is to mediate your claim. A mediator represents a neutral third party who attempts to find enough common ground to resolve your claim.
If mediation fails to get a resolution to your case, the next step is to take your lawsuit to the trial phase of litigation. A personal injury trial can last anywhere from one day to several months, depending on the complexity of your case. You also might experience a relatively long trial because many states schedule personal injury cases for just half a day. This practice doubles the length of a trial, but it allows judges and lawyers to take care of other legal obligations during the rest of the day.
Personal injury trials often get pushed forward to another date because of a judge’s schedule. If the judge hearing your lawsuit moves your case forward to another date, you should not assume that something unfavorable has happened to your case.
Get the Settlement You Deserve
Suffering one or more amusement park injuries can take a significant physical, mental, and emotional toll. Working with a highly skilled personal injury attorney at Morgan & Morgan improves your chances of getting the compensation you deserve.
Schedule a free case evaluation with one of our personal injury lawyers to learn more about the settlement process for amusement park accidents.