An amusement park accident or theme park accident is scary. The rides at these parks are exciting and sometimes dangerous. However it is the danger element that causes concern. That danger element must be addressed.
Leading causes of amusement park accidents and injuries include:
Injury claims from amusement park accidents call on different areas of law. For example, you must look at product defect issues. Is the machine flawed? There are premises issues. That is, does the the premises itself create a danger? General injury law also applies. That is, are there tort law breaches that you must look at? These must all be looked at to make a strong claim.
The U.S. government does not control these high profit businesses. They run amusement parks, theme parks and other amusement forums. In 1981 the U.S. stopped regulating the amusement park industry. As such there are no required U.S. standards. This gap in rules creates the “roller coaster loophole”. That loophole is a gap in the law. As a result of the U.S. stepping aside, the states control. State rules differ from state to state. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission does have some limited oversight. The focus is on the word “limited”. The Consumer Product Safety Act requires a ride maker, owner or operator to notify the CPSC if it has facts that a portable amusement ride creates an unreasonable risk of serious injury or death. That rule is more often than not ignored.
The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) has published certain standards for amusement parks. These standards provide guidance for amusement rides.
The American National Standards Institute also prints standards. These are for aerial passenger type of rides. These standards, however, are not binding.
Owners do not have comply with these standards.
Low wage workers operate the rides at many of the parks. These low wage workers may be unqualified and untrained. This may be the basis to support a negligent hiring or training claim.
The plaintiff should allege that the amusement park is held to the high duty of a common carrier. With this claim the injured person must only prove slight fault.
In terms of potential expert witnesses you should consider the service of a bio-mechanical engineer. This type or similar expert will analyze the forces on the human body in regards to this ride. In addition, consider hiring an industry expert to prove the standard of care for the use and maintenance of the ride. The National Association of Amusement Ride Safety Officials certifies these types of experts at three (3) basic levels.
You must gather all related state and local inspection reports. This must include any police or fire department reports. Also you must do a thorough search of the history of the ride.
You must notify the amusement company promptly of the injury and/or claim before the ride or device is altered in any way.
This may prevent loss of data. That is always an issue. There may be videos of the equipment and the event. It is important to get a letter out to the owner and operator to retain all such items. These loss of proof letters must be sent out promptly. Also they should be strongly worded.
Contact should be made with groups such as www.saferparks.org, state agencies and the CPSC to obtain any records of events involving these amusement rides.
Contact the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, a trade group. It is a source for amusement park safety data.
Most amusement park injuries that involve rides occur either as a result of some machine failure of the ride or some conduct by the rider. The action by the rider may be “stepping” out of the “zone of safety”. This is also called the “ride safety envelope”. That zone is the area around the ride that should be protected. This prevents entry by foreign objects. It must be such size that the rider cannot contact any object outside of that zone by either extending a limb or standing up. This zone of safety likewise prevents other persons from coming in contact with the ride.
Any such entry by a person or object or behavior by the rider as referred to above should result in the ride stopping at once.
The zone of safety also protects the rider through gates with sensors that prevent any entry.
Any object that might intrude into the zone of safety is to be secured in such fashion that it cannot fail. For instance, objects such as trees or ornaments in this zone of safety must be well secured so that they can never invade the zone. This would likewise apply to any plants growing near the zone of safety.
Machine defects in the ride will appear in a failure to stop. They may also appear in the ride moving in some odd fashion. Finding these types of defects is simply a matter of proper machine repair and service. Daily checks and regular review of the track system are all required to prevent these.
The likely paries to be sued in an amusement park injury case are the owners and operators of the park, the makers or designers of the ride equipment or the inspectors of the ride. You must also look at the distributors and/or suppliers of the ride as parties.
The theories for suit are negligence and breach of warranty. The negligence is the failure to warn, failure to maintain and failure to hire, retain, train or supervise worthy employees. The failure to warn arises where there is a danger known to the operator that is not open to the user. Failure to maintain exists where there is machine failure. The negligence dealing with the workers is based on hiring low skill people. Once hired the employer must train and supervise the workers. These people oversee the machines. They must do so with care.
In addition a breach of warranty claim is in the purchase of the ticket for entry. Such ticket creates an implied contract that the rides are fit for their intended purpose.
For more info on amusement parks see the pages on Wikipedia.
Call or contact us using the form on this page today for a free consult regarding your amusement park injury. Brien Roche is a Fairfax area premises liability attorney and will help with your legal claims.