News Room

How Safe are Amusement Park Rides?

Written on behalf of Brian Kabateck

May 11, 2018

America’s amusement parks are huge attractions, drawing tourists from around the world, especially during the spring and summer months. While many people have happy childhood memories of going to theme parks, there are thousands of children injured each year due to poorly maintained or dangerously designed roller coasters, water slides and spinning rides.

Several high-profile injuries and deaths at amusement parks has put a spotlight on ride safety. In July 2017, a ride at the Ohio State Fair malfunctioned, killing one man and sending at least seven others to the hospital. In August of 2016, a 10-year-old boy was decapitated while riding the world’s tallest water slide, the Verrückt slide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark in Kansas City, Kansas. Currently, there are no federal regulations for investigating the rides at water parks and amusement parks. Mobile rides, like those found at circuses and traveling carnivals, can be inspected by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, but theme parks with permanent rides like roller coasters and water slides are exempt from federal oversight. All theme parks with permanent rides, however, must disclose ride-related injuries that require immediate hospital stays.

Some of the most common injuries are head, neck, and back injuries, which result from being whipped around on roller coasters, spinning rides, or rides that travel at high velocity. In some cases, lacerations, broken bones, and torn ligaments can occur. In more severe scenarios, amusement park and water park accidents have caused traumatic brain injuries, ruptured brain aneurysms, drowning, and death.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) there are several ways that injuries can occur. Mechanical failure can happen when the lap bar detaches mid-ride, a roller coaster car detaches, or a ride component breaks. Mechanical failure could be caused by a manufacturing defect or the park’s failure to maintain the ride. Operator error is another way injuries occur. For example, if the operator abruptly stops the ride or incorrectly latches a seatbelt, a person may sustain physical injuries, or worse, be ejected from the ride. Another common cause of injury is when a passenger misuses or fails to follow the operator’s instructions. An example of this can be when a rider intentionally rocks a car, stands up mid-ride, unlatches safety restraints, sits improperly, or holds a child above the safety restraint. Even without any mechanical defect, operation error, or rider misuse, an amusement park ride may still cause an injury simply because of the nature of the ride itself. For example, according to the CPSC, consumers have reported cases of cerebral and retinal hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, loss of consciousness, headache, and dizziness associated with the extremely rapid spinning of some amusement park rides.

Amusement parks are responsible for giving their customers a safe environment. An amusement park can be found liable for injuries to their customers in a few ways. If a park failed to act with reasonable care, such as failing to maintain or inspect a piece of equipment, and that failure causes injury, the park could be found liable for negligence. Other examples of negligence include: failure to give proper instructions to rider, not providing appropriate warning signs, or operating a ride incorrectly. Furthermore, amusement parks are typically responsible for their employees’ actions. If an amusement park improperly trains employees and that failure results in an injury, there could be grounds for a negligence claim against the park

If you or a loved one has experienced a catastrophic injury due to an amusement park ride, please call one of our experienced personal injury attorneys at Kabateck LLP today for a free consultation.