Amusement parks, such as Dorney Park, Six Flags Great Adventure, Morey’s Pier, Hershey Park, Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, Gillian’s Island Water Park and quasi-amusement parks such as hayrides, water parks and carnivals are a favorite and often unknowingly dangerous form of entertainment for families and young people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Amusement park operators, hayride operators, and carnival owners are always advertising the newest thrill ride or adventure to increase popularity and revenue. Fortunately, many of the new “thrill rides” are not safe and cause many catastrophic injuries and fatalities including broken bones, broken noses, broken legs, whiplash, brain hemorrhages, paralysis and even death. Because of the high number of claims, amusement park owners aggressively fight claims for catastrophic injuries and death.
Unbelievably, I have witnessed several catastrophic amusement park accidents and had a close call at an Ocean City, NJ amusement facility a few summers back when two people were killed as a result of an amusement ride malfunction just after I had taken my own children and nephews on the very same ride no more than 15 minutes earlier. Two cars of a roller coaster smashed into each other, causing the passengers to be ejected from the ride. The ride was brand new and inspected several times prior to the incident, yet the ride still malfunctioned. More information about this incident can be found in this news article.
I was at one time a “Peter Pan” who never wanted to grow up and a thrill seeker of the worst kind, enjoying the biggest and scariest of the roller coasters worldwide. Now, after reviewing and handling a number of amusement park cases, I have become cautious and stalwart of public safety when it comes to thrill rides and their proper and safe maintenance.
Most amusement parks, hayride operators and carnival operators will not settle a claim unless a lawsuit is filed. Many times an amusement park owner or representative will try to settle a claim as cheap as possible. Never sign or say anything without contacting an attorney first. The first offer will not likely cover ongoing medical needs and future losses. The Consumer Protection Safety Commission estimates that the number of serious injuries on an amusement park ride have risen dramatically. There is a serious loophole in the Consumer Product Safety Act of 1981 which prohibits the CPSC from regulating the safety of rides that are fixed to a specific site (CPSC 2005 update.) Regulation and inspection of “fixed site” amusement rides are left up to state or local municipalities and as a result every site varies from good to none. There is no official source which keeps a complete record of amusement park accidents.
Several factors may indicate fault and liability in amusement park accidents:
- operator behavior
- mechanical failure
- design defects or limitations
- inadequate security
- failure to post proper warnings
- uninspected damage
- improper repairs
- metallurgical or component failure
- improper operation
- improper training of operator
- lack of or improper maintenance procedures
- improper repairs
- loose cables
- rusted belts
- improper belting/security
- lack of safety harness
- failure of safety lock
- sharp and protruding parts
- improper height or weight restrictions
- abrupt starts and stops
- failure to load and unload in a safe and proper manner
- improper assembly
- exposed electrical wires
- malfunctioning lap bars
- broken welds
- failure to shut off
- abrupt seizure of mechanism
- engineering design defects
- structural flaws
- intentional rocking
- improper installation
- unsecured areas of danger near electrical and mechanical equipment
- lack of engineering equipment
- failure of emergency stop
- corrosion of parts
- poor lighting
- electrical shorts/failures
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission surveys a small sample of hospitals to collect information about product injuries including those at amusement parks. However, interestingly enough, this survey does not include incidents from the nation’s most popular theme parks including Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando. A report from the CPSC dated September 7, 2005 revealed that there were 3,400 reported accidents at amusement parks in 2004. The CPSC report also provides an overview of what states are doing or not doing to inspect amusement park rides and accidents. Some sources indicate that the real number of injuries and deaths is much higher, exceeding 11,000 injuries per year and increasing.
- Approximately 51% of all injuries occur to children, especially between 10 to 14 years old (17.9%)
- Females (61%) are injured 1.5 times more often than males (39%) irrespective of age and size.
Over 270,000,000 people visit amusement parks each year in the United States. Accident data for most amusement parks is particularly a well guarded secret. When lawsuits are filed, many times strict confidential settlements are requested. Not so surprisingly Florida’s theme parks, which account for 20% of all U.S. amusement park business, are exempt from state regulatory laws. The amusement park industry is highly unregulated and there is not a uniform system for reporting injuries – creating a serious danger that parks police their own accidents. This means that innocent consumers are often left in the dark about which amusement park is safe to visit and which rides are safe for their families. This creates real dangers for families and their precious small children.
Unfortunately, with a downturn in the economy, many theme parks have cut corners on safety and no longer staff the load and unload positions of rides. Many times high school or college students working on a temporary basis are entrusted to operate these rides with minimal training. Often vehicles stop short of the platform or do not stop completely before the unloading process is finished. Many times your ride operators are simply not paying proper attention to the precious cargo on the ride.
Amusement parks, quasi-amusement parks, carnival and hayride injuries often involve many complex theories of law requiring experience and technical expertise. There is most likely a combination ofproduct liability, negligence and premises liability law to be explored and prosecuted against the wrongdoer. If you or a family member has suffered a catastrophic injury or fatality at an amusement park, water park or hayride, it is important that you contact an experienced amusement park lawyer to investigate the defective product and premise liability issues to determine if you have a case and who is responsible.
Contact a Skilled Pennsylvania Amusement Park Lawyer Today!
The accomplished Philadelphia hayride injury attorneys at Reiff & Bily have successfully represented thousands of personal injury clients for catastrophic injuries since 1979, recovering hundreds of millions of dollars in damages. Our aggressive legal team will bring the wrongdoers to justice and achieve the best results for you and your family. If you have been injured at an amusement park or on a hayride, please contact Reiff & Bily immediately at (800) 421-9595 so that we can begin protecting your legal rights.