Each year as the weather turns warmer, millions of Americans will flock to water parks in hopes of beating the heat. Unfortunately, thousands of these innocent patrons will be injured as a result of a water park accident. Some will even be killed by catastrophic injuries. These terrible incidents can leave victims and their families stranded with massive medical expenses, agonizing physical injuries, and long-lasting negative emotional impacts.
Recent Serious Waterpark Accidents
Many people tend to think of waterparks as being safe. This assumption is made by many because they assume that no harm can come from splashing down into water. Unfortunately, this assumption is extremely flawed. Serious accidents can happen at waterparks and water does not provide the “cushion” that most people expect. In fact, large bodies of standing water are often one of the biggest safety risks at a park.
For example, consider the reports of an August 2016 drowning at a Washington waterpark. Here, two men agreed to jump into the park’s wave pool and meet up at the water’s edge after swimming back to shore. After the one man swam back to shore, he did not see his friend. He decided that since his friend was a weak swimmer, he must not have jumped in and went to check another riding area.
Several minutes later, a lifeguard reported that she saw a body in the pool. However, search efforts were called off after several minutes. Just moments later, reports indicate that a young girl approached another lifeguard stating that she and a friend saw a “body at the bottom of the pool.” The lifeguard apparently dismissed the girl’s concerns stating that a follow-up search would occur in 10 to 20 minutes. About 25 to 30 minutes after the first report of a body in the pool, a lifeguard on an unrelated search for a park guest’s glasses found the body of the second man who had jumped into the wave pool. Investigators were looking into how no lifeguard saw the drowning man during his or her scans of the pool and furthermore whether search and rescue efforts were unnecessarily delayed by confusion regarding emergency response protocols.
Serious Accidents Can Occur on Waterslides
Unfortunately, wave pools aren’t the only potentially deadly attraction at a water park. The summer of 2016 was also marred by the death of a young boy on the world’s tallest waterslide. The death highlights the potential unpredictability of waterslide rides. Unlike a roller coaster where you are seated in a car that follows the exact same path each and every time, a waterslide raft will meander and careen down a slide guided by each raft’s unique weight distribution.
In fact, the grisly decapitation of the ten-year-old boy on the Verrückt water slide was ruled to have been caused by the uneven weight distribution. The young boy rode in the front of the raft with two adults weighing significantly more than him arranged in the rear. Due to the significant weight imbalance, the raft went airborne during the ride causing the boy to hit his head on the ride’s support structure. It is unknown what changes to the ride the park will institute to prevent another situation of this type. However, assuring that weight is evenly distributed on the raft is a minimum starting point for modifications.
How Water Park Negligence Can Happen to You
Oftentimes, water parks and amusement parks will claim that an injury event was simply a “freak accident,” and that there were no faults with the attraction in question. However, these accidents are very rarely the result of “sheer chance” or “bad luck.” In reality, water park injuries are more frequently caused by factors like improper maintenance, lax supervision, and poor design of water park attractions. These factors can lead to drowning, submersion injuries, and unfortunately, wrongful death.
In today’s profit-focused and hyper-competitive economy, some parks may defer maintenance excessively or otherwise fail to keep their equipment in proper and safe operating condition. Parks interested in cost-cutting may also skimp on supervision,fail to properly screen new hires, or fail to adequately train staff members. In many cases, proper background checks for employees are never conducted, and park staff members are rarely given proper water safety instructions.
But it isn’t only poorly maintained rides and under-trained personnel which pose a threat to the well-being of park patrons. If the surfaces adjacent to a water park attraction are slippery and are not treated with non-skid materials, dangerous slips and falls can occur. Essentially there are many reasonable precautions that parks must take. Unfortunately, many do not and serious slip and fall accidents occur. These fall accidents can cause death or result in serious injuries, such as:
- Bone Fractures
- Skull Fractures
- Spinal Cord Injuries
- Twisted or sprained Ankle
- Chest or Heart Injuries
- Neck Injuries
- Back Injuries
- Crushing Fractures
Perhaps slip and falls are of particular concern at a waterpark due to the pools and large bodies of standing water. A guest who slips and falls into a pool can sustain significant injuries. If he or she was knocked unconscious during the fall, a severe fatal drowning risk exists.
Water Park Ride Safety Violations
Our experienced Philadelphia water park accident lawyers have litigated cases involving a wide variety of water park premises liability claims, including claims involving:
- Improper Designs
- Negligent Maintenance
- Under- and Over-filled Attractions
- Defective Water Slides
- Defective Water Park Rides
Water park rides have recommended filling levels for a reason. When a water ride is over- or under-filled, riders can travel either too rapidly, striking their heads or spinal columns against hard surfaces and side rails, or be ejected or thrown from a slide or fall from a great height. The owners and operators of water slides and water parks have an obligation to warn riders of potential risks involved, and any failure to do so may be considered to be an unreasonable and unsafe exposure to harm.
Even seemingly harmless wave pools can be dangerous to patrons when they are not properly regulated and maintained. Water park wave pools are frequently packed to capacity, making it difficult for the limited (and sometimes insufficient) number of lifeguards on duty to be able to see and adequately supervise all of the swimmers.
While swimming pools are supposed to follow the 2007 Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act, many are out of compliance. This act was designed to prevent the tragic and hidden hazard of drain entrapments in swimming pools, including water park wave pools. Unfortunately, many park owners have no idea what the Act is — or knowingly fail to comply.
The practical result of this is unsafe pool drains. Many times an inexperienced swimmer will be pulled down to the deeper water from the suction of the wave pool, where he or she may tragically drown or suffer serious internal injuries due to crushing or the suction force of a pool’s drain. To make matters worse, public swimming pools and water park attractions are often improperly cleaned, making it difficult for guards to see below the surface.
Reiff & Bily: Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyer
The Pennsylvania amusement park and water park accident lawyers of Reiff & Bily have litigated swimming pool, drowning, and water park accident cases for more than 35 years. We have investigated and litigated numerous water park accidents, including:
- Falls from water rides.
- Water ride entrapment.
- Back and vertebrae crush fractures due to water slide malfunction.
- Crashes and abrupt stopping due to poor design and inadequate water flow.
- Unsafe entrances or exits from rides.
- Slips and falls on wet surfaces near park rides.
- Broken bones resulting from improper crowd or personnel control.
- Improper passenger stacking and crowd control.
- Closed head trauma.
- Drowning and submersion accidents.
If you or a loved one has been hurt by a water park or swimming pool accident, don’t trust the park or pool operator to do the right thing. Most amusement park and water park operators have powerful legal defense teams on their side. Insurance representatives and claims adjusters work to save their insurance company money and do not work in the best interests of accident victims. For this reason, it is very important for accident victims not to sign any papers or agreements without consulting an experienced Pennsylvania accident lawyer first.
The attorneys of Reiff & Bily have been representing water park injury victims and the families of wrongful death victims since 1979. Call our law offices at (215) 274-0072, or contact us online today.