Injuries Put Amusement Park Safety in the Limelight

A recent rash of troubling injuries involving amusement and carnival-type rides has brought the dangers of this kind of recreation into the public eye. In many cases, it appears that there may be some liability by the operators of these parks or rides. These tragic events allow us a real-life glimpse into what can happen if due care is not taken at amusement parks.

When we use the term amusement park, we are talking about both larger, fixed-location parks, like Disney World, as well as local carnivals that break down and travel. We also are talking about water parks that offer thrill-type rides.

Injuries Becoming Common

Just in the last few weeks, there have been a spate of injuries and tragedies at amusement parks. Most notably, 10-year old Caleb Schwab died while on a waterslide in a Kansas amusement park. But there have been other accidents, as well. In Tennessee last week, three girls were injured when they were ejected from a Ferris wheel. In May, a girl’s scalp was ripped off when it was caught in a ride’s moving parts.

Although these rides often compete with one another to be faster, higher, or more exciting, there is in fact very little legal oversight of amusement parks, and no federal agency that enforces safety laws in the parks. There is also a lack of recordkeeping which would allow regulators to track exactly how many tragedies occur.

States Regulate Themselves

Many states, including Kansas, where Schwab was killed, allow parks to regulate themselves, so long as they do so with licensed inspectors.

Maryland does conduct inspections of amusement park rides, and a park cannot operate without a certificate of inspection. Rides must be inspected annually. Maryland also requires operators to keep records of accidents and injuries.

However, like many states, there are little hard and fast laws in Maryland about exact safety measures required at amusement parks, such as required ages or heights of passengers, the number of ride attendees that must monitor them, or the sizes or strengths of harnesses or seats.

Certainly, in situations where an amusement park rides’ harnesses fail, or where a ride is improperly maintained, or where there is lack of training or supervision by the employees monitoring the ride, there is likely to be liability when an injury occurs to amusement park riders.

Liability May Be a Jury Question

Ultimately, with the lack specific legal standards, the question of what kinds of safety measures are reasonable are often case-specific, and determined by a jury when an injury case is brought. In many cases, expert testimony may also be needed.

Maryland law also says that those who purchase tickets do not assume the risk of injury on amusement park rides. But that does not mean that a park can not blame a rider for contributing to their own injuries by failing to observe safety measures. Riders should always take precaution for their own safety when on amusement park rides to avoid injury and to avoid having any blame pinned on them later on.

If you have been injured at a carnival, amusement park or waterpark, make sure the park has used reasonable care in the operation of its rides. Contact the injury and accident attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss the handling of your case.