Part of the fun of an amusement park is knowing a ride will be scary, but ultimately the rider will be safe. The exhilaration and the fear of the ride itself often override the rational part of people when the ride is in motion, but without a basic assurance of safety, no person would ride a roller coaster. The statistics would seem to bear that out. According to a 2016 report by CNN, a person is 20 times more likely to be hit by lightning than injured in an amusement park ride. The statistics are small consolation, however, to the 1,146 people seriously injured in ride-related injuries in 2014.
The dangers of amusement parks are obvious. Machines are created for thrill seekers, to intentionally scare them. They are created with safety in mind, but the potential in machines meant to scare is very real: fixed machines repeating motions several times in the course of a day, a month, a year – even the best-built machines break down over time, and human error in any given environment is inevitable. On top of that, regulation at times can be irregular at best. Because of a ruling in the early 1980s, the federal government leaves regulation of rides up to the states (at least fixed rides; rides for mobile carnivals and fairs are federally regulated). However, of the 50 states, only 44 actually provide regulations – six don’t, according to the report: Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, Wyoming and Utah do not.
Overall Economic Impact
Overall, there are 405 amusement parks, including water parks, zoos, aquariums and science centers, in the U.S. Just counting amusement parks, there are 24 in California alone with most within an easy drive of Orange County, including one of the most popular in the world, Disneyland, which is less than an hour away in Anaheim. And they represent big money: CNN reports in 2011, theme, amusement and water parks “created a total direct economic impact of $55.4 million dollars.” As a result, it makes sense that it is in local governments’ best interest to keep them open.
A report from the Federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (FCPSC) as reported by NOLO states that in 2006 roughly 8,800 people were reported injured on amusement park rides, based on ER visits and excluding injuries that were not serious enough to report; 3,600 people were injured on inflatable rides and 3,100 were injured on public water slides. Children between 10-14 years of age made up 17.9 percent of reported injuries and were the victims in three-quarters of the accidents in which a rider fell or were ejected from a ride.
From 1987 to 2000, 51 people were killed on amusement park rides. The biggest culprits were roller coasters (16 deaths) and whirling rides (11 deaths). There have been at least 1,000 injuries a year since 2001.
Most Common Accidents
According to NOLO, the most common accidents include:
- Head, neck, and back injuries from bumper car rides or from being whipped around on spinning rides and roller coasters
- Death as a result of falling or being thrown from a ride
- Stroke from trauma to ligaments in the neck
- Traumatic brain injury from G-forces and stresses imposed on the brain by extremely rapid speeds or from detached objects hitting the rider’s head
- Brain aneurysms from roller coasters or other fast rides
- Lacerations, broken bones, and torn ligaments, and
- Drowning on water slides, “lazy river” rides, or other water rides.
Most Common Causes for Accidents
NOLO reports the most common causes include:
- Mechanical failure of the ride
- Improper operation of the ride
- Passenger misuse or failure to follow instructions
- Inherent nature of the ride.
Amusement parks, for the most part, are relatively safe considering the nature of the business. However, despite the best efforts of most people involved, accidents do occur. When the rides are not properly maintained, a breakdown can cause a serious accident. If safety measures are not in place and strictly followed or ride operators are negligent, people out for a good time can end up with broken bones, brain injuries, or worse.
If you have been involved in an amusement park accident, you should first make sure your medical needs are met. But it is also vital to obtain legal representation as soon as possible in order to file a personal injury claim. You may be entitled to medical expenses, compensation for pain and suffering, loss of income, and more.
Neale & Fhima practice personal injury law in Orange County and Southern California. If you have been injured as a result of an accident at an amusement park, contact us for a free consultation to evaluate your claim.