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Roller Coaster Accident Injuries and Amusement Park Safety

Theme parks like Disneyland and Six Flags are among America's favorite pastimes. Millions of people visit amusement parks and ride roller coasters without incident. But each year, thousands are injured during such visits. Tragically, some visitors never leave an amusement park or water park alive.

This article explains the various hazards that can lead to amusement park accidents. It discusses the types of injuries that may occur on roller coasters and other amusement park rides. It also reviews legal rights regarding premises liability, an area of the law concerned with dangerous property conditions. See FindLaw's Torts and Personal Injuries section for additional articles and resources.

Types of Roller Coaster Accidents and Amusement Park Injuries

Many types of amusement park injuries can result from roller coaster accidents. Parkgoers may get stuck on rides like Ferris wheels. Swinging and spinning rides can also malfunction after mechanical failures. In addition, people can be injured on water rides, on waterslides, and in wave pools. That includes "lazy river" rides that use inflatable devices.

Head, neck, and back injuries are the most commonly reported amusement park injuries. Parkgoers can also suffer serious go-kart and bumper-car injuries involving crashes with other riders. Water parks and amusement parks with water rides increase the risks for waterslide injuries and wave pool drowning deaths.

One study for the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) revealed thousands of injuries in the six-year period from 1997 to 2003. Many nonoccupational injuries on mobile amusement rides led to emergency room visits. The CPSC also reported 55 deaths associated with fixed-site or mobile amusement rides from 1987 to 2001.

Serious injuries associated with amusement parks can include:

  • Deadly falls
  • Carotid artery dissection and stroke (tears to the major artery in the neck)
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Brain aneurysms
  • Paralysis
  • Drowning
  • Inflatable ride injuries
  • Lacerations
  • Broken bones and torn ligaments
  • Emotional injuries

This is not an exhaustive list. Sometimes an injury can take weeks or months to be discovered. That may be as simple as a back injury or as complicated as internal bleeding. If you suspect you might have suffered injuries on a ride, see a doctor as soon as possible.

Roller Coaster Accident Dangers and Liability

Like any business, amusement parks have the potential to operate defective equipment. Doors, lap bars, seat belts, and shoulder harnesses restraining riders can malfunction or cause whiplash. Ride manufacturers may be liable for defects in manufacturing or defects in design. If a defective product or design defect on a ride is to blame, victims may file product liability claims. Ride manufacturers can also be liable for failing to place proper warning signs on their rides.

Ride operators, park employees, and amusement park owners alike may have responsibility for accidents. Employees operating amusement park rides and working at water parks can become distracted. They may fail to:

  • Perform their assigned job duties
  • Safely operate a ride
  • Perform routine safety checks
  • Properly supervise colleagues responsible for ride safety
  • Use a reasonable standard of care on the job

In general, theme park operators have a duty to prevent foreseeable harm to parkgoers. A duty of care violation can harm theme park guests. The ensuing safety issues can amount to a negligence claim. When someone's negligence results in fatalities, the victims' families can even claim wrongful death.

If an operator's negligence has resulted in injuries or death to you or a loved one, be proactive. You might have to take action on your own. Some states like Florida do not require theme parks to report injuries unless:

  • They involve fatalities
  • An injured rider is immediately hospitalized for at least 24 hours and for more than just observation by medical personnel

Regardless of whether the injuries are reported, you should gather evidence in case you're a victim. Proof from videos, photographs, and witnesses can be important if you decide to file a personal injury lawsuit later.

Medical Treatment for Roller Coaster Accidents and Amusement Park Injuries

Long-term treatment and physical therapy for amusement park and water park injury victims may be an important part of any recovery. Dealing with radical life changes can be harrowing. That includes:

  • New limitations on mobility
  • Brain injury
  • Paralysis
  • Limb amputation
  • Scarring or disfigurement

Physical injury is only one aspect of amusement park-related trauma. The mental traumas that ride victims can experience may be just as great. Such trauma or disability may require extended, even lifelong treatment.

Your Legal Rights

While some states regulate amusement park rides, there is no federal law on amusement park safety as of 2023. Though the federal Consumer Product Safety Act touches on the safety of portable carnival rides and other mobile attractions, it is largely city and state governments that directly regulate park rides.

Victims of theme park injuries may be entitled to compensation. They may recover money for medical bills, pain and suffering damages, and even time lost from work. In cases where a theme park acts with reckless disregard for the safety of its guests, punitive damages are also available to punish wrongdoers. Even if a park operator made you sign disclaimers or waivers regarding potential accident injuries, you may still have a viable personal injury claim.

See FindLaw's Damage Estimate Worksheet to calculate the damages for your injuries.

Were You Injured on a Roller Coaster? An Injury Attorney Can Help

If you've been injured at an amusement park, you should get legal advice from an experienced accident attorney. A personal injury case involves back-and-forth fights with insurance companies. Personal injury law is stressful. Like a car accident, a roller coaster injury can be traumatic. An accident lawyer can help you consider your legal options with greater ease.

Personal injury lawsuits involving theme parks can be complicated, but having a lawyer increases your chances for a favorable verdict. This catalog of personal injury attorneys contains phone numbers for experienced experts in your locality. Contact a personal injury lawyer today to discuss your case.

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