The roar of the roller coasters… the smell of the popcorn and cotton candy and the sounds of screams billowing from the rides. Sounds like these coming from amusement parks have long given residents of Ontario great joy and tons of family memories.
Amusement parks have been a great family pastime for years. However, not every trip to the amusement park is always a true “picnic” as the case might be. In fact, sometimes amusement park accidents result in very serious injuries or even deaths. In the unfortunate instance of an amusement park injury or accident, a host of legal issues arise, such as:
- What was the cause of the injury?
- Who is legally responsible for the injury?
- How can someone be compensated for injuries suffered due to an amusement park accident?
- What is the process to have an injury compensated?
This article is designed to help injured parties navigate issues of injury and liability in the event of an amusement park accident. While not every case is the same, this general information should help most injured parties and their families have a roadmap of the process which should be followed.
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Types of accidents and equipment failures
Amusement parks offer the potential for many various types of accidents or equipment failures that can lead to serious injuries or death. There are many types of potential problems that can be the cause of accidents in amusement parks because of the number of moving parts involved in rides. Among the types of failures are the following:
- Structural failure of a ride
- An unsafe exit or entrance related to a ride
- Malfunctioning safety bars or safety belts
- Persons who are riding incorrectly sized rides or with safety harnesses that are not the right size (For example, children riding adult rides which they are not tall enough to ride or adults riding on children’s rides)
Factors that contribute to amusement park accidents
In addition to the long list of items that can go wrong with amusement park rides, there are also many factors which can cause or contribute to amusement park accidents and injuries, including but not limited to the following:
This is a large factor that often contributes to accidents or injuries that occur. For example, if the operator of a ride stops or starts a ride abruptly, that can lead to injuries or accidents. Another frequent operator behavior that contributes to accidents and injuries in amusement parks is the failure to properly maintain rides. Finally, sometimes rides that are not fixed position rides are not assembled properly and this is very often a cause of serious accidents and injuries in amusement parks.
Amusement park rides very often have mechanical failures such as structural problems including weak joint or welds, missing safety pins and lap bars or safety belts that are not in good working order. Depending on how diligent the operator of the amusement park or rides is at ensuring that equipment is inspected regularly, this particular category presents a huge risk for consumers. Often the persons operating and maintaining rides do not have sufficient training or expertise to truly ensure that rides are properly and safely maintained.
Another very frequent cause of amusement park injuries is the conduct of the riders themselves. Rules concerning buckling safety belts, not standing up on rides and keeping hands and arms inside the ride are very often ignored by riders. Riders even sometimes engage in other horseplay or silly conduct that they may deem “funny”. Sometimes this conduct is what results in accidents and injuries in amusement park settings.
It is not unusual for an amusement park accident and/or injury to be a combination of all of these factors. This can sometimes make sorting out the liability issues a difficult task for injured parties.
Who is legally responsible for amusement park injuries?
If you are injured in an amusement park accident, the first step in figuring out how to have your injuries compensated is determining whether there was negligent behavior by the owner or operator of the amusement park which contributed to the cause of the injuries. Negligence is essentially the failure to exercise reasonable care. If proof of negligence can be shown, then an injury may be compensable assuming that there is a connection between the negligence and the injuries that occurred.
In the amusement park setting, there are a number of areas where negligence might occur. Some of those are mentioned above such as a failure to adequately maintain the rides, the operator’s conduct in operating the rides and similar issues. There are probably also greater risks of negligence for operators of rides that are mobile amusement parks which are moved from place to place. Issues of transportation and assembly of rides can lead to greater areas of potential negligence and also greater risk of injury to consumers.
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Product liability claims at amusement parks
In addition to the claims mentioned above, it may be possible to bring a claim for products liability against the manufacturer or designer of the rides if defective design is a potential cause for your injuries. These types of claims are rather complex and would require consultation with a products liability attorney at the earliest opportunity possible.
What should you do if you face an amusement park injury?
First and foremost, if you are injured in an amusement park accident, seek necessary medical attention so that your injury and potentially its causes are promptly documented.
Second, once you have received proper medical attention, it may be best to contact an attorney of your choosing so that you can properly notify any insurance companies involved and start the process rolling on a timely basis. An attorney’s help will be needed to get the process of litigation rolling on your behalf.
It is important to take prompt action to have your injuries compensated so that you do not lose your legal rights due to the expiration of a statute of limitations.
It is also a good idea to document in writing your recollection of the series of events leading to your injury, potential witnesses and anything else pertinent that you recall so that if you do need to pursue a claim for injuries you have some of the most pertinent documentation available to you.