Spending the day at a local amusement park such as Carowinds is undoubtedly an exciting venture intended for the whole family to have fun. Amusement parks are exceptionally marketed as places where everyone can expect to have a good time. Patrons of the park never enter anticipating danger or injury to take place. Unfortunately, because of a variety of factors, amusement park injuries can happen.
Large fixed amusement parks such as Carowinds rarely see these injuries occur, but mobile amusement parks such as traveling carnivals and fairs do see a more significant occurrence of injuries. Mobile amusement parks do not get the same amount of safety oversight as fixed parks because they are constantly changing locations, making it more difficult for officials to properly inspect equipment. Visitors to traveling carnivals are more prone to find themselves on faulty or poorly maintained equipment because of the lack of consistent inspections. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission discovered over a six-year study that over 3,000 individuals were forced to seek medical attention because of injuries sustained at mobile carnivals or fairs. The study found an extensive range of injuries occurred from death and paralysis down to cuts and bruises.
While mobile amusement parks have a bad reputation, there are several leading contributors to amusement park injuries and fatalities that are present at all parks. The actions of patrons can be one of the leading causes of injuries. Passengers can either misuse or fail to follow instructions intended to keep them safe. For example, a passenger who stands up mid-ride unlatches safety restraints, or even sit improperly are putting themselves and other riders in danger. Passengers on rides can also become injured because of the inherent nature of the ride itself. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission riders have reported cases of a cerebral hemorrhage, loss of consciousness, headache, and dizziness all associated with the rapid spinning that takes place on some amusement park rides.
Passenger can follow all safety instructions, avoid rides with an inherent nature of danger, and still become injured due to mechanical failure of the ride. Injuries incurred because of structural or design defects in the ride may give rise to defective product liability claims against the manufacturer of the ride, or maker of the defective part rather than against the amusement park itself. In defective product, liability claims the attorney for the injured party must prove that the structure, equipment, or part was flawed and that the defect specifically caused injury or death or the victim.
There are three different classifications for defective product liability claims. Products can be defectively manufactured because of an error in making it. The manufactures of amusement park equipment can found to be liable in the cases of the cracks in a chain on a swing ride, for instance. In every claim based on defectively manufacture products, the injury must be directly caused by the defect. It is also possible for products to be defectively designed. There may be a mishap in the manufactures specifications causing the product to be inherently dangerous or defective. In this instance, it does not matter if the product was perfectly made; it will be defective because of a flaw in the design.
Finally, there can be a failure to provide adequate warnings or instructions for the use of the product. This type of claim is extremely uncommon in amusement park injuries because the injured parties are not typically in charge of operating the products that cause the injury. It is reasonable for guests at amusement parks to assume that all products are up to state-regulated code and safe for operation.
There are where circumstances where all rides are safe for amusement park operation, and injuries still occur. If the improper operation of a ride, carelessness, or inattention from an employee leads to guests sustaining injuries, there is most likely a legal claim for negligence. It is the most likely scenario that an employee of the park acted negligently causing injuries to occur. The party perusing a lawsuit may sue the park for the actions of the employee because the amusement park is responsible for the actions of its employees. Employees can be negligent by affirmatively doing something or failing to do something. The employee who improperly operates a ride or provides incorrect instructions to riders is acting with negligence. The park can also be found negligent by failing to properly train the operators of said rides. The park also has a duty to regularly inspect their rides, keep equipment in safe condition, and properly post signs. Parks who do not display signs that adequately warn riders of risks involved with certain rides, or warn patrons with certain medical conditions about the dangers of particular rides are open to being found negligent.
Amusement parks that find themselves facing a lawsuit have defenses so they will not be held legally liable for the injuries. There is an assumption of risk with certain rides at any amusement park. Riders who complain of dizziness after riding on a ride with extreme spinning most likely assumed the risk when they got on the ride. Assumption of risk is not a blanket defense that can be employed against anyone who knowingly gets on a ride. The rider does not assume the risk of loose screws, poorly trained employees, or improper inspections of the rides they are partaking in. The park may also assert that riders were not compliant with safety rules. Riders who disregard posted signs, warnings, or instructions make the circumstances such that a park will not most likely not be found negligent.
Amusement parks are intrinsically designed to enjoyable. Product defects and negligence on the part of the park can have serious, even fatal ramifications. Patrons who properly adhere to all rules, and obey all warning signs may be able to recover damages. Customers can recover damages in the way of lost wage, medical bills, pain and suffering and in some instances punitive damages if it can be proved that the actions or failed actions by the park or their employees caused the damages to occur.
The NC Department of Labor is charged with the oversight and inspection of amusement devises in NC. Before operation, these rides are required to be inspected. Failure to do so can result in civil penalties and expose the operator to liability.
If you or a loved one was injured at an amusement park please contact us. You will speak with a personal injury lawyer who can discuss your options. There is no fee for an initial consultation.