Amusement parks are so much fun, I remember when I was a little kid I was so afraid of everything, roller coasters, the teacup rides, trick mirrors, and, of course, clowns. The amusement park and local fairs were, and still are, a child’s paradise, but it can also be a place of danger…
However, with all the fun, sometimes we do not realize the dangers that lurk around every corner. Amusement park rides injure thousands of people each year. Rides such as roller coasters, water slides, bumper cars, and yes, even the teacup ride (spinning rides) cause thousands of injuries each year. Some rides can even cause life-threatening injuries such as amputations, broken bones, and even death. Injuries can be caused by the rides themselves (malfunctions) to the actual design of the rides, or from visitors and riders failing to follow the rules, or worse, failures of the employees at the park. It is for these reasons amusement parks and local fairs must take every precaution to protect visitors and patrons from avoidable and catastrophic injuries.
People injured at an amusement park or local festivals or fairs can bring negligence claims against the park and the operators, their employees, and in some cases against the manufacturer of the ride (product liability case) or both. As an example, in 2016 a young boy was decapitated on a water park ride. The designer, who also happened to co-own the water park, the head of the construction company that built the ride, and the park’s director of operation, who knew about previous failures and mishaps of the ride were all indicated.
The attorneys at Shiner Law Group discuss common amusement park accidents, leading causes of injuries, government safety regulation, and the most common legal claims and defenses in amusement park lawsuits below. Specifically, the lawyers at Shiner Law Group have even been consulted by major news outlets and solicited for their experiences regarding injuries that occur at these amusement parks and festivals.
Amusement Park Accidents Happen More Than You Think
In a 2018 NY Times article, it was estimated that there were approximately 30,000 amusement park injuries each year which required emergency treatment. However, due to the lobbying efforts by the massive and powerful amusement park industry (aka Disney, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens, etc.) in the 1980s, parks have been provided some “political” shielding from federal oversight by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (“CPSC”). And, generally, festivals, amusement parks, and fairs are regulated by state regulations, so safety standards will vary from State to State. In fact, the Amusement Park industry estimates that there is a 1 in 17 million chance of injury at “fixed-site” parks, so real statistics of injuries sustained at parks is difficult to determine. What’s more, the typical “local fair” that involves rides that are typically moved from one location to another weekly have a much higher chance of someone being injured because not only are those rides frequently “put up, and broken down” but the inspections and people putting the rides up is usually not done, in our opinion, with the same care as “fixed” rides at major amusement parks.
Common Amusement Park Injuries!
The personal injury attorneys at the Shiner Law Group came together to discuss the most common injuries they have seen in amusement park injury cases, the following is their list:
- Death from falling or being thrown from a ride because of not being properly secured or faulty equipment;
- Slips, Trips and falls (uneven walking paths, stairs leading up to our from the rides etc.). This is especially true at festivals and fairs where the rides and entertainment is placed in open fields and on temporary site locations;
- Broken bones, sprains, torn ligaments, etc.;
- Cuts, scrapes, and lacerations from broken pieces of equipment or poorly set up buildings, rides, etc.;
- Whiplash (from being thrown from side to side on some rides);
- Head, neck and back injuries (from bumper car and roller coasters);
- Traumatic brain injury from the force of the rides (rapid increases of speeds and rapid decreases of speeds and sudden stops);
- Brain aneurysms (fast and sudden rides such as roller coasters); and
- Stroke from traumas to the neck and spine.
Common Causes of Amusement Park Injuries
Based on the observations of the lawyers at Shiner Law Group we have compiled a list of some of the common causes of the injuries sustained while at an amusement park:
- Improper Design of the Ride – design flaws that were not corrected at the time of the design phase
- Construction Flaws – during the construction of the ride, the construction company, employees or inspectors failed to follow the design schematics.
- Mechanical Failures – track issues, conveyor belt failures, lap bar secure issues, detachments (failure of the coupling mechanisms) structural component failures.
- Operational Failures – break failures, too many people loaded on, too heavy to operate.
- Employee or workers at Fault – failing to pay attention during the loading or unloading, employee operating the ride decides to suddenly stop the ride, employee fails to secure the rider.
- Passenger/Rider/Visitor Failures – failure of visitors from following proper safety rules, instructions, an intentional decision to stand up during the ride, to rock the car or go from side to side to unbalance the car, or remove restraints.
- Health Issues of Passengers – in some cases health warnings are listed at the front entrance of a ride and passengers ignore warning signs.
- Nature Itself – in some cases bad things just happen, these rides are designed to be dangerous, yet secure, fun and exhilarating however sometimes things go wrong with no fault of the ride operators, designer or passenger. Rides can make you dizzy and when you get off, if you are not properly balanced you could trip or fall.
Amusement Park Ride Regulation
As previously mentioned, Amusement park rides are not typically governed by a federal agency. Fixed-site amusement parks such as Disney are governed by their local state government, so the east coast and west coast operations may have different regulations per park, the same with Six-flags which operate in several states. However, mobile amusement parks, those that travel from state to state are governed by the CPSC. The lack of regulation has been a point of contention between some lawmakers and operators since the early 80s. And, based on the powerful lobbying efforts of the amusement park industry, it is very unlikely that injured visitors will get any more protections from the government from park operators who are negligent or careless.
Real Life Accidents, Injuries, Slip & falls and Death at Florida Recreational Parks, Amusement Parks and Zoos
In Florida we are blessed to have many different amusement parks, water parks, and zoos – virtually in every major city. Orlando, Florida may have Walt Disney World Resorts, Epcot, SeaWorld Orlando, and Universal Studios, but Miami has Jungle Island, Everglades Safari Park, Flamingo Water Park, and Zoo Miami. Palm Beach County has the Palm Beach Zoo, Lion Kingdom Safari, Rapids Waterpark in Riviera Beach. Tampa has Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Adventure Island, and Zoo Tampa at Lowry Park. And, in Broward County, there is Tradewinds Park, Butterfly World, etc.
Loss of Life at a Florida Amusement Park!
With so many recreational parks in Florida, accidents, injuries, slip and falls and deaths are bound to occur. Our experienced lawyers are often the first to be called in such cases. David I Shiner, the managing partner at Shiner Law Group, was quoted in the USA Today regarding an incident in June 2016 at a Walt Disney World property. The case involved a young 2-year-old boy who was snatched and dragged into the water at the Disney Grand Floridian Resort and Spa and unfortunately lost his life.
Mr. Shiner was quoted that, the Florida state’s law doesn’t require an owner of land to anticipate the presence of harm from wild animals unless the owner either owns the wild animal or introduced it. “They didn’t own the alligator,” he said. “But if they know people are going into these areas, Disney has a duty to warn them if they know of the presence of alligators.” Additionally, Mr. Shiner stated That Disney’s resorts are populated by out-of-staters who are unfamiliar with alligators and that should also have been considered in warnings and signage. “In Florida, we know not to jump in”. As a leader in personal injury law. Mr. Shiner knows the players and stated within the article that Disney Could look to settle the case to avoid negative publicity, however, Disney Orlando is “notorious for strongly defending all cases brought against them.”
Injury Reported at Walt Disney World!
Recently Walt Disney World Orlando and Universal Orlando self-reported two injuries. One related to a 25-year-old woman who had a seizure on Universal Hagrid’s Magical Creature Motorbike Adventure and Walt Disney reported an elderly woman (86 years old) fell as she left Disney World’s Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, injuring her head, arm, and leg.
Injuries Reported at Magic Kingdom
In March 2020 a 74-year-old woman fractured her leg while getting onto a boat for the Jungle Cruise at Magic Kingdom and also in March 2020 a 54-year-old man had a heart attack after getting off of the Toy Story Mania at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
Disney World Death
As you may recall in 2016 a young child playing at the Grand Floridian, Disney World resort, located in Orlando Florida was tragically killed when he was attacked by an alligator. In that case, USA Today reached out to West Palm Beach personal injury attorney David Shiner to discuss the issues that surround accidents involving wild animals and to get his expert opinion regarding these types of negligence cases. Specifically, the law in Florida regarding attacks from wild animals is established and a property owner could be held liable should that property owner know, or should have known, that an injury and or harm could have been hurt as a result of a wild animal on their property.
Accidents Reported at two Florida Zoos
During the summer of 2019 a 4-year-old boy injured himself while playing in the Manatee Fountain Splash Zone at Zoo Tampa, his foot was caught in a metal grate in the play area. While there was signage in the area informing parents and children to wear shoes while in the play area, the signs were two feet tall and alleged to be covered by vegetation and hard to see.
A 2 year old girl was injured in early January 2019 at the Brevard Zoo after she fell into a Rhino Exhibit. The Rhino Exhibit is a live interactive encounter with the Rhinos whereby both the Rhinos and the visitors are physically separated by mental pole barriers, unfortunately, the young child stumbled and fell through the slits in the barrier. In Florida businesses, organizations, and property owners have a greater duty of care when children are present. When children are present at Zoos, Amusement parks, water parks their obligations are increased. Thus the zoo should have known that a young child could slip between the metal pole barriers and the experience explicitly stated it was for children 3 and older a greater duty of care should have been taken to ensure those young than three were not present during the interactive experience.
Persistent Accidents lead to injuries and death at Rapids Water Park
In 2008 a father and three of his children were injured in a ride called the Black Thunder at Rapids Water Park in Riviera Beach Florida, the cause of the accident and injuries sustained was blamed on the maximum weight permitted on the rafter being overloaded. The weight was restricted to a maximum of 700 pounds, however after an investigation into the incident, it was determined that the weight of the rate exceeded that by 180 pounds.
A day later an 11 year old girl was injured and hospitalized for severe back bruises on a different ride. This incident was said also to be caused by an overweight raft. Also in 2016 a 10 year old boy was tragically killed in an accident involving the Brain Drain ride at Rapids Water Park in Riviera Beach.
Experiences with Amusement Parks
So, even till today I have fond and some scary, memories of my times at amusement parks. I vividly recall my friend Cherrie helping me through my fear of rollercoasters and taking the tallest rides we could find – unfortunately, she did not help me so much in overcoming my fear of clowns. The parks were full of embarrassing moments, the time I ate too many churros and funnel cake and threw up after spinning around and around in the teacup ride at Magic Kingdom at Disney World in Orlando Florida. I also recall the time I got my first kiss from my best friend’s girlfriend at the local fair while riding the Ferris wheel which was high above the park. And, how could I ever forget the time I forgot my bathing suit and had to wear my cousin’s bathing suit, did I mention my cousin was a girl, I didn’t wear her top just her bottoms, embarrassing nevertheless.
These incidents, unfortunately, show accidents, injuries, and death can occur while enjoying a lazy day at a Florida amusement park, water park, or zoo. The attorneys at Shiner Law Group can help you through the healing process while maintaining your rights. We are the Florida Personal injury Lawyers that fight for you. If you have been injured in an accident at one of Florida’s amusement parks such as Walt Disney World, Magic Kingdom, Universal Orlando, Busch Gardens, at one of our water parks or zoos, call us today at 561-777-7700 or fill out our online free case evaluation.