Amusement Park Accidents Lawyers in NJ
Amusement parks are intended to provide an entertaining and safe experience for children and families across the country. However, roller coasters, bumper cars, water slides, spinning rides, and other amusement park attractions send thousands of Americans to the hospital every year.
Almost 300 million people visit U.S. amusement parks every year, adding up to nearly 2 billion rides, according to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. The association puts the number of ride-related injuries at 1,415 in 2011. But unfortunately, other groups document a much higher injury toll.
The Wall Street Journal estimates that 23,785 amusement park-goers were injured in 2011, and the number increased to 27,054 in 2013. The data, taken from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, shows a troubling increase in injuries over the past decade.
Water-based rides have highest incidence of injuries in New Jersey, according to data from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. Water slides accounted for 22 percent of injuries over the last five years, go-karts accounted for 8 percent, and roller coasters accounted for 7 percent. Approximately 40 percent of total incidents occurred on water rides, including wave pools, play areas, and surfing rides. (For comparison, only 11 percent of the amusement park rides in New Jersey are water-based.)
What Laws Govern Amusement Parks?
Mobile rides, like the ones found at traveling carnivals, are governed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. But fixed-site amusement parks, like Six Flags, are not subject to any national safety regulations. Instead, these amusement parks are governed by a combination of state and local laws that vary from place to place.
Up until 1981, the Consumer Product Safety Commission regulated amusement parks; however, Congress decided that fixed-site amusement parks were not under the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s jurisdiction because they are not technically household products, and they are purchased by facilities rather than consumers. After 1981, amusement park operators were left to self-regulation, which involved utilizing government inspectors and reporting incidents to state and local governments.
U.S. Representative Edward Markey first introduced the National Amusement Park Ride Safety Act in 1999, which would have restored the jurisdiction of the Consumer Product Safety Commission over fixed-site amusement park rides. The bill did not pass, and it has been resurrected several times (including in 2011) to no avail.
By 2008, approximately half of the U.S. had implemented some sort of program for government inspection and accident investigation for amusement parks. But unfortunately, amusement park safety regulations still vary widely from state to state.
In New Jersey, the Carnival and Amusement Ride Safety Act governs amusement park ride safety. Manufacturers are required to have their ride type certified prior to its sale for operation at a New Jersey traveling show or fixed park; this certification requires that the ride is inspected annually and the owner has proper insurance for the duration of the operation of the ride. The New Jersey Bureau of Code Services enforces the act, using engineering staff to review new and current rides and licensed field inspectors to conduct annual inspections.
Every New Jersey amusement park ride should have a State of New Jersey certificate of operation (shown here). This certificate shows that the ride has been inspected and passed state safety regulations.
What Are the Common Causes of Amusement Park Injuries?
An 11-year study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission found five categories of amusement park injuries:
- Mechanical failures, which include missing safety pines, broken welds or structural components, exposed electrical wires, broken drive chains, malfunctioning safety restraints, failure to shut off, improper detachment of cars, and improper detachment of structural components
- Operator behaviors, which include abruptly stopping the ride, improperly assembling or maintaining the ride, and defeating safety equipment such as brakes or automatic overheat cutoff switches
- Consumer behaviors, which include intentionally rocking cars, standing up, defeating safety restraints, sitting improperly, or holding a child above the safety restraint
- Other hazards, which include injuries that happened while the ride was functioning normally, such as eye hemorrhages on a ride that spins extremely rapidly, or loss of consciousness, headache, or dizziness on a ride that induces abrupt changes in speed and direction
- A combination of hazards, such as when a ride operator abruptly stops a ride after hearing an unusual sound due to a bent rail
What Types of Injuries Are Common at Amusement Parks?
A wide variety of injuries are possible when it comes to amusement parks. Possible injuries include:
- Head, neck, and back injuries
- Drowning in water slides, wave pools, lazy rivers, etc.
- Traumatic brain injury from stress and high G-forces imposed on the brain by rapid speeds or flying debris
- Death from falling or being thrown from a ride
- Brain aneurysms from roller coasters
- Stroke from trauma to neck ligaments
- Broken bones
- Torn ligaments
Who Is Liable for an Amusement Park Injury?
Amusement parks are subject to premises liability—that is, the operator(s) of the park is liable when the condition or use of the premises results in an injury. This includes the rides, grounds, activities, and general conditions of the amusement park. Park operators and employees are required to inform parkgoers of potential safety hazards before they engage in any dangerous activities.
When it comes to the rides, the operator of the park must make each ride safe for reasonable foreseeable use. Keeping each ride safe includes adequate restraints, regular maintenance, inspections, employee supervision, and safety instructions for potential riders. If an employee or operator fails to secure a rider, fails to post adequate safety instructions, or fails to regularly maintain a ride, they could be held liable for resulting injuries.
If an injury occurs as a result of faulty design or defect, there could be grounds for a product liability suit. In that case, a plaintiff injured by a ride could sue the manufacturer for injuries sustained as a result of the design problem or defect.
However, a park operator may not be liable for all ride-related injuries. If a rider disregarded clearly marked safety instructions and was injured as a result, the park operator will typically not be liable; for example, if riders are instructed to keep all hands and legs inside the car and a rider is injured because he chose to stick his arm out anyway, the defendant would not be liable for the injury.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer
If you or your child were injured at an amusement park, it’s important to contact an experienced personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Maggiano, DiGirolamo & Lizzi have decades of experience handling personal injury lawsuits, and they can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call (201) 585-9111 or fill out a Quick Inquiry form to schedule your free and confidential consultation.