Amusement Park Accidents and Liability

Amusement Park Accidents and LiabilityAmusement parks and theme parks are supposed to be places to let go, enjoy yourself, and have fun. In Florida, they also serve as major fuel to our economy. You may find it odd that despite the millions of people who visit these parks each year, you rarely hear about incidents or accidents taking place there. Amusement park accidents do happen.

Not Much Accountability

There is no one government body charged with accumulating statistics of amusement park injuries, nor are there any laws that require the reporting of such injuries by amusement parks. This means that what statistics we do have are compiled by various sources, are often unreliable, and may not include vital information needed to make the statistics useful.

The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions has reported that the injury rate at amusement parks is one in 16 million, but those numbers may be skewed given the organization is not a neutral body. Additionally, those numbers only include fixed-site parks, such as Disney World, Universal, Busch Gardens, and similar parks. They do not include “temporary” parks like county fairs, which break down and set up in various locations.

NBC News has reported in the past that 4,400 children are hurt yearly on roller coasters, but other watchdog sites report fewer incidents. The usefulness of this data is questionable, as it only includes roller coaster accidents, not the myriad of other accidents that can occur at amusement parks. Additionally, in many cases the organizations do not differentiate between accidents involving children and adults.

Dangers Go Beyond Rides

We often think of accidents at amusement parks as involving the rides themselves, but they often do not. Last year a 3-year-old drowned in a Disney resort pool, and in 2010 an 11-year-old was killed when struck by a bus at a Disney resort. There have also been incidents of drownings in the moats inside the theme parks. 

Most notorious as of late is the case of the young boy who was killed by an alligator inside the premises of a Disney Resort. The incident came as a shock to many, as the manicured areas inside the resorts tend to hide the fact that nature is still present. Often, in an attempt to maintain the image of fantasy and detachment from reality, resorts like Disney will avoid posting needed warnings.

Even if Florida residents are more aware of the presence and dangers of nature, many who come to visit the parks from out of town are not. The boy who was killed was from Nebraska, a place where they are likely unaware of the presence or dangers of alligators.

The Duty to Warn

This is why there is a duty for all premises owners, including resorts and amusement parks, to warn visitors of potential dangers. Anything the business owner knows or should know about potential dangers should be told to visitors to the business. The only signs that were present near the lake where the boy was killed advised visitors not to swim. They made no mention of alligators.

The resort may argue that they did not have any idea there were alligators in the lake either, and thus had no duty to warn of them. That will be a factual question for a jury to answer if the case ever goes to trial, but some Florida Fish and Wildlife officials are now saying they had removed gators from that lake in the past.

Foreseeability Can be an Issue

At first glance, it may be easy to put blame for amusement park injuries on the children or the families charged with watching them. It may be easy to say that a parent should have watched a child that wanders off and drowns in a lake.

But the legal issue is one of foreseeability—that is, whether it is reasonably foreseeable (or predictable) that a child or a family would behave a certain way. In other words, at an amusement park, where families are encouraged to relax, and where an atmosphere of safety is promoted, and where the park knows that many kids will be wandering around no matter what their parents do, the fact that a child may wander into a lake is a foreseeable event.

That means that an amusement park has an obligation to either safeguard against such events, or at the very least, warn of them.

The duty to warn is a vital one because it can advise visitors of potential risks that the park can not otherwise avoid. For example, a roller coaster will forever be dangerous to those with heart problems. There is no way to design a high-intensity coaster that is not. That means that the park must at least warn people that if they have a heart condition, they may not want to go on that particular ride.

This is again where the tragic alligator incident comes into play. There may well be no way to always avoid gators from wandering onto Disney property, no matter what safeguards are taken. That means that the park would surely have an obligation to warn visitors of the danger.

And where they do not—or where they try to hide potential dangers for public relations reasons, or to maintain an atmosphere of fantasy—they have liability to those who are injured on their premises.

If you are injured in an amusement park or a carnival, no matter how, make sure the park is acting responsibly. Call the injury attorneys of Brill & Rinaldi today for a free consultation to discuss your case.