Liability and Compensation for an Amusement Park Accident
What begins as a delightful day of amusement can quickly turn tragic in the event of defective rides, inattentive ride operators, or poorly kempt park equipment. While these jaunts promise visitors a day filled with fun and excitement, the opposite is often the case as countless victims each year report serious injuries sustained from an amusement park accident.
If you recently sustained injuries at an Atlanta-area amusement park, you may be curious as to whether you can actually pursue damages from the amusement park and/or its parent company. Fortunately, in many cases, you can – and attorney Jason Schultz can help. To learn more about initiating an injury claim or lawsuit against an amusement park, please call today at 404-474-0804.
Types of Amusement Park Injuries
Amusement park injuries can range from mild to fatal and may include the following:
- Loss of feeling in legs, injuries to thighs and calves
- Black outs and/or disorientation
- Neck strain & whiplash
- Shoulder strain
- Ear trauma
- Chest injuries and breathing issues
- Slip and falls
- Back injuries
- Severe or fatal injuries after being thrown from a ride
- Head trauma
Roller coasters designed to allow riders’ feet to dangle – as opposed to sitting in a traditional car – can cause leg injuries if the legs come into contact with an object or sustain any sort of trauma. Moreover, the over-the-head restraints used on this type of ride may cause injuries to riders’ necks and shoulders – especially if the restraints are on too tightly or too loose.
Traditional coasters are often to blame for riders suffering neck and soft tissue injuries. Other types of rides, such as those involving quick drops or sudden jerky movements, can cause riders to experience whiplash and/or dizziness and disorientation, which can quickly lead to additional injuries.
Even if the park attendants do everything in their power, many things can go mechanically wrong with rides, including:
- Rusted parts
- Loose cables
- Design defects
- Component failure
- Lack of or broken safety harness/belt
- Sharp, protruding parts
- Broken lap bars
- Safety lock fails
- Structural flaws
- Corroded parts
- Electrical failure
Establishing liability following an amusement park injury requires a careful analysis of the facts leading up to the incident. The over-arching legal doctrine that imparts liability onto a responsible party is negligence. The law divides negligence into several sub-categories depending on the nature of the situation. In the context of amusement park injuries, the sub-category that applies is “premises liability,” detailed in Section 51-3-1 of the Georgia Code.
When it comes to premises liability, property owners are under a duty to maintain their property in a reasonably safe manner. More specifically, a property owner is liable for any injuries a visitor sustains due to dangerous conditions either on the land itself or at entrances and exits. While the term “reasonably safe” can be somewhat vague, there are certain types of amusement park injuries that victims can prove were a result of unreasonably safe conditions.
While this is not an exhaustive list, the following is examples of ways in which a park could be liable:
- Failure to regularly inspect rides
- Inattentive staff members
- Poorly trained ride staff, especially those unfamiliar with safety protocols
- Operating rides in inclement weather
- Improper upkeep of park equipment, including benches and facilities
- Improper upkeep of park grounds
Moreover, parks must offer reasonable assistance to injured guests and can face liability for failing to address visitors’ injuries and claims in a proper manner.
Depending on what caused the injury, victims may be able to hold more than the park owner liable. For example, if a victim sustained injuries on a poorly maintained ride, she may be able to hold the maintenance company liable (and the owner or manager if the owner/manager knew of the poor maintenance).
If a visitor sustains injuries in a slip and fall caused by inattentive staff members, the park owner will most likely be liable due to vicarious liability, which states that an employer is liable for its employee’s actions.
Amusement park injury claims process
Park management may be able to address minor amusement park injuries with a little first aid, ticket refund, cash voucher, and/or similar benefit. However, in the event a victim sustains a type of injury listed above, a trip to the guest relations center will likely be insufficient to compensate the victim fully for her injuries.
In most cases, the first step in seeking compensation for an injury is initiating a claim to the park’s insurance provider. Much like an auto accident claim, an injured victim may seek compensation from the insurer for damages relating to medical expenses, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
To file a claim, a victim must establish that the park (or another party) was negligent and that the negligence caused the injuries in question. To do so, a victim must prove:
- The negligent party had a duty to provide a safe experience.
- The negligent party breached that duty.
- The breach caused injury.
- The injuries resulted in damages.
An injured party can prove the above by using evidence such as:
- Eyewitness reports
- Video footage
- Accident report
- Maintenance reports
- Park protocols (e.g., if a victim slips and falls and an eyewitness can testify that a park attendant saw the spill and ignored it, the park may be liable)
If an insurance claim proves futile, an injured victim may wish to pursue damages through a personal injury lawsuit. This process begins by filing a formal complaint in state or federal district court, which sets forth the factual allegations involved in the incident.
From there, the amusement park will have an opportunity to respond to the allegations by either affirming or denying the victim’s assertions. Prior to trial, the parties will engage in the discovery process, which may involve depositions and a review of all applicable records.
Oftentimes, parties are able to settle personal injury lawsuits during the discovery process. However, there are certain scenarios in which a trial is the only way to resolve the matter.
Amusement park injuries – particularly those involving neck, back, or head trauma – can take months to heal completely, if at all. During this time, victims are often required to miss work, attend dozens of medical appointments, and endure a reduced quality of life. Fortunately, all of these issues are compensable under the law – and an experienced injury attorney can help victims recover the true costs of their injuries.
Specific damages are those that are quantifiable, supported by documentation such as an invoice, statement, or tax record. Possible damages include, but are not limited to, lost wages (present and future), medical bills, prescription drug costs, and rehabilitation costs. General damages are those that are not quantifiable, and may include compensation for pain and suffering, emotional turmoil, and anguish.
Note: For children, damages recoverable may be different and harder to prove. For example, a child has not begun working so it may be hard to quantify what his potential lost wages would be. In addition, the statute of limitations for children is different. The clock tolls until the child’s 18th birthday, which means that the child does not need to file a claim until after she turns 18, when the clock starts ticking.
Are there times when I may not be able to recover for my injuries?
Amusement parks and their insurers are both for-profit businesses and the last thing they want to do is shell out thousands of dollars, so they will have many defenses up their sleeves.
One of the most common is that you knew of the risk. Some rides are known to be dangerous, which could mean that you took the risk upon yourself when you chose to use it.
Another defense the park may use is that your amusement park ticket includes a disclaimer that you cannot hold the park liable once you are on the premises. Or it may claim you went on a ride in which you did not comply with age, height or weight requirements.
Contact attorney Jason R. Schultz today
If you are considering a personal injury action, do not delay. In Georgia, the time limit to file an amusement park injury claim is just two years from the date of the accident, after which the law bars a victim from receiving compensation for injuries.
To avoid this result, contact the Law Office of Jason R. Schultz, P.C. today at 404-474-0804. Jason will not only help determine who may be at fault for your accident and injuries; he will also establish the types of damages that you may be entitled to seek. To get a better understanding of your rights, download a copy of our free eBook.