Ah, summer! For many of us, summer means trips to Lake Michigan, the smell of hot dogs grilling outside, the flicker of fireflies at night, the coconut smell of sunscreen, and the odor of kettle corn and funnel cake at the amusement park. Whether it’s a trip to Six Flags, Pirates Cove, Safari Land, or even a pop-up local or state fair, for many of summer wouldn’t be complete without a ride on a roller coaster or a slalom down a huge water slide.
But accidents can and do happen at amusement parks and fairs every year. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, more than 315 million people visit the U.S.’s 400 or so amusement parks every year. Strangely they claim only 1,356 ride accidents happen on rides each year. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. According to the U.S. Consumer and Safety Protection Division, there are more than 10,000 emergency room visits associated with amusement park rides each year. That doesn’t include people injured in other ways, like falling in unsafe conditions.
Injuries at Amusement Parks
Some of the most common amusement park injuries include:
- Head, neck, and back injuries, including whiplash resulting from the impact on rides like bumper cars,
- Head, neck, and back injuries from being whipped around on a ride,
- Death or injury from being thrown from a ride,
- Stroke as a result of damage to the ligaments in the neck,
- Head trauma or traumatic brain injury from G-forces on rides with a high rate of speed or objects hitting a passenger’s head,
- Drowning in pools, lazy rivers, slides, or other water rides,
- Lacerations, broken bones, and torn ligaments, and
- Brain aneurysms from fast rides and roller coasters.
These injuries can happen if a ride breaks or suffers a mechanical failure, but amusement park rides can also result from:
- Improperly operating a ride: If an operator doesn’t latch a seatbelt or fails to secure a ride, a ride could injure someone.
- Passenger misuse: If a passenger fails to follow instructions or does something dangerous on the ride, they can get hurt or hurt someone else on the ride.
- Nature of the ride: Some rides can hurt people just because of the nature of the ride, whether it’s high G-forces or passengers encouraged to ram into others on bumper cars.
Amusement Park Ride Regulation
Federally, there is no substantial regulation of amusement park rides. Congress removed fixed amusement park rides from the U.S. Consumer and Safety Protection Division’s jurisdiction in 1981. Their rationale was that fixed rides weren’t a product that consumers purchased. Since 2011, no significant legislation attempting to regulate rides has made it anywhere near passage.
In our state, the Amusement Ride and Attractions Safety division of the Illinois Department of Labor regulates amusement park rides. The state must inspect every ride and amusement attraction open to the public in Illinois before it opens and again annually. As part of the inspection, operators must provide training and substance abuse policy documentation, including random drug tests. Operators must also provide records of criminal and sex offender background checks for all employees. You can report accidents, dangerous conditions, and unsafe rides and attractions by calling the Illinois Department of Labor or submit a complaint online.
Aside from national or state regulation, many amusement parks follow standards set by the IAAPA. This professional trade organization helps promote safety standards among its members in conjunction with the American Society for Testing and Materials. Failure to follow national or state regulations or professional standards can be evidence of negligence.
You Need an Experienced Chicago Personal Injury Attorney
If you or someone you love was hurt at an amusement park, you need skillful legal advice. You may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, economic losses, or the loss of a loved one.
The experienced Chicago personal injury attorneys at the Cullotta Bravo Law Group can help. Our experienced attorneys can evaluate your claim, help you document your injuries and losses, negotiate with insurance companies, and file suit on your behalf for damages if necessary. Contact us online or give us a call at 630-898-7800 to schedule a consultation and discuss your options.