When Is An Amusement Park Liable for Injuries?
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When people go to an amusement park, they plan on spending time and having fun with friends and family. They do not plan on getting injured. However, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that the rate of amusement park injuries more than doubled in the mid-1990s. However, some states have enacted special laws that almost completely insulate parks from liability.
A personal injury lawyer in your state may be able to explain the legal theories that may be available in your case as different states may have different statutes and case law that affect your ability to recover.
This legal theory rests on the notion that an amusement park is responsible for providing customers with a safe environment. If the park fails to act with reasonable care, the amusement park can be found liable for the injuries that result. For example, an amusement park may be found to be negligent if it did not keep a ride in proper condition or failed to inspect equipment. Additionally, the amusement park may be found liable for negligence if it did not provide correct instructions to passengers or improperly operated the ride. Generally speaking, employers are responsible for the actions of their employees. A negligence finding may also result when the park failed to properly train employees to give sufficient warnings to passengers to warn them before they get on the ride. Likewise, the amusement park may be found to be responsible for the accident if it failed to post signs of the known risks of the ride or failed to properly train ride operators. Negligence per se may arise if an amusement park is required to take certain safety precautions and fails to do so. If this situation arises, it may be easier for you to prove your case.
A product liability claim may lie when a person was injured from a defective ride. For example, if a lap bar came unlatched during the middle of the ride, a product liability claim may be successful. Likewise, a structural or design defect may be the cause of the accident. An injured victim can sue both the manufacturer of the ride and the park itself. However, in order to prevail, the victim has the burden of showing that such a defect existed or that an alternative design could have prevented the injury from occurring.
The owners of land are required to maintain their property in a condition that will not lead to individuals suffering foreseeable injuries. In the case of an amusement park, a property owner must manage and maintain the grounds and facilities in a reasonable manner. If he or she fails to do so, the property owner can be found liable.
Amusement parks may have several viable defenses to protect them from liability. Here are a few such defenses that they may use:
Assumption of the Risk
If a person voluntarily participates in an activity that he or she knows is inherently dangerous, the person may have assumed the risk that injury may result. Different states have different rules pertaining to how assuming the risk affects their claim. For example, in some states, a person who is found to have assumed the risk may not be able to recover at all. However, other states treat the assumption as a way to reduce, but not eliminate, the parkís legal liability. Some states bar this defense completely. Even in states that allow this defense, assumption of the risk does not apply in a blanket manner. An individual must be aware of the risks before he or she can be found to have assumed them. Therefore, if there is an unknown danger, such as a defective ride or an inadequate warning, the defense will not work.
Not Following Safety Procedures
If the passenger knew the safety rules and failed to follow them, the amusement park may use this as a defense. In some cases, this defense may help the park to avoid all liability, while in others, it may be used to mitigate the amusement parkís liability.
After effective lobbying from the amusement park industry, some states have passed statutes that provide additional duties of patrons and further limit the amusement parkís liability. For example, states may prohibit a patron from getting on a ride that exceeds the limit of the riderís ability, taking off seat belts or safety harnesses during the ride, interfering with the safety of other passengers, dislodging possessions during the ride, getting on or off the ride when the operator has not given permission to do so or extending his or her arms or legs beyond the point instructed. Some states have such strict regulations against amusement park patrons that they limit the riderís right to get on a ride unless he or she has read safety warnings, has the proper ability that the ride requires and has adequate knowledge to get on the ride.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer.