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Amusement Park Accidents

Amusement parks, carnivals, and fairs are quintessential parts of summer fun for many Americans, with indoor amusement attractions extending the thrills year-round. Amusement parks across the country boast collective attendance in the hundreds of millions, with billions of turns taken on rollercoasters, ferris wheels, and other amusement rides, according to the National Safety Council.

When millions of people are visiting amusement parks — and billions of rides taken — it’s inevitable that some people are going to get injured. When most people think of an accident at an amusement park, fair, or carnival, the first thing they probably picture is someone falling from a ride because of a mechanical failure and being injured or killed. That’s an all too common and tragic occurrence, but it isn’t the only way someone might get hurt.

Slip and fall injuries also are commonplace at amusement parks, fairs, and carnivals, and can be caused by any number of unsafe conditions. A person also might suffer injuries as the victim of a violent crime, such as a robbery, on the premises of an amusement attraction, and the owner or operator also may be liable for those injuries when they were negligent in providing proper security.

Common conditions that might result in injuries at amusement attractions may include:

  • Inadequate inspection and/or maintenance of rides
  • Inadequate safety procedures, policies, or precautions
  • Inadequate maintenance of grounds
  • Failure to follow height/weight requirements or to properly secure rides
  • Poor lighting
  • Employees are improperly trained or lack the appropriate qualifications
  • Defective design or manufacturing defects in rides and attractions

Inspection Requirements

In Illinois, the Carnival and Amusement Rides Safety Act, 430 ILCS 85, requires that amusement rides and attractions be inspected before they’re first operated and then yearly after that. Operators are required to get permits each calendar year showing that the ride was inspected. The Illinois Department of Labor is the agency that handles permits and inspections.

The statute defines an amusement ride as “any mechanized device or combination of devices, including electrical equipment which is an integral part of the building or structure, which carries passengers along, around, or over a fixed or restricted course for the primary purpose of giving its passengers amusement, pleasure, thrills, or excitement.”

Inspections aren’t limited to rollercoasters or other types of rides you might commonly associate with amusement parks, carnivals, or fairs. According to the Department of Labor, devices that require inspection include: carousels, slides, go-kart tracks, haunted house attractions, bounce houses and other inflatable attractions, mechanical bulls, power trampolines and eurobungees, ski lifts, and trains and trams.

If an amusement ride is operated without a permit or inspection, the operator may actually be subject to criminal misdemeanor charges and civil fines. Operating a ride without a permit or a proper inspection also may give rise to a negligence claim when someone is injured by a ride.

Liability for Injuries

The owner or operator of an amusement park, carnival, or fair has a legal responsibility to keep the premises and the attractions reasonably safe for visitors. Under the principles of premises liability law — the area of personal injury law dealing with injuries caused by defects in someone’s property — the owner or operator has a duty to fix known problems or to warn visitors about conditions that could cause injury. When the owner or operator fails in some respect, such as failing to perform regular inspections for mechanical defects in rides, and that leads to a dangerous condition that could cause foreseeable injuries, the owner or operator may be deemed negligent when you get hurt.

When you’re injured at an amusement park — whether that’s because of an unsafe ride, tripping and falling over a significant crack in the pavement, or becoming the victim of a violent crime — and your injuries can be attributed to negligence on the part of the owner or operator, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries and other damages. Depending upon the circumstances of your case and the physical, emotional, and financial harm you experience, you may be able to recover payment of your:

  • Medical costs
  • Lost wages
  • Disability and disfigurement
  • Pain and suffering
  • Loss of normal life

Exceptions to Liability

Premises liability claims can be challenging to pursue because the Premises Liability Act gives the owner or occupier of the premises where you were injured several ways out of liability for compensation of your damages. You’ll have an uphill, if not impossible, battle with your claim if any of the following were true:

  • You knew about the hazard that caused your injury
  • The hazard was open and obvious, or in other words was something you should have seen or noticed
  • The owner or occupier had no knowledge of the hazard and it wasn’t considered reasonably foreseeable
  • Your own misuse of the premises created the hazard that caused your injury

When you’re dealing with a scenario like stepping in a big hole in the pavement and getting injured when you trip, you can see from the above that it might be difficult to overcome the open and obvious requirement. Most people would reasonably expect that you’d see a big pothole and avoid it. Even when the owner or occupier claims the hazard was open and obvious, you may be able to rebut that claim if you were injured at night and couldn’t have been expected to see the pothole in the dark, or if you were legitimately distracted and couldn’t have been expected to notice the pothole while your attention was elsewhere.

When it comes to amusement park rides, problems like loose or rusted bolts on a rollercoaster that allow a car to leave the tracks and injure the people inside aren’t going to be obvious to the average person — but should be caught by the owner or operator if regular inspections are being performed. It should be reasonably foreseeable to the owner or operator of amusement rides that parts wear out or fail over time, and that if they’re not replaced people can be injured as a result.

How a Lawyer Can Help

Amusement park injuries can lead to complicated claims that may involve numerous parties and multiple overlapping statutes. If the injury happened at an event such as a carnival in a church parking lot, there may be questions about which party is liable for your injuries — and it may turn out that multiple parties share the liability. There also may have been numerous other people injured at the same time you were. These kinds of cases can be large and complex, and may have to go to federal court if they involve multiple parties from different states.

It’s important when you’ve been injured at an amusement park, carnival, or fair that you have someone looking out for your interests in the midst of the whirlwind that these cases can become. A good Chicago premises liability lawyer with experience handling premises liability cases involving amusement rides or attractions can protect your interests and work to get you a full and fair settlement or verdict.