Central New York Lawyer: Are Amusement Park Rides Safe?

Today’s Syracuse Post Standard reports on a seven-million dollar investment by the owners of the Darien Lake Resort to expand the amusement park this spring, adding new water-based rides and other attractions, and splitting Darien Lake into two much larger amusement parks. The Florida-based corporate owner of Darien Lake christened the new expanded water park “Splash Town” and the amusement ride area “Darien Lake Theme Park”. The article reports that Central New York is one of Darien Lake’s top markets.

But are amusement parks like Darien Lake safe? I read in the paper this week that an Indianapolis boy is fighting for his life after an amusement ride accident on a “tea cup” ride at an amusement park. The state authorities later determined that the ride had not been inspected in more than a year. At the same park, a 6-year old boy was seriously injured on an amusement ride only a week before.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission keeps statistics on amusement ride accidents. Between 1987 and 2003, a period of 16 years, only 12 people were killed on amusement park rides. That’s not bad, but in 2002 alone, over 3,000 injuries were reported from “mobile” amusement rides (the kind that are assembled at fairs) in the United States.

Amusement park ride injuries are usually caused by mechanical failure, failure to regularly inspect and maintain the rides, missing safety equipment, non-functioning lap bars or safety restraints, negligent operation, improper assembly or unsafe design of the ride, or by the operator of the ride stopping or starting the ride too abruptly. If an amusement ride operator or owner causes injury or death to a patron through any of these negligent acts, the victim or the victim’s family has a right to bring an amusement ride lawsuit to recover medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering compensation and for other damages.

Let’s face it; a lot of amusement ride injuries are also caused by user negligence. Some people just don’t follow the instructions (e.g. height requirements for a ride, stay seated, don’t exist till you are told to, keeping hands and feet in the ride, strap on the safety strap). Or they ignore their own health limitations. For example, if you have neck or spine problems, you should obviously avoid rides that whip your head around.

Bottom line: Amusement park owners and their employees must exercise extreme caution so as to provide a safe ride, and so too must amusement park guests.

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