With summer here it is important to look at the safety issues and liability concerns involving amusement parks, carnivals, etc. According to the International Association for Amusement Parks, there are more than 300 million visitors that visit amusement parks annually. In 2016, there were an estimated 30,000 people injured at parks. Last year in Daytona Beach, a roller coaster derailment left six individuals seriously injured. These parks are generally regulated at the state level; however, some states provide very little oversight.
There is a potential cause for concern regarding amusement park ride safety. These parks often host very large crowds and many rides are constantly running and not necessarily being regularly checked for safety. In many states, park operators are left to monitor themselves and may be preoccupied with making a profit.
Traveling Carnival Rides
There are many traveling carnivals and fairs that have rides. These rides may be susceptible to damage amid frequent transport and failures in proper installation. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has recommended guidelines; however, they are not authorized for inspection and enforcement within the states and localities where these rides operate.
Regulations Vary Between States
There are several states including Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, and Utah that have no state agency that regulates or inspects such rides. It is not unusual for state lawmakers to be influenced by amusement industry lobbyists who seek to maintain lax regulation. In several states, the only requirement is that amusement park operators maintain certain limits of liability insurance coverage. Insurance companies may have some regulations and requirements that policyholders must comply with. Unfortunately, many states do not begin inspection and enforcement efforts until a tragic accident happens.
There are various potentially liable parties in these types of accidents. An injured party could potentially bring a lawsuit against the amusement park owner or operator. It is possible that the error is attributed to an installation company or the manufacturer could be liable for a product defect. A lawsuit may be a case of premises liability, which means that the property owner or controller failed to maintain reasonably safe conditions for their guests.
Waivers of Liability
Amusement park operators frequently put some form of a written waiver of liability in place. They are often referred to as indemnity agreements. Often they will contain clauses that state the guest is “assuming the risk” of injury by riding an amusement ride. These types of agreements sometimes will shield the operator from liability; however, it is heavily dependent on the circumstances and jurisdiction.
The Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation conducts inspections of amusement park and water park rides. Carnival rides are subject to inspection at each location that they are assembled. In the event of an accident, this agency also has investigators that may visit the site. There are mandatory reporting requirements in the event of an injury except in the following situations:
- The injury was very minor
- The injury required only first-aid
- No loss of consciousness occurred or professional medical treatment necessary
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