A 59-year-old woman died this week after falling from a zipline in Delaware.
She is one of a growing number of people who are killed or injured each year in zipline incidents. The burgeoning recreational activity can be found in almost every state. Yet, almost half the states have no laws governing zipline operations and leave operators to self-regulate. So, the question is, who is liable in an industry that is largely unregulated.
The Delaware incident remains under investigation by state police after the woman fell at least 35 feet from a platform when her harness was supposed to be attached to the zipline with two sets of safety ropes. In addition, participants receive 30 minutes of instruction before tackling the seven-acre Delaware zipline obstacle course which takes two- to three-hour to complete. Although instructors “patrol” the course, participants are expected to navigate it without direct supervision.
In May, a 55-year-old woman from South Carolina died while ziplining at a Utah resort. Wind caused a tree top to snap off, falling into the path of the zipline. The woman hit it while travelling up to 60 miles per hour.
Last summer four people, including two girls attending separate camps, died in zipline incidents.
It's not just paying customers who are victims of zipline incidents. Employees are being injured and killed, too.
A 2015 study by the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital found that an almost 17,000 non-fatal zipline-related injuries were treated in U.S. emergency departments from 1997 through 2012.The increase in injuries is commensurate with the increase in the number of ziplines across the country. The study found the number of commercial zip lines in the Unites States rose from 10 in 2001 to more than 200 in 2012, in addition to more than 13,000 amateur zip lines which can be found in outdoor education programs, camps, and backyards. Almost 70 percent of the injuries occurred during the last four years of the study period, indicating a growing problem. In 2012 alone, there were more than 3,600 people treated in U.S. emergency departments for zipline-related injuries, nearly 10 per day.
The number of deaths due to zipline incidents was not included in the study, but there were at least six in the U.S. last year.
Industry groups have adopted voluntary safety standards involving equipment, maintenance, and worker training, but they are not uniformly followed. Insurance providers generally require operators to adhere to some of these standards, and several states have adopted safety regulations.
A 2015 article in The American Journal of Emergency Medicine recommended the need for additional safety guidelines and regulations, given the rapid increase in zipline-related injuries in recent years. The article stated that commercial ziplines and publicly accessible non-commercial ziplines should be subject to uniform safety standards in all states and jurisdictions across the U.S., and homemade ziplines should not be used.
Although ziplining is relatively unregulated and riskier than some other recreational activities operators -- whether commercial or private -- and their insurance companies may be liable if someone using their equipment is injured or killed due to negligence, defects or wrongful acts.
If you have been injured or a loved one killed as a result of what you suspect is such a wrongful act, call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian at 1-800-529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.