Amusement Park Injuries & Liability? Suspend Your Disbelief

Attending an amusement park and enjoying the rides marks a vacation rite of passage for many. In Florida, there are a multitude of amusement parks or theme parks across the State. These parks vary from traditional parks where you can visit a well know character or cartoon icon like Disney World, to the nearby Nickolodeon Suites Resort, as well as Universal Studios and Sea World. From Miami to Orlando, and elsewhere, theme parks and amusement parks abound. There is a suspension of disbelief that comes with visiting such places that allows even an adult to lose their inhibitions and enjoy the moment. However, a recently released study, published in the jounal Clinical Pediatrics raises questions about safety at, and on, all types of amusement rides.

Personal Injury At Amusement Parks – Statistics For Summer 2013

Unfortunately, personal injury events a amusement parks are not uncommon. In fact, a recently released study, publicized in USA Today, notes that between 1990-2010, 93,000 children under the age of 18 were injured and treated in emergency rooms. Of those, an approximate 11,000 involved rides at local malls, restaruants and arcades according to the study in the journal Clinical Pediatrics and quoted by M. Healy in the USA Today story entitled “Amusement Ride Injuries Can Happen on “Mall Rides” Too“. The study excluded the ever popular bounce houses or inflatable bouncers, ball pits, slides and go-carts. What those would add to the study is open to debate.

With Summer approaching, the release of the study and related statistics are timely and of interests because it is estimated that up to 70% of injuries occur between May and September, when school is out, with an estimated average of 20 injuries per day. Additional facts of interest include the following:

  • 34% of injuires occurred at theme parks or amusement parks with fixed rides. This is a significant finding because these are rides controlled by an owner or operator in a fixed location. As such, they are subject to routine inspections, repair and maintenance by the operator or owner, potentially exposed to the inclement weather and require vigilant upkeep in the name of public safety.
  • 29% of injuries reportedly occurred at carnivals, festivals and other temporary locations. This is also a significant finding because set up and selection of the rides may factor into the profitability of the operator and event sponsor. Again, routine repair, maintenance and inspections are required to minimize risks to the users, many of them minors, while providing a form of entertainment.
  • Approximately 25% of the cases lacked sufficient information to allow categorization. This in and of itself is also a notable finding given the operator or owner are in a unique position to investigate and document events after they are reported or occur.
  • 12% of cases were noted as having ocurred at arcades, malls or restauraunts. This is a noteworth statistic as there are conceivably stores within malls with rides, or rides in the common areas, like a food court, and the legal responsibilities for maintenance and upkeep may play a role in related claims.

IAAPA – International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions Comments on Study


A Spokesperson for the International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions, (IAAPA), an amusement industry group, Colleen Mangone, was quoted as noting that IAAPA was reviewing the report and that safety is the amusement park industry’s No.1 priority. Citing industry statistics, she claims that injuries are rare given 300 million people visit an approximate 400 fixed site amusement parks with 3 million injuries reported in 2011. As such, she is noted as stating that “the likelihood of being seriously injured (defined as requiring overnight hospitalization) on a permanently located amusement park ride in the U.S. is 1 in 24 million”.

In the opinion of this author, you have to openly question her logic and reasoning given that the operators and owners have an incentive to under report, or not report, qualifying events. As noted in the statistics above, nearly 1/4 of the cases could not be categorized due to a lack of information. Whether this lack of information is attributable to an injured, incapacitated person, versus the owner, operator or their employees is unclear. Regardless, accountability for reporting events, as required by applicable laws, regulations and good business practices plays a significant role in the very statistics the industry appears to rely upon to claim it is putting safety first. Until the nearly 1/4 of cases without information, or national reporting standards are implemented, data like that cited is open to interpretation, manipulation and healthy debate.

Our office has successfully litigated cases, resulting in multi-million dollar verdicts, where serious personal injuries arise out of visiting amusement parks. The suspension of disbelief that accompanies a visit puts a burden on the owner and operator to provide a reasonably safe environment irrespective of statistical claims that reported injuries are atypical.

Related Video: Study: Amusement Rides Injure 4,400+ Yearly

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