Amusement parks in California attract tourists from across the world. In fact, the state has some of the most notable amusement parks on the globe, including famous attractions like Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Universal Studios Hollywood, Disney California Adventures, Six Flags Magic Mountain, SeaWorld, LEGOLAND, and more. For both California residents and visitors to our state alike, these amusement parks can provide hours of entertainment and fun.
But amusement parks–even those without rides–can be dangerous. In fact, there are numerous amusement park-related injuries reported every year. While some injuries may be minor, others are serious and require medical attention immediately, and may even lead to long-term disability.
At the law offices of GJEL Accident Attorneys, we are highly skilled at identifying the root causes of amusement park accidents and injuries and bringing forth successful claims for damages. If you or a loved one has been harmed in an amusement park accident in California, don’t hesitate to call our legal team for a free consultation about your rights and how our law firm can help.
Hazards at an Amusement Park: What Things Lead to Injuries?
Amusement parks are rife with hazards that create the risk of injury for all those who attend. Some of the most common amusement park hazards include:
- Large crowds, which increase the risk of pushing, shoving, slipping, and falling;
- Spills of food and drink;
- Electrical wires in walking areas;
- Water features, ranging from water-centric rides to pools and ponds;
- Dangerous rides, some of which may go upside down, jerk rapidly, or move at high speeds.
All of the above have the potential to be dangerous, especially when negligence is involved. Of course, the above list is not inclusive; there may be other amusement park hazards that you encounter and perhaps suffer harm as a result of.
Most Common Injuries and Related Damages
Large crowds, spills of food and drink, hazards in walking areas, water features, and dangerous rides all have the potential to lead to serious injuries. Some of the most common amusement park-related accidents and injuries include:
- Slip, trips, and falls which can lead to traumatic brain injuries, back and neck injuries, bone fracture injuries, soft tissue injuries, and more;
- Drowning and near-drowning related injuries, which can lead to severe brain trauma that has long-term effects; and
- Ride-related injuries, including falling out of a ride, suffering whiplash due to jerking motions of the ride, and even suffering traumatic injuries like having a limb caught in a piece of ride equipment, leading to a crush or amputation injury.
There are thousands of amusement park-related emergency room visits every year in the United States, and in the most serious of cases, people have even died while at amusement parks (most often while riding roller coasters).
The Basics of Premises Liability Law and Amusement Park Liability
Amusement park accidents are tragic, and when they occur, it is important to get to the bottom of why the accident happened and exactly what caused the accident. Not only is this critical for addressing the root of the problem and correcting it to protect future patrons, but it is also important for the victim; if the victim has evidence that another’s negligence led to their injuries, they can file a personal injury claim to hold that party liable for damages.
This is possible via the theory of premises liability, which holds that a property owner owes a duty to all those who enter the property lawfully – that duty is to maintain the property in a reasonably safe condition and take action to prevent against any foreseeable hazards.
As this duty pertains to an amusement park, there are numerous steps that an amusement park management team must take in order to ensure that hazards are remedied and accidents are mitigated. Reasonable precautions might include:
- Having rides inspected, maintained, tested, and serviced on a regular basis;
- Conducting background checks on employees;
- Closing down rides when a defect is discovered;
- Properly training ride operators;
- Providing warnings to patrons (i.e. providing warning that certain rides are not suitable for visitors of a certain height, weight, or with certain health conditions);
- Maintaining reasonable security;
- Ensuring that ride securement devices (seatbelts) are working properly;
- Ensuring that riders are properly secured prior to the ride starting;
- Reasonably cleaning up spills and remedying walking hazards throughout the property; and
If it is discovered that your amusement park accident and injury would not have occurred but for the amusement park’s failure to remedy a known hazard or hazards that should have been known within a reasonable amount of time, the park could be held liable. An amusement park could also be liable for an act of pure negligence, such as intentionally buying a defective piece of ride equipment, or failing to properly train ride operators.
In some cases, a third-party may be held liable in addition to or in place of the amusement park company. For example, if an accident was caused because of a defective ride, the party that manufactured the ride may be to blame. Or, if your accident was caused as a result of the negligence of another amusement park guest, the guest may be held liable. Our attorneys will comprehensively review your case in order to identify all potentially liable parties and all possible sources of insurance in order to improve your chances of recovering your maximum compensation award.
Comparative Negligence in California and What You Need to Know
When speaking about negligence, it is also important to review California’s law regarding comparative negligence. Under this law, a person who is partially to blame for their injuries can still recover compensation from another party, but the damages that are recoverable will be reduced in proportion to the plaintiff’s degree of fault. Consider the following example:
While riding the swings at a California amusement park, your foot strikes the ground hard, causing a fractured toe. After a review of the evidence, it is found that both you and the amusement park are partially to blame for the injury. You, because there was a sign posted that instructed riders to ride with close-toed shoes only, and you rode the ride in flip-flops. The amusement park is found to be partially liable too, however, because the ride operator failed to check your shoes, allowing you onto the ride with the sandals, and because an expert expressed an opinion that the swings were traveling too fast and too close to the ground to be reasonably safe. As such, a jury concludes that you are 30 percent to blame, and the amusement park is 70 percent to blame.
If the broken toe injury cost you a total of $10,000, the amusement park would only be held liable for 70 percent of this, or $7,000, based on the rule of comparative negligence.
Time Limits for Bringing Forth Your Claim
In order to recover compensation after an amusement park injury, you will need to act quickly. This is imperative for numerous reasons, starting with the fact that details will be fresher in your mind sooner, rather than later, after the accident. What’s more, any evidence critical to your case may be destroyed if too much time passes. For example, it may be very difficult to track down who serviced a ride on the day of your accident if two years have passed.
In addition to improving your chances of holding the at-fault party liable and recovering the compensation that you deserve, you are also confined to the statute of limitations in California. In California, plaintiffs only have two years from a date of injury to file a personal injury lawsuit. If more than two years pass from the date of your amusement park accident, you will be barred from recovering damages. This could mean losing out on tens of thousands of dollars.
Steps to Take Immediately Following an Amusement Park Accident
Because time is of the essence, and because amusement park accident claims can be complex, we advise our clients to always take the following steps as soon as possible following an amusement park accident.
- Seek medical care. One of the very first things that you should do after being injured at an amusement park is to seek medical care. Obviously, in some cases you will require emergency medical care. However, even if you don’t think that your injuries are that serious, we recommend seeing a doctor within 24 hours.
- Take notes. Another thing that is very important to do after suffering a serious injury is to take notes about the accident and the injuries you have suffered. Make sure these notes are as detailed as possible, and include the date and time of the accident, any witnesses to the accident, the name of the ride operator where the accident occurred, the extent of injury you suffered and how it has affected you, and more.
- Report the accident to the amusement park. It’s important to make sure that there is a written record of the accident occurring, and the best way to do this is to file an official accident report with the amusement park. Be as detailed in your report as possible, and be sure to request a copy.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions. As you start to recover from your injuries, it will be very important that you follow your doctor’s instructions to a T. In fact, failure to do exactly what your doctor says may be used against you by a claim adjuster at a later date, who may argue that your injuries would not be as severe as they are today but for your failure to following your doctor’s orders.
- Call an attorney. The earlier that you call an attorney who is familiar in amusement park injury cases, the sooner that an attorney can begin investigating your accident and building your case, and the sooner that you can recover the compensation that you need for your injuries.
Benefits of Working with an Experienced Amusement Park Accident Attorney
The benefits of working with an experienced amusement park accident attorney are myriad. To begin, when you hire an attorney, you’ll hire an entire team of people who are committed to working for you. This includes investigators, accident reconstruction experts, medical professionals, and more.
An attorney will dig deep to make sure that the cause of your accident, negligence, and liability are identified. From there, an attorney will also evaluate your damages and determine the value of your case. You deserve to be compensated for the full value of your economic damages, including medical expenses, lost wages, and future costs related to your injury, and noneconomic damages, like the value of your pain, suffering, emotional anguish, loss of quality of life, and more.
Attorneys are not just skilled investigators and case-builders; they are also talented negotiators who know how to talk to insurance adjusters and fight back against low-balled settlement offers. At the offices of GJEL Accident Attorneys, our lawyers also have in-courtroom litigation experience and will be prepared to advocate for you in a courtroom if necessary.
Call GJEL Accident Attorneys Today
A fun day at the amusement park can quickly go wrong when amusement park negligence leads to a catastrophic accident and serious injuries for an amusement park guest. These injuries can be traumatic, leaving the victim with a life-long impairment, and in some case, even taking the victim’s life, leaving family members feeling forlorn, angry, and confused about the future.
Amusement park accidents should never occur, and when they do and someone is seriously harmed, liability needs to be proven. At the offices of GJEL Accident Attorneys, we have experience representing clients harmed in amusement park incidents and know what it takes to win these claim types.
For a free consultation with our amusement park injury lawyers, please call our law firm today or tell us more about your case by sending us a message. We work on a contingency fee basis, and never take on cases we don’t think we can win. Reach out to us today to learn more.