Injuries at amusement parks may happen more often than we think. Deaths at amusement parks always attract the attention of the media, but there’s no established system for tracking amusement park injuries and fatalities. Of course, if it’s you or a member of your family who has been injured, the statistics don’t matter, but your legal rights matter very much. If you or someone you love is injured at any amusement park in Florida, you should speak with an experienced Orlando personal injury lawyer as quickly as you can.
The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions keeps track of 405 parks and attractions that include zoos, aquariums, water parks, children’s museums, and science centers. These 405 attractions are visited by approximately 335 million visitors every year with an annual economic impact exceeding $55 billion. The parks and attractions employ about 100,000 people year-round and up to 500,000 seasonally.
WHAT KIND OF INJURIES CAN HAPPEN AT WATER PARKS?
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) indicates that water park injuries are on the rise. There were 3,779 reported water park injuries in 2009, but that number jumped to 5,200 in 2011, an increase of 37 percent in a three-year stretch when attendance at water parks increased by only 3.75 percent.
A decade ago, a study cited by The Safety Record newsletter provided the following breakdown of injuries at water parks:
- Fractures to arms, legs, or extremities constituted eighteen percent of water park injuries.
- Lacerations accounted for another eighteen percent of water park injuries.
- Sprains to arms, legs, or extremities accounted for fifteen percent of water park injuries.
- Head injuries and concussions constituted another fifteen percent of water park injuries.
- Six percent of water park injuries were contusions.
Water parks are big business. While Disney, Universal, and Six Flags still sit at the top of the amusement park pantheon, water parks have become increasingly popular in recent decades. But in May, what should have been a joy-filled opening day at a new water park in Dublin, California turned into fright when a 10-year-old boy slid from a water slide onto concrete pavement below. He was “just shaken up,” according to officials at the new park, called The Wave. However, other guests at other water parks haven’t always been as lucky.
Although many water parks could still improve their safety practices and policies, the most dangerous – some would say “notorious” – water park closed more than two decades ago. Waterworld at Action Park in Vernon, New Jersey, opened in 1978, making it one of the first modern water parks in the United States. At least six people died in accidents at Action Park from 1978 through 1996. Little was done by state regulators, but a number of personal injury lawsuits against the park finally resulted in its closure in 1996.
WHERE ELSE HAVE WATER PARK INJURIES BEEN FATAL?
Although it was the site of multiple fatalities, Waterworld at Action Park isn’t the only water park where visitors expecting a day of family recreation have had to deal instead with a family tragedy. State lawmakers responded decisively in the aftermath of the 1997 disaster at Waterworld USA in Concord, California. As they were leaving after a full day at Waterworld, students from a California high school crowded onto the park’s highest slide in their effort to break the record set by their school’s class of 1996, which crammed 60 people onto the slide.
It could have been much worse. Only one student died, 18-year-old Quimby Ghilotti. Thirty-two others were injured when the slide collapsed. California lawmakers mandated state inspections of amusement parks and passed a law requiring the parks to report any accident that requires more than simple first-aid treatment. Quimby Ghilotti’s family settled a claim for $1.7 million against the Napa Valley Unified School District, Waterworld USA and its parent company, Premier Parks, and Whitewater West Industries, the slide’s manufacturer.
In Florida, larger water parks with more than one thousand employees and their own safety inspectors are required to submit injury reports to the state only four times a year. The law requires smaller water parks to report any visitor injuries within four hours.
The safe way to enjoy a Florida water park with your family or friends is to read all of the posted signs and directions and to ask the park employees if you have any questions or concerns. And don’t linger in the area near the bottom of a water slide – that’s where water park accidents are most likely to happen.
In amusement park injury cases including water park injury cases, the two most frequent personal injury claims are product liability and management or employee negligence. When a flaw in any product’s design leads to an injury or a fatality, a product liability claim can be filed against the manufacturer. Plaintiffs (that is, injury victims seeking compensation) must prove that the product was flawed in its design and that the design flaw was a direct cause of injury or death. If the negligence of a water park’s management or employees was a direct cause of an injury or death, a plaintiff will have to prove it.
Plaintiffs (that is, injury victims seeking compensation) must prove that the product was flawed in its design and that the design flaw was a direct cause of injury or death. If the negligence of a water park’s management or employees was a direct cause of an injury or death, a plaintiff will have to prove it.
Such negligence may include:
- failing to properly maintain equipment
- failing to properly train equipment operators
- failing to post signs that warn visitors of risks
- failing to inform visitors about flotation devices or other safety equipment
IF YOU ARE INJURED AT A WATER PARK, CAN YOU BE COMPENSATED?
However, if a visitor to a water park disregards the rules and gets injured, it will be difficult to prevail with a personal injury claim, because the park’s attorneys will use that visitor’s indifference to the rules as their legal defense. Water park owners have insurance companies and attorneys ready to dispute any type of personal injury claim.
Nevertheless, those who are injured by negligence in Florida are entitled under Florida law to complete compensation for:
- all past, present, and future medical costs
- all lost wages including the loss of future earning capacity
- disability and/or disfigurement
- all injury-related pain and suffering, both past and future
- any loss of “the enjoyment of life”
Anyone injured at a water park or at any amusement park in Florida should contact an experienced Orlando personal injury attorney. A good personal injury lawyer will review the facts surrounding the accident and injuries, explain an injury victim’s rights and options, and provide candid legal advice. If a victim moves forward with a personal injury lawsuit, a good Florida personal injury lawyer will fight aggressively for the justice – and for the compensation – that every victim of negligence needs and deserves.