In mid-April, 2017, 24 people experienced a lot more excitement than they bargained for when their roller coaster at Six Flags America in Maryland’s Prince George’s County froze in midair. The Joker’s Jinx ride stopped at around 6 p.m. that day, leaving two dozen persons stranded for over three hours. Children as young as 6 years old were hovering 80 feet above the ground at a 30-degree angle. A hydraulic crane was needed for firefighters to remove riders one by one.
Imagine being a parent waiting on the ground, not knowing whether your child would come down safely. Imagine being a terrified child waiting to be rescued, tilted at an alarming angle. Then consider one last bit of information: the same thing happened on the same ride at the same park not quite three years ago, in August, 2014. On that blisteringly hot day, it took four hours to remove all the riders.
We are thankful that no one was injured during the most recent amusement park ride malfunction in Maryland.
Not Harmless Fun
Serious injuries or deaths from amusement park rides are supposedly rare. Statistics claim that you are over 20 times more likely to be hit by a lightning bolt than suffer serious injury on a national amusement park ride. And yet, during only one week of August, 2016, five children were either badly injured or killed on amusement park rides, with a sixth child seriously injured in May, 2016. These children were:
- A 10-year-old who was killed on a Kansas City, Kansas, water slide at Schlitterbahn Waterpark.
- A 6-year-old who suffered a traumatic brain injury, a 10-year-old who broke her arm, and a 16-year-old who was left in critical condition. All of them were hurt in the same accident involving a Ferris wheel at Tennessee’s Greene County Fair.
- A 3-year-old fell from a Pennsylvania roller coaster at Idlewild and SoakZone Park, near Ligonier.
- An 11-year-old who had her scalp removed on a carnival ride in Omaha, Nebraska.
Has Safety Improved at Amusement Parks?
It’s hard to say whether safety has improved over recent years. While those who operate the parks point to innovations due to technology and better engineering, others draw attention to the race to design faster, more thrilling rides that will satisfy those who patronize the parks.
Injury numbers, however, have consistently remained above 1,000 per year since 2001, which could point to a lack of safety improvement. In the most recent statistics available, the National Safety Council collected data from 137 amusement parks for 2014. During that year, according to the parks, 1,146 persons suffered injuries from rides, with 111 injuries considered serious.
It used to be that the Consumer Product Safety Commission regulated mobile carnivals and fixed-location amusement parks alike. But the authority was taken away by Congress in 1981 for the fixed-site parks such as Six Flags, leaving the control up to states and localities. (Mobile carnivals are still federally-regulated.) Currently, six states do not provide any oversight of fixed-site parks at all: Alabama, Mississippi, Nevada, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming. (Wyoming does not have any amusement parks.)
In Maryland, safety inspection for fixed-site parks is operated under Title 3 of the Business Regulation Article. The Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation conducts inspections of both temporary and permanent rides and attractions at carnivals, fairs and amusement parks.
Suppose Someone I Love is Injured on a Ride?
Anyone seriously injured at an amusement park because of a ride can pursue damages if it can be demonstrated that the park was negligent. Some examples of negligence are:
- Not posting signs that clearly warn of all risks
- Giving riders incorrect instructions
- Not adequately training those who operate the rides
- Not adequately maintaining or inspecting rides, leaving them in an unsafe state
- Operating a ride improperly (such as running the ride at too great a speed).
A 2015 Coney Island, New York, case involving a neck injury resulted in a $1.5 million award, while a 2006 case at a New York Six Flags park, in which a person was ejected from a roller coaster and sustained permanent injuries, was settled for $2.85 million.
A Personal Injury Lawyer You Can Trust
Steve Heisler has been practicing law in Maryland since 1988. In 1996, however, he decided to focus exclusively on personal injury law. Why? Steve has a heart for helping people. He determined that his education and experience could best be put to use advocating for the rights of folks who were harmed through the negligent actions of others.
If you or a family member have been the victim of a personal injury, keep in mind that there is a statute of limitations – or a time limit – for filing personal injury claims. If you have been injured in an accident or have otherwise incurred a personal injury, you should not delay. Call the Law Offices of Steven H. Heisler for a free initial consultation by calling 1-410-625-4878 today, or use our online contact form.