Amusement Park Injury Laws, Liability & Safety Requirements
Amusement Park Safety Regulations
There are two main categories of amusement park rides: fixed-site and mobile.
Fixed-site rides are permanent and are not moved from location to location. Examples of a fixed-site amusement park in New Jersey is Six Flags Great Adventure or Morey’s Pier.
Mobile amusement rides travel from place to place, such as rides that you find at carnivals and county fairs.
Additionally, there are some amusement rides that are classified as inflatable amusement attractions, such as moon bounces and inflatable slides; these types of attractions are not governed under any safety regulations in New Jersey.
Amusement Park Accident Statistics
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) collects data on amusement park injuries in the United States and distributes national injury estimates through the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System. The International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) also collects information on theme park injuries.
Theme park injury facts:
- In 2018, about 11% of theme park injuries were considered serious, requiring hospitalization within 24 hours, according to the IAAPA Ride Safety Report.
- In 2017, the CPSC provided an estimate that 43,405 people had been injured as a result of amusement rides and attractions.
- In 2017, the age group most affected by theme park injuries were young children ages 5 – 14, accounting for approximately 44% of injuries in 2017.
- Adults ages 25 – 64 were the second most affected group, accounting for approximately 24% of theme park injuries in 2017.
- In 2016, according to CPSC data, emergency rooms saw approximately 30,900 injuries related to amusement parks.
- Deaths as a result of amusement park rides are very rare according to the IAAPA.
While injury data from the CSPC is helpful in determining how many theme park injuries occur, theme park injuries are likely undercounted as there is no national injury reporting system and no standard system of regulation and enforcement.
Types of Amusement Park Injuries
The different types of theme park injuries generally include:
- Head, neck, and back injuries from the g-force of rides
- Concussions and other brain injuries
- Cuts, bruises, and broken bones
- Slip and falls
- Food poisoning
- Drowning on water rides
- Strokes from neck and ligament trauma
Learn more about common theme park injuries: Types of Theme Park Injuries
Safety Regulations for Mobile Amusement Rides
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the national governing authority that regulates mobile amusement park rides.
While the CPSC is responsible for setting the safety standards as well as overseeing and investigating injuries at mobile parks, the commission does not conduct inspections of every carnival or fair. The lack of inspections becomes an even bigger concern when paired with the fact that the implementation of these safety standards is voluntary, not mandatory.
Lack of Safety Laws for Fixed-Site Amusement Rides
Unfortunately, the CPSC does not have the power to regulate or inspect fixed-site amusement rides. In fact, there are no federally-regulated safety measures for amusement rides that are classified as fixed-site.
While some states enforce safety regulations for fixed-site rides, there is no national standard for safety. The exclusion of fixed-site rides from the CPSC’s authority is often referred to as the “Roller Coaster Loophole” and has become quite a controversial issue for safety regulation.
Many times, these fixed-site rides are not held to the same level of maintenance and safety inspections as those of carnivals and mobile rides. This is especially concerning in New Jersey, as many of the parks that we love and visit with our families are fixed-site amusement parks.
When the authority to regulate fixed-site rides was taken away from the CPSC in the 80’s, the responsibility fell on the state and local governments.
The New Jersey Carnival and Amusement Ride Safety Act
In New Jersey, fixed-site amusement park regulations are governed by the Carnival and Amusement Ride Safety Act (CARSA), N.J.S.A. 5:3-31, et seq. (1975). This act established an annual safety inspection program for fixed-site rides, through which rides that pass inspection are given a green sticker and those that have not are given red stickers.
Additional safety regulations governed by the Carnival and Amusement Ride Safety Act include:
- Fixed-ride manufacturers must have their rides certified before it can be sold for operation in New Jersey.
- Owners of fixed-site rides must register each ride with an annual permit, which requires annual as well as random operational inspections throughout the year.
Who is Liable for an Amusement Park Injury?
There are a few things to consider when determining who is liable, or held responsible, for an amusement park accident:
- Premises Injury Liability
- Product Liability
- Comparative Negligence
Premises Injury Liability
Because amusement park visitors are considered “business invitees” under the New Jersey premises liability law, there is a high standard of care imposed on amusement parks and carnival operators to protect the public from harm from sources such as:
- Builder negligence
- Ride operator negligence
- Improper employee training
- Safety restraint malfunction
- Ride design defects
- Inadequate lighting
- Exposed electrical wires
- Faulty park provided transportation
If the amusement park accident occurred as a result of the condition of the amusement park or the use of the premises results in injury, then the amusement park would be subject to premises injury liability.
Amusement parks in New Jersey are responsible for the maintenance and safety of their rides and facilities. If a ride is not maintained correctly or proper safety regulations are not enforced, the amusement park may be held liable for any injuries or deaths that may occur as a result.
Additionally, if potential safety hazards do exist, park operators and employees are required to inform visitors of this risk before they engage in any dangerous activity.
Other common problems amusement park and carnival operators must address are providing adequate security and overseeing the restaurants and food stands to protect against food poisoning.
For places such as boardwalks that are maintained by local municipalities, like the boardwalk in Point Pleasant, a premises injury liability and responsibility would fall on the municipality.
If an injury or incident occurred as a result of a defective ride, such as a lap bar unlatching in the middle of a ride, then the claim may be a defective product liability case. Structural and design defects may be filed against the manufacturer of the ride or the company that produced the defective part.
In these cases, it has to be proven that there was a defect that specifically led to the injury or death of the victim who used the ride.
In terms of the rides themselves, the park and operators must ensure the rides are safe and have the appropriate restraints, inspections, maintenance, supervision, and instructions for riders. In the case that an employee fails to properly secure a rider, does not post the necessary safety instructions, or does not maintain a ride correctly, then he or she may be held liable for any injuries that result.
In some cases, amusement parks in New Jersey can also be held responsible for actions of their employees and may be held liable for negligence.
This type of legal claim would be considered negligence, and the case would need to prove that the defendant did not take the proper safety precautions, or was negligent in being careful about the safety of riders, and that this negligence caused the injury.
Examples of these cases of negligence include:
- Not adequately warning riders of the risks involved with a ride, even if there are marked signs
- Failing to safely maintain equipment or inspect the rides
- Failing to train the ride operators sufficiently
- Failing to warn riders that have certain conditions, such as a heart problem, that they should not go on a ride
- Not operating the ride correctly
- Giving incorrect instructions to riders
Rider Responsibility and Assumption of Risk
In some states, a defendant can argue for the “assumption of risk” of the rider that participated in the ride. For example, if a rider understands that a certain ride has inherent dangers but chooses to ride it anyway, it may be argued that he or she “assumed the risk” by participating in the activity. This can impact the amount that an injured victim may receive.
New Jersey is one of the states that does not allow assumption of risk as a defense. Instead, there is comparative negligence, meaning that a jury will apportion percentages of negligence amongst the various parties.
That being said, if a rider disregards safety instructions, such as keeping his or her hands inside of a ride as it is being operated, and is then injured as a result, the employee or operator of the ride may not be held liable. In such cases, it may be determined that the rider disregarded clearly marked safety rules.
Amusement Park Safety Tips
A trip to the amusement park should be a fun and safe day for friends and family.
Follow these tips to stay safe at amusement parks:
- Follow park rules
- Double-check safety gear is properly latched and positioned
- Keep an eye on young children
- Be mindful of your child’s swimming ability when visiting water parks
- Take breaks in between high-speed rides
- Avoid wearing loose fitting clothing
- Stay hydrated and avoid too much sugar on hot days
- Have an emergency action plan if kids get separated from you or you need to leave the park quickly due to an emergency
Most theme park injuries are preventable. Taking time to make sure you and your loved ones are safe can help make sure your theme park visit is a great day for all.
To learn more about amusement park safety read our: Amusement Park Summer Safety Series
Reporting Injury at a New Jersey Amusement Park
In the unfortunate event that you or your loved one is injured at an amusement park in New Jersey, your first step is to get medical treatment. The next extremely important step is reaching out to a qualified legal team for help.
If you have been injured in one of these situations, the State of New Jersey requires you to provide the amusement park with a written notice that includes all of the pertinent details of the incident within 90 days of the incident. This is why it is extremely important to seek legal help to avoid losing your option to pursue a claim for your injuries.
Here at Dansky | Katz | Ringold, we recommended that you speak with an experienced amusement park personal injury lawyer on our team prior to speaking to any representatives on behalf of the amusement park.