Amusement Park Injury Laws
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.
Safety Regulations for Mobile Amusement Rides
The Consumer Product Safety Commission, or the CPSC, is the 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. 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
If the 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. These injuries could be caused by unsafe conditions at the amusement park, including the grounds, rides, activities and overall condition of the park.
As discussed above, amusement parks 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.
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.
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.
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 lead to the injury or death of the victim who used the ride.
Regarding the rides themselves, the park and operates must ensure the rides are safe and has 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. Amusement parks can also be held responsible for actions of their employees sand may be held liable for negligence.
This type of legal claim would be for 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.
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, it is extremely important that you reach out to a 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. 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 | York, 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.