Amusement parks are a popular attraction throughout the United States, with millions visiting the many theme parks available every year. Both mobile and fixed theme parks present dangers and many Americans are injured or killed at theme parks each year. Theme park regulation may vary depending upon the type of amusement park and the state in which the theme park is located, which can affect park liability and the resulting consequences for injuries sustained.
Fixed versus Mobile Regulation
Mobile theme parks such as carnivals and fairs are regulated by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. This means that the CSPS oversees licensing, inspection, and insurance requirements for rides that are moved from location to location. The CSPS also prepares reports pertaining to injuries which are sustained on property.
The “Roller Coaster Loophole”
A loophole in the Consumer Product Safety Act of 1981 prohibits the CSPS from federally regulating rides at fixed theme parks such as Walt Disney World. This loophole also prevents the CSPS from gaining access to injury statistics at fixed site theme parks, so the general public is often not made aware of injuries at those parks. Fixed site theme park regulation is left up to state and local jurisdiction. In many states, there are regulations regarding inspections and insurance requirements, but reporting is not mandated. In several states, there are no regulations regarding theme park safety.
Fixed Theme Park Dangers
While all theme parks have an inherent risk of danger, those that are not inspected regularly pose an additional risk. States which do not closely regulate fixed site theme parks may potentially fail to hold theme parks accountable for fixing hazardous conditions. This can increase the number of injuries and deaths. Since data is not collected on these parks in an organized fashion, the statistics are also not readily available.
Mobile Theme Park Dangers
Relocating rides and equipment can result in damage to the parts or improper set-up of the rides, which can cause injuries. Since mobile theme parks are more closely inspected, this risk is decreased, but not eliminated. Mobile theme parks may also face different risks depending on the site at which the theme park is set up. Traffic control, neighborhood crime, and surrounding attractions may all pose unique hazards which must be analyzed and mitigated by theme park officials. Failure to realize area risk factor may result in visitor injuries.
Theme Park Injury Liability
Determining liability for theme park injuries is a complex process. Injuries may fall under negligence liability, premises liability, or product liability laws depending on the circumstances under which the injury occurred. Fixed theme parks which are not federally regulated may be responsible for conducting the investigation into the incident, which can make it difficult to successfully prove theme park liability.
Mobile theme parks may hold that visitors failed to heed warning signs or assumed certain risks by participating in rides and activities. Those that have been injured in a theme park accident should consult a local personal injury attorney as soon as possible following the accident. Personal injury attorneys will have the best understanding of local laws and regulations, and will provide assistance with holding the theme park liable.