Safety and Legal Concerns in Northern California Amusement Parks

From a bounce house at backyard birthday party to a twisting and looping roller coaster at a theme park, amusement rides and equipment capture the attention of the young and the young at heart. Part of the fun is enjoying a thrill while trusting that you and your children are ultimately safe. However, injuries can and do occur. When fun leads to injury, our San Francisco amusement park injury law firm is here to help.

The San Francisco Chronicle is covering a recent scare at a local amusement park. On Sunday, the new Superman Ultimate Flight roller coaster stalled and stranded riders nearly 150 feet above Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo. Firefighters arrived and assisted a park official in using a park crane to deliver water bottles to the riders. Thankfully, the crane was not needed for a rescue and a mechanic successfully restarted the ride, returning the stranded riders to the ground without any injuries. While the park ruled out mechanical issues, they have not identified a cause for the stall.

Surprisingly, while the United States Consumer Products Commission regulates the manufacture of fixed-site amusement rides, no federal agency sets uniform safety standards or investigates serious accident at permanent amusement parks. The State of California, however, does have state-level amusement park regulation, inspection and reporting requirements. In general, fixed-site rides do have a fairly strong safety record. An industry group found that approximately 290 million visitors enjoyed 1.7 billion rides at fixed-site U.S. parks in 2010. Those rides led to an estimated 1,207 injuries with only 59 listed as “serious,” meaning the injury required overnight hospital care.

Mobile rides are those amusements that are moved from location to location, setting up at carnivals, fairs, and parties. In contrast to fixed-site rides, mobile rides are overseen by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). According to the CPSC, these rides account for an estimated 2,500 injuries requiring hospital care in 2004, a number that held fairly steady from 1997 to 2004. The CPSC considers statistics for inflatable rides, such as slides or bounces, separately. That category of mobile amusements accounted for an estimated 4,900 hospital visits in 2004, a number that has risen since 1997.

Amusement park guests have a right to expect a safe visit, whether at a fixed or mobile site. A range of legal principles can apply when a visitor is injured. Applicable claims might include product liability claims for design issues, failure to warn of possible risks, improper/inadequate security, and failure to properly train employees.

If you have suffered an injury at an amusement park or on a mobile ride in our area, please call our Northern California ride injury attorney. We will work with you to help you obtain compensation for your injuries.

For tips on having a safe visit to an amusement park see Saferparks, a non-profit organization focused on park safety that includes safety tips and information about park oversight, and the Safety tab on the IAAPA website, an international association of permanently situated amusement parks and other facilities.