Are amusement parks focusing on profits at the expense of safety?

by Michael Heygood

Every year, the amusement park industry unveils bigger and more technically advanced rides—fastest, tallest, steepest, wildest … Although many rides clearly require skilled and mature workers, minors (kids with little training or experience) are allowed to operate amusement park rides in the majority of states. These thrilling new rides also require proper maintenance by qualified employees. Are amusement parks spending the extra time and money to make sure these rides are maintained and operated in a safe condition?

Did you know that rides at fixed amusement parks and water parks are exempt from all federal safety oversight? Back in 1980, the Consumer Product Safety Commission investigated the death of a child in a roller coaster accident at Marriott’s Great America park in California. The agency alleged that safety hazards involving the same model of coaster in two different Marriott parks were covered up. The amusement park industry fought back by lobbying Congress for an exemption from federal safety oversight. The industry argued that federal accident investigations imposed a financial hardship. Congress went along and prohibited any federal involvement in amusement park ride accidents.

The exemption remains and the industry fights hard to keep it that way.

The Washington Post has reported that the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) has spent at least $5.4 million lobbying Congress to preserve the loophole. Disney, Universal Studios, and Anheiser-Busch have separately spent millions lobbying in support of the exemption.

Some state agencies inspect rides, but allow parks and carnivals to write the investigation report on their own accidents. Some state agencies are allowed to investigate serious accidents, but are not allowed to inspect the ride machinery.

  • Florida exempts thrill rides at major theme parks from government safety oversight. Accident investigations at Florida’s major theme parks are handled privately by the theme parks.
  • Texas doesn’t employ a single inspector or technical investigator for amusement rides. Instead, Texas lets the ride owners and their insurance companies handle such matters. Government oversight in Texas is basically limited to asking ride owners to write and file accident reports.

There are no mandatory national safety standards for amusement rides. The industry has developed voluntary safety standards for amusement rides through the ASTM F-24 committee. Most of the states that regulate ride safety make reference to these ASTM standards. The committee is composed of people from within the amusement ride industry.

When death or serious injury is caused because an amusement park ride is poorly maintained or operated, we believe the amusement park should be held responsible.

To successfully bring a claim involving an injury or death at a traveling carnival, on a portable inflatable attractions, or at a fixed-site amusements such as roller coasters at a theme park, you need an experienced, educated attorney on your. You also need an attorney with the financial resources to take the case to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we have tried hundreds of cases to verdict and have settled hundreds more. In 2010 alone, we negotiated settlements of personal injury and wrongful death claims totaling more than $50 million.

Heygood, Orr & Pearson also has the financial resources to handle personal injury cases from start to finish. In fact, there are many instances in which we invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in a case in order to take it to trial. At Heygood, Orr & Pearson, we are committed to achieving justice for our clients, whatever the cost.

Contact the lawyers at Heygood, Orr & Pearson for your free case evaluation and to learn more about your legal right to compensation. You can reach us by calling toll-free at 1-877-446-9001, or by filling out a free legal consultation form.

by Michael Heygood

Michael Heygood is a licensed attorney and partner at HO&P who focuses on insurance and corporate litigation, and other civil arenas. Michael has been named multiple times to the Super Lawyers List.