Carnival and amusement park accidents injure thousands each year

by Michael Heygood

Amusement ride accidents sometimes result in serious injury or death to a visitor or even an employee at an amusement park. Sometimes these injuries and deaths are caused by negligence on the part of the park, either by the ride operator or by those responsible for maintenance.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission tracks statistics for amusement ride accidents at traveling carnivals, on portable inflatable attractions, and on fixed-site amusements such as roller coasters. There were more than 15,000 amusement ride-related injuries in 2005 in the U.S. According to the CPSC, about five people die every year from mobile and fixed amusement ride injuries and other five die from inflatable ride injuries. Sadly, the CPSC found that “[i]nflatable ride injuries had a statistically significant upward trend over the period from 1997 to 2004.”*

If you have any doubts about how dangerous an improperly staffed or poorly run amusement or water park can be, you might want to check out: The website provides a comprehensive source of amusement ride accident reports and related news.

The Orlando Sentinel conducted a review of 477 state and federal lawsuits filed against the Orlando area’s three big theme-park companies between Jan. 1, 2004, and Dec. 31, 2008. ** The newspaper’s analysis included the following findings:

  • The theme parks did not back down quickly or easily in the lawsuits. Rather, they fought back. The paper found that more than two-thirds of the cases filed against a theme park since the beginning of 2004 remained active in court for at least a year and some cases from 2004 were still active at the start of 2009.
  • Most lawsuits against theme parks are settled out of court. Of the 360 cases filed since the start of 2004 that had been resolved at the time of the paper’s study, only seven went to trial and reached a jury verdict. Two-thirds of the rest were either settled officially or concluded with private agreements that stop short of using the word “settlement.” Another 27 percent were dismissed by a judge with no indication of a deal.
  • Most of the settlements with theme parks were secret. Of 246 cases that had already ended in some sort of agreement, the Orlando Sentinel found that only six reported dollar amounts: three with Universal, two with Disney and one with Busch Entertainment. Those deals ranged from a low of $4,300 — offered to the family of a boy injured on Doctor Doom’s Fear Fall in Universal’s Islands of Adventure — to a high of $145,000 — offered to the family of a toddler run over by a taxicab at a Disney hotel. Theme parks seem to want to keep settlements confidential— making it hard for the public to learn about cases and results and making it harder for lawyers bringing cases against the parks to share information.

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.

* U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, Amusement Ride-Related Injuries and Deaths in the United States: 2005 Update (September 7, 2005).

**Scott Powers, Trips, slips dominate theme-park lawsuits, Orlando Sentinel (March 30, 2009).

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.