A Texas tragedy captured the attention of the nation, including the team at our firm, when a woman died in a roller coaster accident. Our sympathies go out to the woman's family and friends. Investigation into the incident continues, with CNN reporting that the woman flew out of her seat as the coaster began descending the first hill. The incident has drawn attention to the issue of amusement park safety, an issue that is particularly in communities like ours where locals and visitors alike frequently enjoy the fun and thrills of amusement rides.
According to a report on amusement safety in The News Herald, there are 75 rides in Bay County that require inspection by officials from the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. This includes a wide range of amusements from kiddie rides to thrill-oriented super amusement rides and from go-karts to slides over 10 feet tall. Florida law requires that park owners reapply for permits on permanent amusements every year and that rides undergo two scheduled inspections per year. Allan Harrison, the chief of the Bureau of Fair Rides Inspection, notes the division is also required to do surprise inspections and tries to check rides every three months.
Park owners are required to verbally report any incident requiring hospitalization within four hours of the event and the department must follow-up with an investigation. Problems that require operators to close a ride for over four hours must also be reported. Over the prior five years, there have been 37 accidents or incidents reported from the Bay County area. Notably, a majority of the recent accidents involved nine parks and thirteen rides. Go-karts were the most common accident site. Race City on Front Beach Road had the greatest number of accidents on file, 27 since 2001, including incidents on the bumper boats, on the go-kart tracks, and in the haunted house. Shipwreck Island Water Park, Emerald Falls Family Recreation Center, and Cobra Adventure Park also reported high accident rates (17, 16, and 9 accidents respectively).
While Harrison suggests patron error is usually to blame, victims of amusement ride accidents should always seek a legal opinion. Contacting counsel promptly is important because it allows your attorney to investigate the accident scene, speak to witnesses while memories are fresh, and ensure that evidence is properly preserved.
In these cases, we often consult with subject matter experts who can provide insight into the design and the operation of the amusement ride. A range of legal principles may be relevant in amusement ride injury cases including product defect and premises liability concepts. Injured riders or bystanders may be able to recover compensation for medical bills and lost wages as well as for pain and suffering.
Victims should never sign anything without first consulting an attorney. Even seemingly simple documents, such as a written version of the victim's statements about what happened before, during, and after the incident, should be reviewed by an experienced injury lawyer. Call our office to schedule a free consultation with Attorney Pittman. Ride operators and their insurance companies have lawyers protecting their interests, you deserve a lawyer dedicated to helping you.