As the cold winter weather begins to fade into the warmth of spring and summer, more and more Americans take to seasonal outdoor activities. One of the most popular warm-weather American pastimes is visiting amusement parks and water parks. While amusement parks and water parks offer up thrills, chills, and a way to beat the heat, they can also be extremely dangerous to patrons if the rides are not supervised by competent staff members. Unfortunately, poor staffing is a widespread problem among America’s amusement parks.
Many parks operate with too few staff members, personnel who are under-trained, or both. Too often, this bare-minimum approach to staffing leads to devastating accidents. Amusement park rides and their occupants must be carefully checked and monitored during loading and unloading to ensure passenger safety; but in many cases, this is simply not the case. In order to keep costs low and profits high, parks frequently resort to making short-term hires of high school and college students for the minimum wage. Many of New Jersey’s popular seashore parks cheaply hire seasonal foreign exchange students, many of whom simply lack the English language proficiency necessary to keep park visitors safe on rides.
If you or someone you love was injured in an amusement park accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries, suffering, and financial hardship.
To arrange a free and completely confidential legal consultation with an experienced amusement park accident lawyer, call today at (800) 861-6708. We have recovered multiple multimillion dollar awards, and have more than 34 years of experience working with thousands of clients.
Amusement Park Ride Operators Cause Death and Injury
Ride operators have a great responsibility for human life. Operators are expected to oversee passenger safety, but oftentimes these young and inexperienced park employees lack the necessary maturity and technical training. Between a lack of experience and a lax safety climate, ride operators frequently disregard critical safety measures. For example, they may allow children who are too small onto rides, or allow children to ride by themselves when they should be accompanied. They may also fail to pay attention to the duration of a ride, which can be dangerous due to the fact that many rides operate on a continuous loop and track.
Distraction is another major problem. A distracted ride operator can be as dangerous as a distracted driver – and in many of the cases our amusement park accident firm has investigated, evidence has determined operator distraction was a key factor in deaths and injuries. Teenaged ride supervisors are frequently distracted by text messaging or idle gossip with coworkers, and may even be working under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Because many amusement parks do not bother to conduct employee drug testing, these problems often go unchecked until an accident hurts or kills an innocent person.
To make the situation worse, such threats are not restricted to the peak park months. The off-season poses its own set of dangers from a ride supervision standpoint. During the fall and spring, just before and after the prime months for attendance, ride operators are frequently hired on a temporary basis and are often unfamiliar with the machines they are supposed to be monitoring.
Amusement Park Accidents Caused by Poor Ride Supervision
In the summer of 2013, a ride operator employed by Gillian’s Wonderland Pier in Ocean City, New Jersey was fired after a 4-year-old girl was injured at the load and unload position. Investigation following the accident showed that the ride suffered from no mechanical defects: the girl’s injuries were a direct result of substandard operational procedures. Jeffrey Reiff has also prosecuted a case involving an 11-year-old girl who was tragically killed after falling from a Ferris wheel ride in Wildwood, New Jersey. A subsequent report by the Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs recommended prohibiting children from riding Ferris wheels unaccompanied.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) reports that in 2006 alone, roughly 8,800 people were injured in amusement park accidents. Approximately half of all ride injuries were sustained by children, with about 18% of injuries specifically affecting 10- to 14-year-olds. Between 1987 and 2000, a total of 51 people were killed in accidents. Many of these deaths and injuries could have been avoided if the riders were properly measured for height and safely secured into the ride.
Wrongful death and personal injury at amusement parks are simply not an acceptable “cost of doing business.” Until the federal and state governments strengthen their inspection and violation enforcement programs, it will be left to trial lawyers to protect the rights of people – after they have already been injured.
Jeffrey M. Reiff is an experienced amusement park accident attorney who regularly publishes and lectures about amusement park accidents. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (800) 861-6708 right away.