Believe it or not, there are no federal regulations monitoring the safety of water parks or other types of amusement parks. If they are regulated at all, it is because there are laws enacted at either the state or local levels to ensure the safety of the patrons of these parks.
Reasons for Accidents at Water Parks
Common reasons for accidents at water parks may include:
- Improper maintenance: If a park is poorly maintained and management is inadequate, it is likely much of the equipment will not be inspected on a regular basis or will not adequately be kept up to ensure the safety of the riders.
- Operator error: If operators are inattentive or under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs, they may not pay attention to the operating procedures necessary to ensure the rides are being run safely. Such operator error could result in injury to those intent on enjoying the rides.
- Design defects: With urgency placed on adding new rides to parks every year, some parks may err in not thoroughly testing each ride to verify that there are no safety concerns. Without adequate testing, a day of playing in water-soaking rides could result in a day of injuries with the ride participants being the first to experience injuries that could have been prevented if the equipment had been thoroughly tested before debuting the ride.
Who May be Liable for Water Park Injuries?
There are guidelines in place for liability should a water park injury occur:
- The owners ultimately may be liable for the injuries suffered by a park attendee if the attendee can prove the injuries were the direct result or proximate cause of negligent behavior of the employees or owners of the park.
- Employees are generally not liable unless their malicious action cause the injury, i.e., an employee deliberately tripped a park attendee, causing them to fall and break an arm.
What Types of Injuries Are Typical of Water Park Injuries?
While falls on slippery surfaces seem to be most typical of water park injuries, bacteria from contaminated untreated water can also cause intestinal illnesses in the most vulnerable populations, especially the very young and the elderly.
In 2008, a norovirus infestation of more than 100 people at a Six Flags park resulted in the park being sued for negligence.
Moreover, in 2013, a twelve-year-old girl was infected by an amoeba carrying meningitis after she swam at Willow Springs Park in Little Rock, Arkansas. The Arkansas Department of Health closed down the park following the girl’s infection with the parasitic meningitis. The Department of Health also linked a similar case of parasitic meningitis to the same park in 2010.
The Centers for Disease Control warned parents this type of parasitic meningitis is rare. It is caused by an amoeba known as Naegleria fowler, which often lives in freshwater or soil and enters the body through the nose and goes to the brain, where it can eventually cause death.
Because of the risk of liability, water parks will often ask patrons to sign a waiver of liability. These waivers are not necessarily an ironclad defense against a park’s liability. The interpretation of whether or not they are effective in reducing a park’s liability is up to the interpretation of the court.
Steps to Take if a Patron is Injured at a Water Park
If you or someone you are spending the day with gets injured at a water park, here are the steps you should take:
- Document the injury. It is very important to report the injury to park management, whether it is a minimal or life-threatening injury. Most parks will have accident reports they need to complete. Patrons should make sure to complete accident reports as thoroughly as possible and as soon as they can after the injury occurs.For example, if a patron slips and falls on an abnormally wet and unmarked surface at a water park and hits their head, it will be difficult to show headaches and concussions resulted from the fall if the person does not report the injury until the following day. Other causes of the headaches could have occurred between the time of injury and the time it was reported if too much time lapses.
- Take videos or photos of the injury and/or the area where the injury occurred. Since almost everyone has a smartphone, it is easy to document an injury, if not on video at least with photos that show the extent of the injury after it has occurred as well as the location in the park where the injury occurred.
- Interview witnesses. If the injuries are too severe for the injured to ask witnesses to make statements concerning the injuries and how they occurred, perhaps those patrons who attended the park with the injured patron can speak with the witnesses and ask for their contact information in the event that a lawsuit does ensue and they are asked to testify.
After filing the accident report with the park’s management, the injured patron should expect to receive a call from the park’s insurance company asking details about how the injury occurred. Much like when there is an auto accident, those involved should be careful about not divulging information that could affect their claim against the other. Likewise, in the case of injury at a water park, the injured patron should merely stick to the facts and in no way indicate responsibility for any action.
Information About Lawsuits
A lawsuit involving injury occurred at a Pennsylvania water park in 2014, involving plaintiffs Raymond and Sondra Muldrew from North Olmsted, Ohio. They sued an Erie, Pennsylvania, amusement park, Waldameer Park Inc., claiming Raymond’s heel injuries resulted from negligence on the part of the park.
Raymond suffered a broken heel after riding in closed tubes to a pool filled with water on a ride called the Bermuda Triangle. The ride ended when he landed in the pool of water, and he said he hit his heel on the concrete of the pool, resulting in a fractured heel. His wife, Sondra, alleged loss of affection. The couple sued for $75,000 and claimed that Raymond’s injuries resulted from Waldameer Park’s failure to install a protective cover over the concrete floor of the pool.
Like many of these types of injury cases at amusement parks, this case was settled out of court.
How Safe Are Water Parks?
According to a study by the New Jersey Division of Community Affairs, 40 percent of all injuries at amusement parks occur on water park rides. This study took place at New Jersey amusement parks and carnival rides over a period of five years. Water slide injuries were more than twice as likely to occur than injuries from rides on go-karts, roller coasters or water rapids. This statistic may be attributed to the fact that there are no restraints or special safety provisions on many water rides.
Despite the fact that many tickets have a disclaimer indicating that the park is not responsible for injuries, such disclaimers may not pass muster in the event that the water park is sued. Furthermore, if there are signs stating “swim at your own risk” when a lifeguard is not on duty, there may still be liability on the part of the water park for failure to provide a safe environment.
The best way to prevent injuries from a water park is to take preventative measures, such as:
- watching young children who are not strong swimmers
- making young kids wear life jackets
- stay hydrated to prevent dehydration on very hot days
Plus, the old adage “do not run by the pool” is especially helpful to adults and children alike when preventing injuries from slipping on wet concrete surfaces.
One classic example of water park injury occurred in 2015 at a water park in Rockford, Illinois. Splash Blasters ride at Magic Waters water park refused to shut down the ride even after seven people were injured when riding it. Shortly after Ted Wierbowski arrived at the park, his raft went over a bump, and he suffered a broken back. He noticed later that the back support on the raft had deflated and attributed that to his injury.
Another park patron, Mary Tucknott, now walks with a cane and is in constant pain after breaking her back on the Splash Blasters ride. Like Ted Wierbowski, she too noticed that the back support on her ride had deflated.
The Winnebago County Health Department has previously only investigated the water park for water quality, never inspecting the rides for any negligent design or maintenance. After seven people became injured on the Magic Waters ride and lawsuits were filed, the health department finally decided to remove the licensing on the ride.
Approximately 170,000 people attend the park in any given year making the propensity for injury that much greater if the Splash Blasters ride is not made safe for park attendees.
Learn About the Safety of Your Water Park
Water parks seem to be increasingly popular, especially the indoor parks that can be enjoyed year-round. Some are even attached to or close by a hotel with all the amenities, making them a great getaway for parents and children alike.
While it probably will not be likely to find any information such as a safety report on the park, with some careful research, a park attendee will be able to search the Internet to see if any injuries have been reported at the park or if there are any known dangers.
With an increase in the number of water parks and the knowledge that the bigger and better rides may result in injury, those travelling to water parks need to know their legal rights. They need to know what to watch for as far as ride safety, how to prevent it, and what to do if injury occurs.
Do You Have a Case? Contact Us About Your Water Park Injuries
While it has been important to note that documenting injury and reporting an injury to park officials is an essential first step when considering the possibility of filing a lawsuit, it quickly becomes clear that obtaining capable, knowledgeable, and reputable legal advice may be the best method for ensuring the likelihood of prevailing in a suit against a water park.
Many well-intentioned injured people who are attempting to advocate for themselves may accidentally reveal information to the defense that could potentially implicate them or otherwise harm their action should they decide to pursue a lawsuit in court.
With a variety of personal injury lawyers available and offered on many television advertisements and Internet pop-ups, how does one go about deciding who to choose for the best legal representation? KBG Injury Law is one of the best personal injury firms in Pennsylvania, especially for injuries incurred at a water park. Our attorneys focus on their relationships with their clients to obtain the best results possible. We want to make a positive difference in our clients’ well-being. For a consultation, please contact KBG Injury Law.
The personal injury attorneys at KBG Injury Law are all experienced litigators. Almost all of them represented insurance companies prior to becoming advocates for injured people, which provides them with a unique perspective and insight into how these companies operate. They also offer extensive courtroom experience if going to trial is the best legal alternative for the client.