What Consumers Should Know About Theme Park Dangers


California theme parks have returned to full capacity and pre-pandemic operations, which means that thousands of Americans are visiting amusement parks this summer. Theme parks are a popular source of summer entertainment and attract millions of visitors each year with the roller coasters, food, and entertainment they provide. But good times can quickly turn tragic if an injury occurs during your visit. Injuries occur far too frequently, and if it’s due to negligence on the part of the theme park or ride manufacturer, you may have a strong personal injury case.

Since the reopening of theme parks across the country, there have been several incidents reported, highlighting the dangers that can occur. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA), the likelihood of dying at a theme park is low, with odds at roughly 1 in 750 million, but when accidents and injuries do occur, they can be life-changing.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission claimed that in 2016, emergency rooms saw an estimated 30,000 injuries linked to amusement parks, as reported by CNN, and in 2019, there were a total of 1,294 injuries estimated to have occurred on rides. About 6% of the injuries were reported to be “serious,” resulting in immediate admission and hospitalization, and 94% were non-serious Many times, accidents occur due to ride malfunctions, passengers ignoring the rules, and freak accidents.

Theme park tragedies don’t happen often, but when they do, the results can be terrifying. According to the IAAPA, while theme parks are generally safe, the reality is that accidents can and do happen partly due to defective ride design, negligent maintenance, and poor judgment, which can all lead to serious or fatal accidents.

Since the reopening of theme parks, recent news headlines have revealed shocking accidents, some of them fatal. One of the injuries reported includes a Tennessee boy who got caught under a coaster and was severely injured while visiting Missouri. In June, Virginia first responders rescued 28 people who got stuck on a roller coaster that stopped mid-ride at Busch Gardens, although no injuries were reported.

Most recently, USA Today reported that an 11-year-old Iowa boy died, and three others were injured during the Raging River water ride at Adventureland Park. Following the incident, the ride closed, and an investigation was launched by park officials and state and local authorities to investigate the cause of the accident. Not only are these types of issues happening across amusement parks in the U.S., but also internationally. In April, thrill-seekers in the U.K. were forced to climb down more than 200 feet after The Big One, the U.K.’s tallest roller coaster, broke down in the middle of a ride with people stopped near the very top.

To minimize any risks while visiting theme parks this summer, the IAAPA created a list of safety tips to follow:

  • Obey listed age, height, weight, and health restrictions.
  • Observe all posted ride safety rules, and follow all verbal instructions given by ride operators or provided by recorded announcements.
  • Keep hands, arms, legs, and feet inside the ride at all times.
  • Secure all loose articles, including wallets, change, sunglasses, cell phones, and hats.
  • Remain seated in the ride until it comes to a complete stop and you are instructed to exit.
  • Always use the safety equipment provided and never attempt to wriggle free of or loosen restraints or other safety devices.
  • Parents should make sure their children can understand and follow safe and appropriate ride behavior.

The Orange County theme park accident lawyers at Aitken Aitken Cohn have been involved in litigating some of the largest theme park cases that have received media coverage nationwide. One case our firm represented was the wrongful death matter of a 34-year-old Microsoft Computer Programmer who was struck by a metal cleat that detached from a signature Disney ride “The Sailing Ship Columbia” in front of his wife and grandchildren. His wife was also struck by the metal cleat, and she suffered severe facial injuries. Although theme park lawsuits can be overwhelming because of the possible involvement of numerous areas of laws such as premise liability, product liability, and personal injury, our firm has the experience and expertise in these areas of law to help protect the rights of people injured at theme parks and help establish liability.