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Amusement Park Accidents and Safety: What You Need to Know

With the first day of summer right around the corner, many families are looking forward to summer vacation, and along with it, day trips to the zoo, museums, and amusement parks. While amusement parks promise their patrons a day of unbridled fun and contagious laughter, accidents, especially involving children, are not uncommon. Read on for our amusement park safety tips and statistics.

Last year, on March 24, 2022, 14-year-old Tyre Sampson tragically lost his life after falling from the Orlando FreeFall drop tower in ICON Park. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which regulates amusement parks in the state, found that a ride operator had loosened Tyre Sampson’s seat restraint to accommodate his size. The ride did not post height or weight limits for riders. Loosening the restraint created a greater gap than normal between Sampson’s seat and his harness, which caused the boy to slip from his seat as the roller coaster began its 400-foot plunge.

His parents, Nekia Dodd, and Yarnell Sampson, filed suit against the park, ICON Park; ride owner, Orlando Eagle Drop Slingshot; and ride manufacturer, FunTime. Their suit against the park and ride owner was resolved in March of 2023 for an undisclosed amount. Dodd said she hopes to keep her “son’s legacy alive”, by using the settlement amount to support community sports and schools. Tyre Sampson had been on a trip with his school football team at the time of the accident.

United States and New Jersey Amusement Park Accident Statistics

According to online articles, there are an average of over 4,000 amusement park injuries in the United States each year. In New Jersey, more injuries occur in water parks than in any other kind of amusement park. Data from 2009 through 2014 shows that overall, 40% of all accidents happened in some form of a water-related ride. Perhaps one of the most notorious and devastating waterpark accidents happened in 2016 when 10-year-old Caleb Schwab was killed on a waterslide at the Schlitterbahn waterpark in Kansas. The waterslide, named Verruckt, appeared in the Guinness Book of World Records for its height—168 feet, 7 inches. Preliminary investigations showed that Caleb died of a fatal neck wound after his raft went airborne and struck the netting system placed above the slide. Two women on the raft with Caleb suffered serious facial injuries. The tragedy spurred debate and investigations into often overly relaxed regulations at amusement parks throughout the country after it was revealed that the Kansas Department of Labor had not inspected the waterslide since its opening in 2014.

Examples of Amusement Park Accident Cases in the United States

On July 5, 2021, 11-year-old Michael Jaramillo lost his life on a water ride at Adventureland Park in Altoona, Iowa. He and five of his family members were on the Raging River ride when their raft overturned. Three of the six riders suffered critical injuries and were rushed to the hospital, while a fourth rider sustained minor injuries. Sadly, this was not the first fatality caused by the Raging River raft. In 2016, 68-year-old Adventureland park employee Steve Booher died while assisting riders out of their rafts. He fell on the conveyor belt at the end of the raft, suffering a fractured skull and major brain injury. Iowa’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration fined Adventureland Park $4,500, which was the maximum amount they could levy on the park.

In 2022, the Jaramillo family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in Iowa State Court, alleging that the park had failed for years to properly maintain and repair its rides. The suit also alleges that Adventureland continued to operate on the day of the accident, despite receiving numerous reports of serious problems in the park. The Jaramillo family seeks damages from the company that owned the park, Adventure Lands of America, its former CEO Michael Krantz, and three managers.

Filing a Claim Against Amusement Parks in New Jersey

According to Davis, Saperstein & Salomon P.C. Founding Partner Samuel L. Davis, cases against amusement parks require the filing of lawsuits where the park is alleged to be negligent in the way they maintained an attraction, harnessed a rider, spaced out riders, accelerated an attraction, or just plainly, maintained the rides. Often, the company that designed or manufactured the ride is targeted in a suit.

Settlements regarding lawsuits against amusement parks vary but have reached as high as the multi-millions. Less than a year after his untimely death, Caleb Schwab’s family received a record-breaking $19,732,125, paid by four parties:

  • $14 million from SVV 1 and KC Water Park. These two companies are associated with Schlitterbahn, the waterpark in which Caleb died.
  • $5 million from Henry & Sons Construction, the contractor of the water slide.
  • $500,000 from Zebec of North America, the manufacturer of the raft that Caleb was riding on.
  • $232,125 from National Aquatic Safety Co. and its founder, which consulted on the water slide.

Though New Jersey regulates consumer amusement park attractions, there is an important idiosyncrasy in the law. Normally, a person has two years to file a lawsuit. However, if someone is injured on an amusement park ride, they must make sure that the incident was reported at the time of the accident in the appropriate manner. Or, they can file a special Written Report of an Accident with the amusement park operator within 90 days of the accident. If they fail to file the Written Report of the Accident, they will not be able to pursue a claim against the amusement park.

New Jersey Statute of Limitations to File Personal Injury Claims

It is important to understand that each state has a different “Statute of Limitations” (time restraint to file your claim). In New Jersey, a person has 90 days to notify the amusement park operators of an intention to sue. In addition to that 90 day deadline, the person must file a lawsuit with the court within two years from the time of the incident. However, if you were injured by a state entity or municipality, such as a playground injury, a Tort Claims Notice must be filed within 90 days, with the town, city, and state all filed personally. If someone was injured in another state, the timelines may differ.

Contact the Amusement Park Accident Injury Lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon P.C. For Help

Those injured in amusement parks can call the personal injury lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon P.C. for a free telephone consultation. We offer free advice about how to preserve a person’s right to sue an amusement park by following the law and filing a Notice of Claim with the owner of the Amusement Park and the Operator of the Amusement Park attraction within 90 days from the date of injury. It is in the best interest of an amusement park accident victim to speak with one of Davis, Saperstein & Salomon’s lawyers, who are experienced in suing amusement park operators for causing harm to a park customer. With consultations offered for free, call us to discuss your situation to determine whether you are eligible for compensation.

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Since 1981, the compassionate personal injury lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon have been delivering results for our deserving clients. We are solely committed to helping injured individuals, never representing corporations. No matter how large or small your personal injury case is, you can trust that it is important to us.