Each year we hear of accidents in amusement parks up and down the country which have resulted in is severe injuries and sometimes fatalities. In some ways this can give the wrong impression that health and safety is not paramount across amusement parks in the UK. While many years ago amusement parks, travelling fairs and theme parks were perhaps operated under a relatively loose regulatory framework, the situation is very different today. It is fair to say that most injuries suffered as a consequence of accidents in amusement parks are relatively minor but even so if the accident was because of negligence you could still be due compensation.
Common Amusement Park Accidents
For many people the scary rides will grab their attention but there are numerous common accidents in amusement parks. They include:
Even though significant time, money and work go into creating amusement park rides to challenge all of your senses, unfortunately defective rides can prove to be extremely dangerous. If you have been injured as a consequence of a defective ride you may well have a valid claim for compensation. Due to the nature of the industry there may well be a number of potentially libel parties and a compensation claim may not be as straightforward as many assume.
It may sound bizarre but injuries caused by falling signs tend to be fairly common especially across some of the older amusement parks. For many people it is this look back on bygone years which creates this mystique around amusement parks but health and safety should still be paramount.
Ineffective Safety Barriers
It is not only those using the many rides available in amusement parks today who may suffer injury but also those on the sidelines watching. As a consequence, safety barriers are an extremely important element of any amusement park attraction. The ability to not only control crowds but ensure they are kept out of harm’s way when rides are in full flow is paramount. On occasion safety barriers may be defective or ineffective and any resulting injuries could lead to compensation awards.
Slip And Trip Hazards
Slips, trips and falls are some of the more common reasons for injuries across a range of different scenarios and not just amusement parks. In the event of a spillage or dropped litter the amusement park management have a legal responsibility to clear these and ensure maximum safety at all times. At worst, warning signs should be erected in potentially dangerous areas before the spillage or litter can be removed. There will be situations where someone slips, trips or falls as a consequence of a spillage or litter but the amusement park management were not able to address the issue instantly. While the law can be challenging at times, there are occasions where common sense prevails and negligence is refused if it was not reasonably possible to take action before an accident.
For many people a trip to the amusement park involves an array of different food options which are all part of the experience. However, it is worth noting that standard food hygiene regulations still apply and in the event of food poisoning or the provision of substandard food, there may well be a case for negligence. We can only estimate the number of potential food hygiene issues which go unreported each year by those visiting amusement parks.
Proving Negligence For An Amusement Park Injury
If you’ve received an injury from an accident in an amusement park it can be difficult to know who may be liable. It could be the:
- Amusement park owner/s
- A ride designer
- A manufacturer
- Safety inspector
- Park staff
- A park visiotr
There could also be instances where the claimant could be held partially (or wholly) negligent if they ignored safety procedures and advice from the operators. There will however be situations where it is fairly straightforward in relation to theme park negligence and it is simply a case of approving the level of negligence and the appropriate compensation for injuries received.
Evidence In Amusement Park Injury Claims
It is imperative that medical treatment is sought as soon as possible in the event of an accident in an amusement park even if there may not be a visible injury. This will ensure that the relevant treatment will be received swiftly thereby avoiding complications and potential threat to life further down the line. There will be times where the authorities are called in the event of a serious amusement park accident although, as a minimum precaution, the amusement park management should be advised of any accident and resulting injuries.
The ability of the claimant to gather photographic evidence, witness statements and copies of any possible CCTV coverage could be impaired due to the severity of their injuries. While it may well be possible to gather such evidence at a later date it is more helpful if this could be acquired immediately after any accident. It is worth noting that medical examinations and any treatment, together with the circumstances surrounding the theme park accident, will be noted in an individual’s medical records. Any involvement of the police or other emergency services could also be used when pursuing compensation.
Lodging An Amusement Park Compensation Claim
There is a three-year time limit in which to lodge an amusement park compensation claim from the date the injury occurred or the date a medical condition was diagnosed as a consequence of the accident. Depending upon the severity of injuries received there may be a delay in pursuing compensation but where possible the evidence and claim should be lodged sooner rather than later. With the best will in the world, time can blur the details of the accident in our minds which can potentially weaken a strong case.
When lodging a claim, the evidence and the compensation amount being pursued will be forwarded to the courts with a copy sent to the defendants side. We have seen many occasions where negligence is not disputed and the defendant(s) looks to seek an out-of-court settlement to limit their legal expenses although this also means that the claimant will get their compensation sooner rather than later. In the event that negligence is disputed or there may be more than one party involved in the incident, the case will likely go to court. The judge will consider evidence from the claimant and defendant and make the appropriate ruling.
General And Special Damages
Many people may not be aware but there are two types of compensation in relation to amusement park injury claims which are referred to as general damages and special damages. If we look at general damages first, they specifically relate to:
- The severity of the injury/injuries
- Pain and suffering
- Psychological trauma
- Life altering injury
General damages are in effect financial compensation based on the severity of the injuries received and the impact on a person’s life. The Judicial College regularly publishes statistics covering historic compensation claims based upon different injuries and varying agrees of severity. Even though these figures have no legal standing they are well respected by the courts, law companies and insurers and used as a basis upon which to calculate compensation. There is some amount of variation/discretion available which ensures that individual compensation awards fully reflect the individual nature of each claim.
Special damages are more straightforward as they simply cover expenses incurred as a consequence of injuries received and funding for future injury related costs. They cover an array of elements such as:
- Home alterations/adaptions
- Additional transport expenses
- Medical treatment costs
- Future medical treatment costs
- Lost wages/income
- Future lost wages/income
This list does not include everything but it does give some idea of the various expenses which can be reclaimed under the guise of special damages.
Obtaining Legal Advice
If you have had an accident in an amusement park and suffered injury as a consequence of negligence you should look to get legal advice from a personal injury solicitor who can assess whether or not you should proceed with lodging an amusement park injury claim. If it is decided you should lodge a claim for compensation the solicitor will in most cases suggest claiming on a No Win No Fee basis, including the solicitors we have. For many this is the only financially viable option because it removes any liability to pay the legal expenses of the solicitor when pursuing your case (whether you win or lose). In exchange for the legal services and a successful outcome the solicitor will require a “success fee” which is traditionally 25% of any compensation awarded. Once agreement has been reached it is then time to lodge the amusement park injury claim.