Maryland has plenty of theme parks, amusement parks, and water attractions. They include Six Flags America at Bowie, and Jolly Roger Amusement Park and Trimper’s Rides and Amusement Park in Ocean City. Injuries at parks are rare but more common than many people think. The question of whether you can sue a theme park for whiplash in Maryland depends on many factors.
Although theme parks spend millions of dollars on rides and emphasize their safety, thousands of people are injured every year on rides. High profile tragedies at amusement parks, waterparks, and county fairs have made headlines in recent years. However, most accidents slip under the radar. Our Baltimore whiplash injury lawyer explains when amusement and theme parks are liable for neck injuries on rollercoasters and other rides in Maryland.
Amusement Park Injury Statistics
The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission stated about 30,000 people suffered amusement park injuries on rides in 2016, CNN reported. Experts point out theme park safety data is limited and standards are inconsistent. The International Associations for Amusement Parks states about 1,500 people are injured on rides every year. However, the figures only relate to rides that are permanent fixtures as opposed to traveling fairground rides. Theme and water parks in the United States have seen more than 20 ride-related deaths since 2010.
The lack of a formal mechanism for theme parks and ride manufacturers to report accidents means the actual injury figure may be considerably higher.
What Are the Most Common Injuries at Theme Parks in Maryland?
Rides at theme parks are becoming increasingly extreme. Inevitably, high octane experiences put pressure on riders. Some of the most common injuries at theme parks in Maryland are:
- Neck, head, and back injuries, particularly whiplash
- Traumatic brain injuries from G-force or accidents that involve sudden stops or an object hitting the rider’s head
- Brain aneurysms
- Broken bones
- Drownings on water rides
Common Causes of Whiplash Injuries at Maryland Theme Parks
- Mechanical failure – Rides may break down and stop while guests are high above the ground, parts can fly off or seat belts can fail.
- Human error – An operator may stop the ride in mid-cycle, fail to check riders are restrained, fail to enforce height requirements, or be intoxicated when operating the ride;
- Failure to follow instructions – Passengers may undo their seat belts or stand up on rides.
- Inherent dangers on a ride – Rides may be inherently dangerous. In 2016, a 10-year-old boy was decapitated on a water ride in Kansas City, billed as the tallest waterslide in the world. The ride was permanently closed after the tragedy and found to be dangerous by design.
When Can You Sue a Theme Park for Whiplash in Maryland?
Whiplash at a theme park, a water park or on a fairground ride is caused by the sudden acceleration and deceleration forces that push the head and neck in a back and forth motion. The human body is not meant to withstand extreme forces. Whiplash can be extremely painful and result in time off work or school. Rides that spin around like tilt-a-whirl or rollercoasters that make high-speed turns or stop and start suddenly may cause whiplash injuries. Rides that lack headrests are more likely to cause whiplash injuries. Rollercoasters equipped with over-the-shoulder straps and good head supports are more likely to protect you from whiplash.
Whiplash can leave you with neck pain and neck stiffness for weeks or even months, headaches, dizziness, back pain and shoulder pain, nausea, arm pain, jaw pain, and ear and eye issues. It usually clears up in a matter of days or weeks but may last longer.
You can sue a theme park for whiplash in Maryland but making a case is often a challenge. Maryland has a law of contributory negligence that makes it difficult for amusement park users to bring a lawsuit. If your child was injured on a ride because he was below the height requirement, you can argue the operator was liable. However, if you failed to heed a sign showing the permitted height to go on the ride, the theme park may argue you were negligent.
Most rides have signs warning people who suffer certain conditions not to go on them. If you suffer from a neck weakness but go on the ride nevertheless, the park operator can claim contributory negligence. Theme parks can also require guests to sign liability waivers. These are typically not enforceable if the park is grossly negligent.
Not all neck injuries are foreseeable. If a ride breaks down or stops and the sudden jolt causes your whiplash, you can sue the park for either operator error or mechanical failure. Likewise, if a rollercoaster or water ride entails unacceptably high G-forces that cause neck injuries to riders, you may have grounds to sue the theme park or the manufacturer of a faulty ride.
We sometimes see cases where theme parks allow people to go on rides when they should close them down due to bad weather. This can also be the basis of a lawsuit against a park. You may have grounds to sue a theme park if damaged seating causes your whiplash. However, if the damage to the seat was obvious, the theme park owners can argue you should have noticed the issue and pointed it out.
As with other premises liability cases in Maryland, you should have suffered a significant injury to sue a water park. Carefully record what impact your whiplash injury has on your life. Factors like the pain you experienced, the time you missed from work or classes, and the effect of the injury on your life are relevant to your claim. Seven-figure claims have been made against some theme parks. In 2014, the Baltimore Sun reported how a mother from Virginia brought a $1 million lawsuit against Trimper’s Rides and Amusements in Ocean City. She claimed a ride left her son with a traumatic brain injury.
The woman claimed her son and friends were on a ride for youngsters with miniature trucks and cars when the operator unexpectedly stopped the ride to let a kid off. She said her son thought the ride was over and left his car. The operator started the ride again and a car hit her son, knocking him to the ground, fracturing his skull.
Talk to a Maryland Whiplash Injury Lawyer for Your Amusement Park Accident Claim
Amusement parks, theme parks, fairgrounds, and waterparks make a lot of money. Although nobody expects to be injured, accidents are more common than we think. Children don’t always act rationally on rides. The operators have a duty to help them out and make sure they are not in harm’s way. Whiplash is usually associated with car accidents but it can occur whenever rapid acceleration or deceleration is applied to the human body. Bringing a lawsuit against a theme park is tough. These venues have powerful legal teams. It’s important to hire a seasoned Baltimore personal injury lawyer who will fight your corner to get you a settlement you deserve. Call the Law Offices of Randolph Rice if you suffered whiplash or another amusement park injury at (410) 431-0911.