It’s not news that all those fun, thrilling rides at State Fairs, Carnivals, and Theme Parks can be dangerous and even deadly. That’s been an acknowledged reality for a while now; see, e.g., the New York Times coverage back in July 2014 in the story by Ian Urbina entitled “When Thrill Rides Are Real Risks.”
In our last post, we described the recent tragic accidents at the Ohio State Fair and the Lebanon, Indiana, Fourth of July Festival. Other incidents across the country since April 2017, including a park guest being electrocuted, are also discussed.
Today, we consider what amusement ride victims and their loved ones can do in the aftermath of a serious injury here in Indiana or Illinois, and how well the law protects all of us from these kind of dangers.
Federal Law Does Not Oversee Amusement Park Rides
Back in July 2014, the New York Times discussed the problem of dangerous amusement park rides with members of Congress as well as representatives of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
The reporting was done not long after the Sandusky, Ohio, accident where a water ride had injured six people and the Six Flags Over Texas tragedy where a woman fell to her death from the Texas Giant roller coaster.
And while the federal position at that time was these kinds of rides can be very dangerous and deadly, the reality is that right now, there is no federal law or regulation that oversees their safety.
That’s left to the individual states. Which the International Association for Amusement Parks and Attractions likes just fine.
State Law Varies On Oversight of Amusement Park Rides
According to the IAAPA, “states are best equipped to regulate the amusement park industry.”
This is the IAAPA position even though it acknowledges 6 states have absolutely NO regulation of amusement park rides whatsoever. These six states are Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah.
The IAAPA’s position is that it is “unlikely that a federal agency could match the effectiveness of the current system” and that “[r]elevant data consistently shows only a small percentage of incidents that do occur are caused by factors subject to governmental ride operations oversight, namely either staff or mechanical error.”
So, right now there are no laws governing amusement park rides in Alabama, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, Wyoming, and Utah – just in case you are planning to visit a state fair or carnival there.
And as for the remaining states that do regulate these amusement park rides, what the laws do varies widely from state to state.
According to SaferParks.org, Illinois is seen as providing “comprehensive government oversight” while Indiana is viewed with “partial government oversight” of amusement ride safety.
Illinois Amusement Park Ride Regulation
In Illinois, amusement park rides are divided into public use and private use. There are also distinctions between carnivals and fairs, and between kiddie rides and major rides.
For instance, if you operate a moonwalk at a private party in Illinois then you do not need a permit. However, if you operate that same moonwalk for an event open to the public, then you do.
Permits are issued to operate amusement park rides in Illinois if they meet certain criteria. However, not all amusement rides must have a state permit.
Those that can operate in Illinois without a permit are: air boats, ball crawls (permanent), batting cages, coin operated rides, dry slides under 20 feet, games, hay rack rides, hot air balloons, indoor interactive arcade games, jet skis, laser/paint ball war games (non-inflatable), live-animal rides/shows, mazes (corn), paddle boats, parasails, playlands (located in public buildings), playground equipment (permanent), pony rides, rider-propelled merry-go- rounds, trampolines.
Illinois requires insurance policies be in place for amusement park rides.
Indiana Amusement Park Ride Regulation
In Indiana, amusement park rides are overseen by the Elevators and Amusement Ride Safety Section of the state’s Department of Homeland Security. In Indiana, “amusement entertainment permits “ are required for events that include amusement rides.
These permit applications must be filed well in advance of the event to give the state inspectors time to schedule and visit the site for a safety inspection. These permits can be for a single date / event or for a year-round or seasonal event.
Indiana requires insurance policies be in place for amusement park rides.
Amusement Park Ride Injuries
Amusement park rides can cause serious injury or even death, and these tragedies happen in all sorts of ways.
Examples of serious amusement park rides include:
- Roller Coaster Accidents
- Accidents Involving Park Rides That Carry Riders To Great Heights Other Than Roller Coasters (like the Fire Ball)
- Ferris Wheel Accidents
- Bumper Car Accidents
- Zip Line Accidents
- Climbing Wall Accidents
- Traumatic Brain Injuries;
- Spinal Cord Injuries;
- Broken Bones;
- Internal Organ Injuries;
- Psychological Trauma; and
Last month, Time Magazine asked if these amusement park rides are “an acceptable risk , or are they foolheardy?” given their study of recent amusement park ride tragedies both in the United States and elsewhere.
It’s a good question. Amusement park ride dangers are real – and the causes are numerous. A ride operator can be distracted; the inspection of the ride may have been lax; and the ride may be in need of repair or maintenance. It may be defective in design, as well.
Remember that these rides are often taken down and moved to new locations. That may happen periodically, like a carnival that travels from place to place and has to dismantle its park rides (Ferris wheels, roller coasters, bumper cars, etc.) as it continues on its schedule. Or it may be a State Fair that brings in all kinds of inviting amusement park rides for its annual event.
The danger of being seriously hurt or killed on an amusement park ride is real. In the news reporting we’ve referenced in this week’s posts, further information is provided on exactly how serious this danger may be to all of us.
Personal injury and wrongful death laws in Indiana and Illinois provide a means for victims to seek justice in the aftermath of an amusement park ride tragedy. Sadly, we have had to fight for loved ones seeking this kind of justice after the loss of their loved one in a State Fair accident, where everyone left that morning for a fun day only to face the horror of an accidental death.
For more, read:
- Amusement Park Rides: Safety Depends Upon States, Not Federal Government, For The Big Stationary Rides (Like Roller Coasters)
- Indiana State Fair Tragedy Labelled Biggest Story of 2011: Where You Get Injured Makes a Difference in Damages Award You May Receive
- Indiana State Fair Stage Collapse.
Please, let’s be careful out there.