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Amusement park injuries are not so amusing

With summer here, you and your family may be considering your options for a vacation. Along with trips to the beach, camping and family reunions, you and your family may be looking forward to a visit to an amusement park. You may have memories of such trips when you were a child, or maybe it's an annual tradition in your own family.

No matter how much experience you have with amusement parks, you understand that part of the lure that makes many rides exciting is the sense of danger. However, how can you know if that danger is real?

Is anyone looking out for you?

Without a doubt, you heard the news coverage of last summer's accidents at several parks in Texas and across the country, and you may be wondering how dangerous the rides really are. Certainly, there must be laws concerning the maintenance and inspections of these parks, and those accidents must have been a fluke. Unfortunately, it is possible that the truth about the dangers of amusement park rides are greater than you realize.

In 1981, Congress passed a law preventing the Consumer Product Safety Commission from regulating parks in permanent locations, determining that such parks are not consumer products. Mobile carnivals and inflatable rides have federal regulation, whereas the towering and weather-worn amusements at theme parks do not. Some states do have laws for inspecting and maintaining parks within their borders. Those laws may require the following:

  • Scheduled inspections by government safety entities
  • Permission for state agencies to investigate accidents on park property
  • Submission of reports summarizing any investigations into accidents

Because the law does not require many parks — including Walt Disney World, Busch Gardens and Universal Studios — to report or investigate the accidents, injuries and deaths that happen on their rides, the public may assume no serious injuries occur, except for those especially horrendous incidents the media highlights.

Everything's fine… or is it?

The only opportunity for uniform transparency in the world of amusement park safety is an annual survey that the trade group the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions sends to the 400 or more parks across the country. However, it may not surprise you that the IAAPA opposes federal safety regulation and spends millions of dollars lobbying against it.

Nevertheless, each year, the IAAPA sends its safety survey to fewer parks, and even fewer respond. Since the amusement park industry funds the trade group, you may not be able to rely on the results of its surveys. In fact, year after year, the parks responding claim their accident rates are steadily declining.

Still, each year, victims and families of victims who are injured on rides must deal with the pain, suffering and loss related to their injuries. If you are among the thousands who have suffered because of an amusement park injury, you have every right to pursue information about your rights and the options available for seeking justice.

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