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A rollercoaster train whips through the corkscrew section of a red roller coaster

Summertime means the kids are out of school, and for many, that means vacation time. A theme park can be an all-inclusive fun way to burn some energy and make your kids happy. About 335 million people visit a U.S. theme park every year, and after a year in lockdown, one survey found that 72 percent of consumers are headed to one this summer.

But what happens when a thrilling roller coaster or other ride turns your day of fun into a nightmare?

The Six Flags amusement park chain is based in Texas, but terrible accidents or negligence occur at parks all over the world. Various incidents have happened at Six Flags around the country, including in 2013, a woman trying out the newly-opened New Texas Giant roller coaster, built with wood and steel, was thrown 75 feet to her death.

When you are waiting in line to ride a new ride, you probably are not thinking about the fact that you may be seriously injured or killed while on it. Yes, your chances of dying on a roller coaster are extremely low – about one in 16 million. However, there are over 30,000 theme park-related injuries every year, and three or four of those result in fatalities. It happens enough that 44 states have put some form of regulations in place. Some of those are strongly defined; others, not so much. There is no federal amusement park regulation, a controversial fact in the industry that some say is careless.

Ken Martin, a ride inspector and amusement park consultant, told NBC News in 2017 that streamlining regulations and the agencies that enforce them would decrease dangerous incidents.

“We’ve got to do a better job,” he said. “We’re protecting our kids and grandkids, and we can’t do it with a patchwork of regulations. We have to be singing from the same song, the same verse, the same beat.”

Theme park operators try to prevent these accidents by performing regular inspections according to the ride manufacturer’s specifications on dozens of ride components, such as the brakes and assembly. Inspections happen as often as three or four times a day. But they don’t catch every possible flaw.

When there is an injury or death at a theme park, it can be very difficult to determine who is liable. One case of a boy who was fatally electrocuted by a ride charged multiple people with criminal acts. Anyone involved with the ride or park, such as inspectors, owners, and ride operators, can be found at fault. 

Texas Ride Regulations & Visitor Responsibility

In Texas, every ride must have a compliance sticker. To get one, the ride owner must obtain the minimum insurance required by the state and have the ride fully inspected before it goes into service. You must submit monthly reports on any accidents or injuries and the current status of your insurance. Every incident must be reported, no matter how minor.

The insurance requirements vary based on what class of ride. A class A ride is any ride with a fixed location intended for use by children 12 years and younger; a Class B ride is anything else. Class A rides must carry at least $100,000 bodily injury. Class B rides, which are usually broken down and moved a lot, must carry at least one million dollars of bodily injury coverage.

Of course, avoiding injury at a theme park is also the responsibility of the visitor. Many injuries are due to visitors not following the rules, another reason why determining liability can be tough. Keeping common sense and these safety tips in mind can help keep your day fun and injury-free.

  • Obey all posted rules and restrictions
  • Keep hands, arms, feet and legs inside the ride at all times
  • Do not ride if you are ill or intoxicated
  • Secure any loose articles before riding
  • Never force children to ride against their will
  • Report any unsafe conditions

Theme park injuries can be virtually anything, from broken limbs to traumatic brain injuries to whiplash or damage to internal organs. If you or a loved one has suffered an injury while visiting an amusement park, you’ll need an experienced legal team who can wade through the ambiguities of fault with you. At the Cochran Firm Texas, we won’t let you suffer in silence or handle this alone. Give us a call anytime at 1-800-THE-FIRM (1-800-843-3476), contact us online, or via our online chat to get started with a free consultation.

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