How great is the risk of amusement park ride injuries?

With the school year winding down, many Pennsylvania children are counting down the days until their long-awaited visits to major amusement parks, including Pittsburgh’s historic Kennywood Park.

Many parents, on the other hand, may view these excursions with some amount of trepidation as they ponder the injury risks associated with the looping rollercoasters and other high-speed thrill rides to be found at those parks – and their anxieties may be amplified by news of the recent mishap in the United Kingdom, where four people were seriously hurt in a rollercoaster accident outside of London on June 2, 2015.

The good news for concerned parents is that, statistically speaking, amusement park injuries are relatively rare. According to estimates cited by ABC News, the likelihood of being hurt by an amusement park ride is only about one in 24 million. However, those odds are likely cold comfort to anyone who has been hurt on a ride or seen a loved one injured in this way.

U.S. hospitals treat thousands of ride injuries per year

According to a 2013 report from Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which was published in the medical journal Pediatrics, about 4,400 children are hurt on rides each year in the United States. More than 70 percent of those injuries occur during the summer months, when temperatures are warmer and children are typically out of school. In the summertime, about 20 children per day are treated in U.S. emergency rooms for ride-related injuries.

The ride injury study was based on 20 years’ worth of emergency room data from hospitals around the United States. The researchers broke the injury data down by ride type according to the following three categories:

  • Fixed-site rides (found at major amusement parks and theme parks)
  • Mobile rides (found at county fairs and traveling carnivals)
  • Mall rides (found at shopping centers and arcades)

In general, ride injuries at fixed-site locations are more likely to make headlines, as in the case of the recent UK rollercoaster crash. However, the study showed that fixed-site rides are responsible for only about one-third of ride-related emergency room visits for children under the age of 18. Mobile rides were implicated in nearly as many injuries, at about 29 percent, while mall rides were responsible for a smaller 12 percent. In about one-fourth of fall cases, the type of ride involved was unknown.

Although mall rides contributed to a smaller number of injuries overall, they were associated with a far higher proportion of fall-related injuries, which can occur when a child falls from, against or onto a ride. This may be because mall rides are frequently placed on hard surfaces without adequate fall protection.

Who is liable when a child is hurt on a ride?

When a child is hurt on a ride, it is often due to the negligence of another party. For example, if a ride is poorly designed, inadequately maintained or improperly supervised, those factors may create an unreasonable risk of injuries for children who use the ride. If your child has been hurt on a ride in one of Pennsylvania’s many amusement parks, shopping centers, fairs or arcades, contact the child injury lawyers at Berger & Green. They can provide you with a free no obligation consultation to discuss the possibility of filing a legal claim to pursue compensation and protect your child’s long-term interests.