Infrequent Inspections Have Riders Weighing Risks at Maine Amusement Parks

Families and vacationers looking for summer fun at Maine’s traveling amusement parks are thinking twice after several riders were injured in separate incidents at the same Waterville carnival.

Three children were hurt at a fundraiser in Head of Falls Park when two cars on a small roller coaster called the Dragon Wagon uncoupled and crashed into each other. One child was taken by ambulance to Thayer Center for Health, and the other two were taken by their parents to the hospital where they were treated and released.

In a separate incident the next afternoon, a young woman fell off the Air Time swing ride to the ground. She was taken to Inland Hospital for treatment. Investigators at the scene have labeled the cause of the second accident as rider error. According to witnesses, the young woman unfastened her safety restraint before the ride had come to a complete stop, lost her balance, and fell.

Ironically, all twenty rides at the carnival, which is operated by Smokey’s Greater Shows, had just had their annual inspection the week before the accidents.

The issue of amusement park inspections is a hot button topic in Maine. Amusement park rides are only required to be inspected once a year, but that inspection is only visual rather than an engineering inspection. Rides are not turned on during the inspections. Fire Marshal Joe Thomas, whose team does the inspections, says that he doesn’t have enough staff to inspect more often.

He says that “We’re using the same people for fire investigations and life safety investigations in buildings” that he uses for amusement park inspections.

Determining liability for Maine amusement park accidents

The concept of premises liability is in play when an accident occurs in amusement park, water park, or theme park settings. Operators of these types of attractions must maintain all aspects of the venues in a safe condition. If an operator knows there is an unsafe condition and fails to correct it, the inaction constitutes a breach of duty which makes the operator liable to an injured party in a personal injury claim.

If you have suffered an injury at an amusement park due to an unsafe condition, you may be eligible to file a Maine premises liability lawsuit to collect fair compensation for current and future medical expenses, lost wages, reduced earning capacity, pain and suffering, and other non-economic losses.

There is also a duty of care owed by the operator to a visitor who rides an attraction to provide a safe experience on the ride itself. This duty of care mandates rides that are adequately maintained, regularly inspected, and have all of the required safety restraints. If a rider is injured due to mechanical failure or an uninspected ride or inadequate safety features, a lawsuit can be filed.

The experienced Maine accident lawyers at Hardy, Wolf & Downing will also look to assess the liability of the manufacturer of the ride or the maker of the failed component part.

Negligence is also cause for a claim against the operators of an amusement or water park. If an employee is negligent or remiss in providing a safe experience for a visitor, you may file suit against the operator for that employee’s actions.

The operator and the employees may breach a duty of care if:

  • Failing to post signs that warn of risks to riders with medical conditions
  • Failing to properly train employees
  • Failing to maintain the equipment in safe operating condition
  • Failing to conduct regular inspections
  • Improper operation of the ride
  • Failing to provide proper instructions to riders

A rider has a responsibility to act in a safe manner

If a rider fails to comply with posted safety rules and is injured as a result, it will be difficult to prove in court that liability for the injury rests with the defendant (operator). This may well be the case of the young woman injured in the Waterville accident, if another rider unlatched her safety restraint before the ride had stopped.

If you have suffered an injury at an amusement, water, or theme park, you have legal options and may have the right to collect substantial compensation. We encourage you to contact the Maine amusement park accident lawyers at Hardy, Wolf & Downing right away. For a consultation in the Portland, Bangor, Lewistown or Southern Maine areas, call 1-800-INJURED today!