More than 4,000 Kids Injured by Amusement Park Rides Every Year

Accident and injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm highlight a recent study which found that more than 4,400 children under the age of 17 are injured every year on amusement park rides. Fortunately, most of the injuries are minor, however, nearly 70 kids a year are injured enough to be hospitalized.

In the peak season, between May and September, about 20 children per day are hurt on a ride, which averages to about one injury every two hours. The study gathered data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS), a national sample of emergency room visit information from representative hospitals throughout the United States and its territories. More information on NEISS can be found here.

The study was conducted by the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Columbus, Ohio’s Nationwide Children’s Hospital. It is the most extensive study regarding this issue to date, tracking injuries in amusement parks, carnivals and fairs for over 20 years. The research even included injuries from coin-operated single rides at malls and restaurants.

The results of this study indicate that there is much need for increased awareness of the potential of injury on rides, and both parents and children need to be better educated on the risks. The study’s head, Dr. Gary Smith, told NBC News that there also needs to be an increase in tracking and oversight; in the past, the focus was always on the big, scary rides. Smith hopes that his study sends the message that injuries can occur in all types of rides, in various types of locations.

One Chicago girl, Destini Lofton, was only eight when she broke her wrist while on an indoor roller coaster. She apparently turned around to high five one of her nieces when and her hand became stuck between two rides. For one reason or another, more girls are hurt on rides than boys (55.5% versus 45.5%).

Theme park injuries, of course, are not limited only to children. In 2011, a man in upstate New York died while on a roller coaster at Darien Lake Theme Park Resort. Sergeant James Thomas Hackermer was an Army veteran and had already lost both his legs in Iraq. Sgt. Hackermer was ejected from the Ride of Steel – boasted as one of the tallest coasters east of the Mississippi – fell at least 200 feet, and died. He was assisted onto the ride, although it was not clear whether or not theme park workers considered barring him from the ride because of his unequal proportions.

When the Ride of Steel first opened, a man fell about ten feet to the ground as it was breaking on its final approach into the station house. The man suffered several fractured ribs and internal injuries. He sued the theme park, which was found to be fully liable for his injuries. He was awarded $4 million in damages.

Just a few months before this incident, an 11-year-old girl died while on a class trip to Morey’s Mariner’s Landing Pier in New Jersey. She fell about 150 feet from the top of a Ferris wheel which she was riding alone.

Between 1990 and 2010, nearly 93,000 children were injured on theme park rides. The most serious, of course, are cases of death, however the study did not detail how many children died on rides because fatalities are not tracked by hospital reports. Large, permanent theme parks caused about 33% of the injuries, traveling carnivals and fairs were responsible for another 30%, and rides at malls, arcades and restaurants made up about 12% of the injuries.

Young children especially (under five years old), were prone to being hurt on these free-standing rides, and were more than twice as likely as other children to suffer concussions. Coin-operated rides like these are not regulated by the CPSC, so they often lack sturdy restraints or cushioned surfaces.

Dr. Smith affirms that these reports are being studied and released in attempt to inform the public, policy makers, and others in the industry. He wants to educate the people who have the power and authority to keep children safe. Amusement park injury lawyers at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm urge parents to stay informed on these types of issues, particularly as the summer months roll in and kid’s activities change. If you or a loved one was seriously injured by a ride at any location, you may be entitled to significant compensation, and should contact a skilled lawyer as soon as possible.

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