Theme Park Injury Compensation

Amusement, theme and adventure parks are designed to thrill and entertain patrons with a variety of attractions including rides and water slides. Like all public venues, they present the usual risks of slips, trips and falls. However rides, water parks and roller-coasters pose additional risks of injury which must be mitigated against.

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Amusement parks have an obligation to patrons take reasonable care to maintain and repair their premises, rides and equipment, to prevent injury or damage. When attending a theme park patrons are entitled to expect that although the rides offer a “thrilling” experience, they are nonetheless safe and not exposed to injury. Generally speaking, a patron will not be considered to assume an ‘obvious risk of injury’ by going on thrill rides, as would be the case if they engaged in dangerous recreational activities such as skydiving or bungee jumping. 

Park operators will usually be liable for injuries that occur at their premises, due to their own negligence, or that of their employees. Although a theme, amusement or adventure park may attempt to limit or exclude their liability through disclaimers or waivers, these may or may not be effective depending on the wording and circumstances.

Common amusement park injuries

Injuries commonly sustained by patrons at theme and amusement parks include:

  • Whiplash and other head, neck and back injuries from sudden whipping movements on roller-coasters, bumper cars and other fast rides.
  • Fractures and soft tissue injuries due to slips, trips and falls
  • Cuts, bruises and abrasions from waterslides, and fast rides
  • Head trauma and traumatic brain injury from G-forces and stress imposed on the brain by spinning rides or direct impacts to the head
  • Brain aneurysms from fast rides
  • Cerebral haemorrhage, brain bleed, loss of consciousness, headaches and dizziness associated with fast spinning rides
  • Death by: drownings, falling from a ride or other mechanical malfunction
  • Food poisoning from contaminated food served at amusement park restaurants

I was injured at a theme park can I claim compensation?

You may be able to claim compensation for injuries that occur at a theme park, amusement park, leisure park, adventure park, water park or trampoline park if they were caused by someone else’s negligence or carelessness. Simply injuring yourself while on a park’s premises does not automatically entitle you to be paid compensation for your injuries.

Amusement parks are required to have systems in place to regularly:

  • check and maintain rides and equipment;
  • ensure all ride equipment and machinery meets industry standards;
  • restrict access to areas around rides to prevent people interfering with rides while in operation;
  • ensure rides are supervised at all times to ensure restrains are properly fitted and riders are properly positioned on rides; and
  • refuse access to patrons who refuse to follow safety instructions.

If a venue fails to do any of these things, and someone is killed or injured as a result, they will be liable to compensate the victim or the victim’s family for their injuries. On the other hand, if a venue can show that it adhered to proper procedures and took all reasonable steps to prevent risk of injury and someone was still harmed, a court may find they are not liable.

Examples: Jeff is riding a roller coaster at a theme park when his restraint becomes loose and he falls from the ride sustaining severe injuries. Because the amusement park failed to maintain the restraint system on the roller-coaster properly, it is liable to compensate Jeff for his injuries. 
Johnny is particularly short and is intent on riding the roller-coaster. Although he is much smaller than the height requirement, he sneaks through the line and boards the roller-coaster while the attendant is assisting another rider to board. While the ride is in motion, Johnny is thrown around within his seat and sustains whiplash injuries as well as bruises to his body. Johnny may not be able to claim compensation because he knowingly contravened safety rules. 
Fiona was running toward her favourite ride when she trips on her shoelace and falls on her arm, fracturing her wrist. Fiona is unable to claim compensation from the amusement park as her injury was not caused by any negligence on its part.

How much compensation can I get?

The purpose of injury compensation is (as far as possible) to put you in the position you would have been in, had you not been injured. The amount of compensation you are entitled to is determined by comparing what your life was like before the injury and what it is like now. Therefore, someone whose injury has had a greater impact on their life will be entitled to more compensation than someone whose injury has had only minimal impact. 

The amount of compensation payable varies greatly from case to case, depending on a variety of variables such as:

  • the severity of the injury: more severe injuries will attract more compensation
  • the age of the patient: young people are likely to receive greater compensation than older people for a similar injury as it will impact their lifestyle and employment for a longer period of time.
  • level of health prior to the incident: an active and healthy person may suffer more from an injury because they are unable to exercise the way they did prior to the accident and may become predisposed to mood disorders and other health conditions they may not have suffered were it not for their injury.
  • pre-incident lifestyle: injured claimants who formerly engaged in activities they can no longer participate in may experience a greater impact from their injuries.
  • occupation: more compensation will be payable where a person’s ability to work in their former occupation is impacted severely by their injuries.

The amount of compensation you will receive may therefore include amounts to cover you for:

  • general damages (to compensate you for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life);
  • out of pocket medical, hospital, surgical and rehabilitation costs;
  • any loss of income and superannuation;
  • future medical or personal care costs you will likely incur; and
  • interest

What to do if you are injured at an amusement park

If you are injured at an amusement park:

  1. Report the incident and your injuries to a staff member immediately. Make sure they make a note of all relevant details in an accident report book.
  2. Take photographs of your injuries, the cause of your injuries or the scene of the incident if possible.
  3. Record contact details of any witnesses of the accident.
  4. Seek appropriate medical treatment for your injuries. If the injury is serious its important that you see a medical professional as soon as possible so that your injuries can be diagnosed and recorded for evidence.
  5. Keep any receipts for medical and other out-of-pocket expenses.

Recent Theme & Amusement Park Compensation Cases

Four dead after Dreamworld’s Rapid Ride malfunctions - 2016

In October 2016, four adults died on the Thunder Rapids Ride when their raft flipped as it was pushed into a jammed raft in front, throwing the occupants onto the conveyor belt and into the water below. While no determination of liability has yet been made, there are allegations that Dreamworld failed to properly maintain the ride.

Man awarded over $4.6 million dollars for back flipping on jumping pillow - 2014

Civil action was brought against Green Valley Farm in Tingha by a man who was rendered a quadriplegic after attempting a backward somersault on a jumping pillow. The 21 year old male, made two attempts at a backward somersault after seen a number of other patrons do it. On his last attempt, he landed on his head causing serious injuries to his neck and spinal chord. The court found that the amusement park was negligent because it didn’t prohibit such manoeuvres on the jumping pillow, display signs advising of the prohibited manoeuvres or stop the plaintiff from attempting the trick.

Girl died after being flung from ride at Royal Adelaide Show - 2014

An eight year old girl died after being flung from the “Airmaxx 360” ride at the Royal Adelaide Show. Despite wearing a safety harness, the child slipped out of her seat and at one point was hanging on by her legs before falling to the found. The owners of the ride were charged with 10 counts of breaching health and safety laws for failing to ensure the ride was inspected by a competent person, failing to ensure safe systems of work to ensure the ride was operated safely and failure to provide attendants with proper training and instruction on its safe operation.

Next steps - get advice now

It’s important to get advice for your specific situation. Check if you can make a risk-free compensation claim and get free initial advice from our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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Last update on:
May 29, 2018
Disclaimer: This information is designed for general information in relation to Queensland compensation law. It does not constitute legal advice. We strongly recommend you seek legal advice in regards to your specific situation. For expert advice call 1800 266 801 or chat via live chat to arrange free initial advice with our Principal lawyer, Greg Smith.

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