The major theme parks are spread over wide areas and are powered by numerous pieces of machinery, electrical equipment and cabling. The number one concern for theme park operators is ensuring that their technical and mechanical infrastructure is kept properly maintained and free from faults. Maintenance failures are the most common cause of major accidents and safety incidents at theme parks, such as when rides become stuck midway through or are derailed while in motion. For this reason, inspections and risk assessments need to be carried out on a routine basis to identify potential problems and facilitate action being taken before a technical or mechanical fault can pose a realistic danger to visitors.
Apart from major safety failures of the kind described above, theme park visitors may injure themselves onsite in numerous other ways. Those who stray off the designated paths may trip over electric cables, rubbish or debris hidden in the grass, or may slip on spilled food and beverage items in cafes, bars and restaurants. They may be struck by objects such as promotional signs falling from height, or may stumble and fall over in areas of the site that may contain unforeseen obstructions, are poorly lit, or are badly laid out from the perspective of visitor safety. Indoor facilities such as play areas, activity zones, water parks and toilets must be kept in a state of good repair, and must also be subject to regular inspections and thorough risk assessments aimed at preventing accidents.
Theme parks are also under a legal obligation to provide proper supervision of the various activities, rides and other attractions they offer. This includes assessing whether a visitor is old enough and tall enough to safely use a ride (guidelines normally apply in both cases), as well as supervising group activities, including swimming, to ensure that individuals do not recklessly endanger the safety of others.
Our client was a young boy on a family day out at a well-known amusement theme park. While enjoying one of the thrill rides with his older sister, the child slipped in his seat causing him to slide under the safety barrier which was supposed to secure passengers. Fortunately each pair of seats formed an individual compartment, and there was therefore no risk of the child falling off the ride altogether. The incident took place on the ride's final descent; as it came to a halt the child was thrown against the front of the compartment at considerable speed. He sustained a fractured rib, bruising to the body, mild concussion and considerable psychological trauma.
The family were referred to Bartletts Solicitors by a friend who found out that we had handled several cases previously against the same theme park. The minimum height requirement for the ride was 1.2 metres, and the child we represented was only 1.1 metres tall. We contacted the theme park, arguing that lack of supervision on the part of the ride's attendants had been the primary cause of the accident. The claim was contested on the grounds that the height restrictions were clearly marked, and should therefore have been the parents’ responsibility to stop their child from using the ride. The court found that the attendants in question had not received proper training and had failed to provide adequate supervision. Our client was awarded £10,000 in compensation, along with a further significant sum to cover medical and legal costs. The compensation was placed in a court-administered investment account to be paid to the child once he reaches the age of 18.
Mr B was injured through no fault of his own while on a day out with friends at a theme park. Mr B was waiting in a queue for one of the most popular rides at the amusement park when he leaned on a security barrier which unexpectedly collapsed under his weight, causing him to fall to the ground on top of the metal railings. The accident took place during the summer school holidays when the park was full of visitors, however, the weather was also blustery on the day in question, and staff had previously had to reinforce security fencing on the site with sandbags. Mr B sprained a ligament in his lower back and badly bruised his tailbone (coccyx) in the accident, leaving him unable to walk without assistance. He received basic medical treatment from the park’s first aid team, and saw his GP the following day who prescribed rest and pain killing medication. Mr B’s mobility was restricted for some time after the incident, and he was unable to work for 10 days as a result.
Having read about a case involving similar circumstances to his own online, Mr B got in touch with Bartletts Solicitors, and subsequently instructed us to begin a personal injury claim against the owners of the theme park. During correspondence with the latter and their insurers, we maintained that the security barrier must have been in a defective state at the time of the incident, or else that it should have been reinforced by sandbags in the same way that other barriers had been. The park’s management and staff had failed to take adequate measures to protect Mr B from the risk of injury, and were therefore in breach of the duty they owed him under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957. After 6 months of correspondence we were able to obtain an admission of partial liability from the theme park’s insurers, and our client later received £2,750 in compensation.
Bartletts Solicitors represented a lady who was injured at a theme park while using one of the rides. As the train was pulling in at the end of the ride it stopped suddenly, and the vehicle jolted, throwing Mrs C forward and wrenching muscles in her neck and shoulders. She was in severe pain and discomfort following the accident, and was taken to the medical centre on the site, where medical staff provided basic first aid, before Mrs C was driven home by her daughter. Mrs C’s doctor later prescribed medication and a course of physiotherapy treatment to deal with muscular damage to her neck and shoulders, but she continued to experience symptoms of whiplash for more than 6 months afterwards, causing ongoing pain and restricting her range of mobility.
Having read about a case similar to her own on our website, Mrs C got in touch with Bartletts Solicitors, and later instructed us to begin a no win no fee compensation claim. We wrote to the theme park and its insurers, stating that it had breached the duty of care it owed Mrs C as a visitor under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1957, by failing to keep her reasonably safe while she was visiting the site. After a few months of correspondence the theme park’s insurers acknowledged that the train had stopped too quickly due to the improper actions of the ride operator, and that this had directly resulted in Mrs C’s injuries. This represented an admission of liability on the part of the theme park’s owners, and we were subsequently able to negotiate a compensation settlement of £3,250.