The Schlitterbahn story is absolutely gut wrenching.

Are you outside of Texas and have no idea what Schlitterbahn is?

Schlitterbahn (German for “water road”), arguably the worse name ever for an amusement park, is Texas-based chain of five water parks in Texas, Kansas, and Florida. Anyone who has ever lived in Texas will tell you that it is hotter than Hades here from about mid-May until late October. A trip to Schlitterbahn is an essential tool in your Texas summer survival toolkit.

Back to the story. Two years ago, a ten year old, baseball loving boy, was killed while riding the 17-story Verruckt (German for “insane”) water slide in Kansas City, Kansas. The raft he was riding in went airborne and he hit a metal brace that supported a netting system atop the ride. He was decapitated by the impact.

This week, two of Schlitterbahn’s owners and the general contractor involved in the construction of the ride were indicted for second-degree murder, aggravated battery, and child endangerment. The details in the indictment, which you can read here, are horrifying.

According to the indictment, the idea for the ride was created on a whim to get publicity from a television show. Those involved in the ride sidestepped warnings and industry safety norms in rushing the ride to completion. For example, the ride wasn’t designed by an engineer, but by a dude who really loved water park thrill rides. The indictment also claims the park covered up reports of at least 13 other people who were injured in the ride’s 182 days of operation before the boy’s tragic death.

Have I scared you off taking your kids to an amusement park this summer? I know I won’t be taking my kids to a water park anytime soon (and Schlitterbahn is permanently off of our summer activity list).

How do amusement park accidents happen?

There are lots of ways accidents can happen, including:

  • Negligent operation of rides (including poorly trained or bad employees).
  • Failure to maintain the equipment or the premises.
  • Drowning or other injuries on water rides (from lack of life guards, inadequately trained life guards, overcrowded pools, etc.).
  • Failure to enforce height and weight restrictions.
  • Rides that are too fast, or too difficult for guests to control.

Is the amusement park responsible for injuries?

The answer of course is, it depends.

If you are injured, the amusement park could be held responsible under a legal theory known as “premise liability.” In a nutshell, the amusement park has a responsibility to keep the park safe for its guests. With an amusement park, this would include, among other things, regularly inspecting the property to make sure there are no hazards for guests like broken glass or a loose safety bar on a ride, inspecting and maintaining the rides, and properly training the employees. The amusement park is also liable for the actions of its employees.

If the park fails to meet its responsibility to keep the park safe, it could be held liable.

Wait a minute, have you already waived your right to sue?

We need to get one thing straight. Just because you are injured at an amusement park, doesn’t mean the amusement park is responsible. In fact, most of the time the amusement park isn’t responsible.

Any idiot should know no matter how well designed and maintained a roller coaster is, there are still risks. If you don’t follow directions, you could get injured. And if your injury was one of the foreseeable risks of riding the ride, you are not going to be able to hold the amusement park responsible.

What about the waiver/release on the back of your ticket? See, the small print. It says you agree not to sue the park or its employees if you are injured. Not all waivers are enforceable. Whether or not the waiver is valid can only be determined by a court. Be sure to consult with an attorney.

For more information on the enforceability of waivers/releases, be sure to read my post, Signing Your Rights Away at the Indoor Playground-Liability Waiver and Release.

What should you do if you are injured at an amusement park?

So what should you do if you (or a family member or friend) are injured at an amusement park? In addition to getting proper medical care, here is what you should do:

  • Don’t immediately leave the park. Ask the ride operator or another employee for assistance.
  • Ask to speak to management and report the injury.
  • Go to a hospital or urgent care and get yourself checked out by a doctor. This is true even if you are feeling okay. Sometimes injuries are not apparent until later.
  • Talk to other people who were with you at the amusement park. Ask them to write down a description of the accident. If possible, get the names and phone numbers of other people who observed the accident. Ask them to do the same.
  • Get out your cell phone and take pictures of where you were injured.
  • Did you sign a waiver? I will say it again. You should still consult with an attorney. The waiver might be unenforceable. Whether or not a waiver is enforceable can only be determined by a court.

One very important thing to remember is you need to consult with an attorney soon after the accident. The statute of limitations on negligence ranges from two to four years, depending on the state where the accident occurred. For example, if the accident occurred in Texas, it’s two years, in Florida, it’s four years. If you don’t file your lawsuit before the end of the statute of limitations period, you lose your right to sue.

Leave a comment or send me an e-mail.

Disclaimer: This website is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.

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