When you think of a waterpark, you probably picture a hot, sunny summer day with crowds of people flocking to the nearest water slide. The appeal of waterparks is not limited to just children and teens. Young adults and parents alike are quick to jump in and enjoy the slides, wave pool, and lazy river when the opportunity presents itself. They expect the utmost care in safety precautions, but unfortunately, accidents occur at waterparks more often than people realize.
The harm people suffer at waterparks can range from small cuts to catastrophic fatal injuries. When injuries occur to you or a loved one, you should not be financially responsible for the medical expenses and other costs associated with the injury. The Reiff Law Firm has fought for the severely injured for over 40 years and will fight for you. Call (215) 246-9000 to schedule a free appointment to review your legal options.
Causes of Injury on Water Slides
Perhaps the most infamous water slide of all time was the CannonBall Loop at Action Park in Vernon, NJ. The slide was one-of-a-kind in that it had a loop much like a rollercoaster does. Unfortunately, people would get stuck in the loop, or they would slam their head or face into the loop if they had too much (or too little) speed. Other people would emerge with cuts and abrasions across their entire backs because the loop would prevent sand and sediment from emptying into the pool. This slide is a particularly egregious example of how a defectively designed and insufficiently maintained waterslide can lead to serious injuries. Other causes of injury on water slides include:
- Operator error
- Equipment failure
- Failure to warn about known hazards
- Ride exit velocity
- Failure to account for foreseeable human behavior
The preceding list is far from a comprehensive compilation of all the reasons injuries are sustained on water slides. However, it does address many of the predominant causes of injury.
Types of Water Slide Injuries
Statistics regarding water slide accidents and injuries are not collected nationally. However, an estimate by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) states that more than 4,200 people suffer water slide related injuries that require an emergency room visit.
Some types of water slide accidents are catastrophic. One of the most infamous incidents was a young boy losing his life on the Verrückt (German for “insane”) water slide in Schlitterbahn, Kansas City. Built in 2004, it was the tallest water slide at the time and had a serious design defect that caused the fatal injury. In a few other cases, water slides have broken in pieces, sending riders careening to the surface below.
Fortunately, those types of devastating accidents remain rare. Unfortunately, water slides still account for a high percentage of injuries. While these injuries are typically not fatal, riders suffer a wide variety of injuries.
Slip and Fall Accidents Around Water Slides
Slip and fall accidents are one of the most common causes of injuries around water slides. Water slides generally require ascending numerous stairs to get to the top of a slide. Because of the congestion of people in line and the slippery surfaces, people lose their footing. Falls result in bruises, lacerations, and fractured bones. Sometimes, a guest could sustain spinal cord damage or a traumatic brain injury in a fall.
Lacerations and Cuts
Any cut or laceration a guest suffers at a waterpark is especially dangerous due to the risk of infection. The water used on the slides and in the pools of an amusement park is often filled with bacteria and germs. A guest could receive a cut from brushing up against a part of the slide or stubbing their toe. Lacerations are also caused by irregular or rough seams on the water slide itself.
Spinal Cord and Neck Injuries
Guests on water slides often reach high speeds going down the slide. Tube slides or slides that utilize rafts present additional hazards. If a rider is thrown from a raft or twists in a certain way within a tube, they could severely injure their neck or back. Whiplash can also occur if a rider is not positioned correctly. A person could also be discharged into a pool onto another guest if an attendant is not paying attention to the number of riders on a slide.
Drowning becomes a concern whenever an activity involves a pool or water. Waterparks are filled with children and often do not have enough lifeguards on duty to adequately supervise every inch of the various pools. If someone is injured during a ride on a water slide, they may not be able to swim or leave the pool. Furthermore, a near-drowning experience could leave a guest permanently brain damaged due to the lack of oxygen.
Of course, the design and nature of the ride directly influence the types of injuries that may occur. For instance, slides on which a rider slides head-first are much more likely to produce traumatic brain injuries and cervical spine injuries.
Park Liability for Water Slide Injuries
Water parks are responsible for ensuring their rides and amusements are reasonably safe for their park guests. They also have a duty to keep the areas surrounding the attractions safe as well. If a water slide is defective or if a park employee were negligent in operating the attraction, the park could be held liable for any injuries that occurred.
An amusement park or water park could be held liable for a guest’s injury if it occurred on one of its attractions or water slides. A water park might also absorb liability through the conduct of its employees. For instance, if an employee fails to provide a child with the proper instructions on riding a water slide and the child is seriously injured on the slide, the park could be held liable for the injury. It is the responsibility of the management of the park to ensure all its employees understand their jobs, especially when it comes to the safety of the park’s patrons.
A water park could also be held accountable for any injuries that were caused by poor upkeep of the park or the equipment. Water slides, like all other equipment, require routine maintenance and repair to operate safely. The park operator has to inspect the slide for defects or safety hazards regularly. When a water slide falls into disrepair, the chances of a catastrophic accident increase.
Injuries often occur around water slides as well. The surfaces around the entrance and exit of a water slide are usually wet and slippery. If proper matting is not present, the amount of water could make the surface areas unreasonably slippery for guests. The staircases up to the top of a slide are often cover with water and require matting on the stair surface to provide safe footing for park guests. If these absorptive runners are not installed properly or have fallen off, a person could easily slip and fall, hurting themselves and other guests around them.
In addition to the verbal instructions given by the attendants before a guest rides a water slide, a water park should have ample and visible safety instructions posted around the slide and throughout the park. These instructions should not only include basic conduct rules but also should display recommended age and size restrictions for the rides. If an operator knowingly ignores these restrictions, both they and the park could be held accountable for any injures.
Safety equipment is also vital in keeping park guests from harm. Young children and weak or inexperienced swimmers should be required to wear proper life vests. The vests supplied by the water park should be regularly inspected, cleaned, and in good condition. Park attendants should also enforce the wearing of life jackets where there are required.
Water Slide Injuries and Product Liability
In some instances, a defective slide could be to blame for a guest’s injury. If a manufacturer released a defective product, either in the design of the product or the manufacturing process, our law firm could file a products liability lawsuit on behalf of an injured victim. With products liability, an injured plaintiff does not have to prove that the manufacturer was negligent. Our attorneys would only have to demonstrate that the product was defective and that the defect caused the injury. Poorly designed water slides can result in catastrophic injuries. For example, a water slide could be designed in such a way that the sides are not sufficiently high enough to keep all riders safely on the slide. Faulty seams or molded parts that are not smooth could cut or bruise a rider.
Liability for Homeowners with Water Slides
Water slides exist outside of amusement and theme parks. Your friends or neighborhoods could have a water slide attached to their pool. Some people also have “slip ‘n slides” set up across their lawns for their children and their friends to play on. It is not uncommon for people and children to be injured while playing on these home water rides. While a homeowner may not have the same duty to a guest in their home as a paying patron in a water park, they are still responsible for maintaining a reasonably hazard-free property.
If a homeowner was aware that their water slide was defective, or they installed it improperly, they could be held accountable for any harm the slide caused.
Homeowners do not owe the same duty to trespassers. A property owner has no legal obligation to warn a trespasser about hazardous conditions on their property, including a defective water slide. If someone is on another person’s property without permission and is hurt on their water slide, the injured person cannot file a personal injury lawsuit against the homeowner. This also applies to water parks. If someone enters the park after the hours of operation and is injured, they cannot bring a claim against the amusement park.
Safety Concerns and Dangers of Water Slides
Waterparks are aggressive in promoting themselves as a place for safe family fun. However, according to the previously mentioned study by the CPSC, waterparks are the leading sub-category for injuries at amusement parks. The nationwide patchwork of state-by-state regulatory approaches certainly does not help matters. What this amounts to is that two-thirds of the largest 15 waterparks in the nation face no governmental scrutiny or oversight. Considering the increasing number of injuries at waterparks, this lack of oversight and inspection calls into question the parks’ claims of safety.
Call Our Water Slide Accident Attorney for a Free Consultation
Waterparks and water slides are supposed to provide fun family vacation moments and memories. Unfortunately, these fun attractions have some inherent risks. Those risks are often increased due to the poor choices of park management and the conduct of its employees. If you or a loved one was hurt in a water slide accident, contact our water slide accident attorney. The Reiff Law Firm has a team of dedicated attorneys and staff whose one goal is to fight for those injured through no fault of their own. Call (215) 246-9000 to schedule a free consultation.