Amusement Park and Fair Season is Just Around the Corner!

Amusement parks offer guests fun, adrenaline-pumping rides, fantastic sights, and much more. Whether you are visiting a county fair, state fair, carnival, theme park, amusement park, or even a water park, no element of surprise should include injury erupting from reckless behavior. Unfortunately, when carelessness is blended in with excitement, the outcome can be anything but joyous, resulting in serious personal injury and even wrongful death. According to the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions, 300 million people go to amusement parks each year. It is estimated that the chance of an injury happening in a theme park setting is 1 in 9 million. After recent fatal events at the Ohio State Fair, Hicks & Motto wanted to inform you about what to do in the event of an injury at an amusement park, fair, or carnival.

Guest safety in any amusement park setting should always come first and be at the top of the establishment’s list of priorities. Unfortunately, this is not always the case and when careless actions or efforts are carried out by owners or employees, people get hurt. Some common negligence issues that lead to injuries include:

  • Dimly lit areas like parking lots where assaults can take place
  • Unlocked doors or gates that can permit access to dangerous areas
  • Poorly maintained rides or buildings
  • Ride operators under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Defects in rides
  • Slippery surface areas
  • Equipment or other articles that obstruct walkways

Tampa, Orlando, Weeki Wachee, and other parts of Florida have some magnificent theme parks that are famous throughout the country. Popular theme parks like these are required to have routine safety inspections and highly trained employees operating the rides. However, even if these safety precautions are performed regularly and properly, accidents can still happen. Injuries at theme parks can be lethal due to extreme heights and momentous speeds reached within seconds flat.

Many amusement park accidents take place on a more local level, at county or state fairs, and short-term festivals and carnivals. The safety measures for small-scale events like these are not as strict as large and permanent parks. Rides and stations are set up and taken down repeatedly and transported across the country every few days or weeks. Sometimes the storage process of these rides can be inadequate. These rides are usually not maintained properly, overused, and outdated. It is not uncommon for these rides to be improperly set up, which can make them a full-on danger zone for paying customers.

The staff at these local events can also be crookedly constructed. Many times they are not fully aware or trained at handling such intricate structures. When this is the case, serious unfortunate accidents can occur. All it takes is one missing screw or an untrained employee to create a catastrophic injury that can change your life forever.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) used to track the number of deaths due to theme park or carnival rides (52 deaths between 1990 and 2004), but they no longer collect mortality data. They did report that, in 2011, over 37,000 people were sent to emergency rooms. Of those, approximately 36,000 were released and a little over 1,000 were admitted to the hospital. The CPSC regulates portable rides such as the ones that you see at county fairs and carnivals, but they have nothing to do with standard fixed rides such as the ones found at Disney World, Universal Studios, or Busch Gardens.

When a wrongful death or amusement park injury occurs, and that injury occurs on a ride, it will be generally due to improper ride maintenance, inspection, or a failure to warn. A theme-park injury may originate with a ride manufacturer’s product defect – which would give rise to a product-liability claim.

However, plenty of people are injured at theme parks or carnivals, and those injuries have nothing to do with the actual rides. The owner/manager of the park has an obligation to maintain the general premises in a safe condition. Inadequate security, broken stairs or handrails, uneven pavement, or insufficient lighting in the parking lot may also be evidence of general negligence that would give rise to a premises-liability claim.

Most theme park accidents deal with large corporations; sometimes one claim can involve several different companies. At Hicks & Motto, we are prepared to go to bat against major corporations; we will not cower from scare tactics enlisted by these corporations to get you to take a low settlement. It is important to know that swift settlement offers are usually not in your best interest; however, all cases are unique. Generally speaking, companies will try and dissuade you from pursuing your legal matters by convincing you that you will be unsuccessful against them. This is simply an effort to limit their product liability exposure. Whether you, or someone you know, is injured at any fairs, carnivals, or theme parks in Florida, call the injury lawyers at Hicks & Motto, P.A., for a free consultation.

May 21-27 is National Safe Boating Week!

The number of vessels registered in Florida increased slightly in 2016 — to 931,450 — and the state leads the nation in registered vessels. Additionally, it is estimated that up to one million non-registered vessels actively use Florida’s waters, and this segment of the boating population appears to still be growing. Our waterways show the strains of congestion, as each year brings more residents and visitors together to utilize our abundant water resources and enjoy Florida’s boating lifestyle.

2016 SUMMARY OF BOATING ACCIDENTS

  • Florida leads the nation with a total number of 931,450 registered vessels in 2016.
  • There was a total of 714 reportable boating accidents in 2016.
  • Collison with vessel was the leading type of accident with a total of 181 (25%).
  • Towed watersport activities were involved in 13 accidents, resulting in 13 injuries.
  • Paddlecraft (canoes, kayaks, rowboats, paddleboards) were involved in 10 accidents resulting in nine fatalities and three injuries.
  • July was the month with the highest number of accidents (96).
  • Monroe County reported the highest number of accidents and injuries (105 total accidents with three fatalities and 52 injuries).

BOATING FATALITIES

  • 56 fatal accidents for 2016 resulting in 67 fatalities.
  • 29% of the fatal accidents were falls overboard (16 accidents). Boaters falling overboard remains the main cause of boating fatalities.
  • The leading cause of death in fatal boating accidents was drowning with 40 fatalities (60%).
  • July was the deadliest month in 2016 with eight fatalities.
  • Alcohol or drug use is reported to have played a role in 24% boating fatalities.
  • 95% (58) of the victims of fatal boating accidents were males.
  • 65% (39) of the 60 operators involved in fatal accidents were age 36 or older.
  • 78% (47) of all vessels involved in fatal accidents in 2016 were 21 feet in length or less.

BOATING INJURIES

  • There were 714 accidents resulting in 421 injuries. The rate of injury was 45 injuries per 100,000 registered vessels.
  • REPORTABLE PERSONAL WATERCRAFT ACCIDENTS
  • Personal watercraft (PWC) accounted for 13% of all registered vessels in Florida.
  • PWCs were involved in 26% (253) of reportable boating accidents.
  • Rented PWCs represented 41% (89) of PWC involved in accidents
  • 42% of PWC accidents involved a collision with another vessel.
  • 45% of PWC accidents occurred in Miami-Dade (32), Monroe (20), and Pinellas (18) counties.
  • 11 fatalities resulted from the 158 PWC accidents.

EDUCATION STATISTICS

  • The Florida Fish & Wildlife Coservation Commission (FWC) issued 47,307 Boating Safety Education ID Cards in 2016.
  • 63% of the cards were issued to persons born on or after January 1, 1988.
  • Of the 47,307 cards issued, 34,654 were issued to males, 12,606 were issued to females. An additional 1,132 cards were printed for lost, damaged, and information changes.
  • 70% of the operators involved in fatal accidents had no formal boater education.

Boating education is critical

Florida’s current boating safety education law only applies to boaters born on or after January 1, 1988, operating a motorized vessel of 10 horsepower or greater. The face-to-face contacts by FWC officers and its partner agencies are a critical part of outreach efforts and education to the boating public. These statistics show us that the boat operator most likely to be involved in a boating accident is a middle-aged or older male who has boating experience, yet has never learned the most important safety considerations by having taken a boating safety course. When officers observe boating violations or perform fresh and saltwater resource enforcement activities, they conduct boating safety inspections aimed at both identifying and preventing violations or accidents. FWC officers make boating safer and ultimately save lives.

Safe boating is a choice

Florida is the leader in promoting boating accident prevention. The FWC, in association with the National Safe Boating Council, Bombardier Recreational Products Inc., West Marine, and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), launched a statewide boating safety campaign as part of a national initiative. The “Wear It Florida” campaign encourages boaters to wear life jackets anytime they are on the water and educates boaters about the ease and convenience of inflatable life jackets. The campaign is designed to reach the public through a variety of methods including media events, exhibits, personal contacts, social media, radio, and televised public service announcements.

For more information, contact Samuel Cohen of Hicks & Motto at scohen@hmelawfirm.com or phone 561.683.2300.

PIP Rates Rise Despite Reform

PIP, or Personal Injury Protection, is a mandatory portion in all Florida automobile insurance policies, providing up to $10,000 in no-fault medical and lost wage benefits to a person who has been injured in an auto accident. In 2012, the Florida Legislature, along with Governor Rick Scott, made it a top priority to help automobile insurance companies reduce the benefits they were obligated to pay to an injured person after an auto accident. The automobile insurance carriers, along with Governor Scott, promised reduced rates and significant premium cost savings to Florida drivers as a result of the PIP reforms and a dramatic reduction in benefits.

Monday was the deadline for automobile insurers to file their 2013 rates with the state, and unfortunately for the citizens of Florida, half of the early filings approved by regulators show an increase in PIP rates up to 26.3 percent. Hicks & Motto has a dedicated team of PIP attorneys and support staff standing up to these automobile insurance carriers by seeking justice for consumers, and ensuring PIP automobile insurance carriers pay the appropriate benefits.


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