Amusement parks are great fun for New Jersey families but the thrill of the rides must come with a commitment to safety by park operators. Last week, an accident occurred on a water ride at a Vernon amusement park that, under a previous owner, had been the subject of premises liability lawsuits.
In the most recent incident, five people had to go to the hospital with bruises and scrapes after their terrifying experience of being stuck on innertubes in at the opening of a tunnel in fast-moving water. It took park personnel about 20 minutes to extricate the riders.
As is typical in an amusement park accident, park owners shut down the ride pending inspection by state officials.
This particular ride has been running for three decades, spanning the time when the park was owned and operated by a different owner than today. The park changed hands in 1997. Financial challenges, including $3.8 million owed in personal injury lawsuits, caused the park's previous owner to declare bankruptcy and close the park.
Earlier premises liability incidents at the park include a toboggan accident resulting in a $1.3 million award in court. Also, in 1982, a park patron on a kayak ride was electrocuted. A state investigation determined that the ride's electrical system was dangerous even though it was installed and maintained properly.
Premises liability incidents can involve negligence on the part of owner/operator, such as when the property owner ignores dangerous conditions or does not timely rectify known problems.
Usually, premises liability claims can be settled before trial through negotiations with property owners and the relevant insurance companies. However, it can be very challenging to obtain a fair settlement in negotiating with insurance companies. Insurers will aggressively defend against claims in the interests of keeping costs low and profits high.
If a fair settlement proves impossible, victims can go to civil court to seek justice.
Source: NorthJersey.com, "Update: 5 injured in ride accident at Mountain Creek amusement park," Abbott Koloff and Jeff Green, July 25, 2012