Who’s Responsible When a Waterpark Raft Overturns

Posted on August 06, 2021

Under premises liability laws, water park accidents and injuries are usually the responsibility of the park owner and/or park employees who are obligated to provide a safe environment for invited guests on the property.

The Dangers Lurking in Water Parks

Water parks provide a variety of fun-filled water activities for children, teens, and adults, especially in the summer months when children are out of school. There are over 1,300 water parks scattered across the country and about 85 million people visiting them each year. Water parks are popular places to beat the summer heat and cool down in the water, but they pose serious injury risks due to slippery surfaces, rushing water, and large crowds.

Water parks are defined as amusement parks that feature simulated beaches, swimming pools, wave pools, water slides, river rapid rides, and fountains, sprays, and splash pads. Although activities are especially popular with children and teens, parents don’t always realize that water parks are responsible for thousands of serious injuries each year including:

  • Facial bruises and lacerations
  • Eye injuries
  • Fractured and broken bones
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Head trauma and brain injuries
  • Drowning deaths

Although water parks do have safety rules and regulations, they are regulated by local and state governments. Each state determines the level of park regulations they want to enforce. While some states enforce strict regulations, others assume minimal involvement, making some water parks completely self-regulated. With no consistent standard for safety regulations, Chicago injury lawyers witness a large number of water park injuries that result in legal actions.

A recent Iowa water park incident at Adventureland Park resulted in the death of an 11-year-old boy when the raft he was riding overturned on the Raging River ride. The park was issued a $4,500 fine by the Iowa Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the maximum fine allowed for a safety violation in the state. The Raging River ride is now closed pending further investigations.

Liability for Water Park Injuries

When water park accidents result in injuries, liability usually falls on the park owner who has a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of all guests. This means maintaining the water park premises, inspecting and maintaining park rides, hiring and training qualified lifeguards, posting warning signs for dangers, and limiting access to dangerous areas.

Under premises liability laws, negligence plays a major role in legal actions filed by personal injury lawyers. Water park owners and park staff that don’t ensure a safe park environment may be held liable for water park injuries that occur to guests. When at-fault parties are found guilty of negligent actions, they may be held liable for:

  • Current and future medical bills
  • Rehabilitation and therapy costs
  • Loss of current and future earnings
  • Pain and suffering
  • Severe emotional distress
  • Loss of capacity to enjoy life

In a court of law, negligent actions require proof, so injuries must be clearly documented with photos, injury dates, and medical records from a licensed physician. When children are injured, parents should ensure that injuries are sufficiently documented when filing a lawsuit with an injury lawyer. In Illinois, personal injury lawsuits must be filed within two years of the date of injury or death.

Water Park Safety Tips

Since the majority of water park visitors on rides are children and teens, parents are urged to provide adult supervision and follow all posted safety regulations to prevent injuries.

Read Rules and Regulations

Parents should pay close attention to safety regulations and age, size, and weight restrictions on rides. Riders who are under age, size, and weight requirements can be thrown from the ride. When rides limit the number of riders, parents should make sure that limit is observed.

Know Swimming Skills

Wave pools and raft rides have strong underwater currents that can be dangerous for small children and weak swimmers. For safety, these rides should be avoided by children, unless accompanied by an adult who is a strong swimmer.

Beware of Water-Borne Illnesses

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 58% of public swimming pools test positive for E. coli, a red flag for fecal contamination. Crypto is a parasite that can live a long time in chlorinated water. Crypto and E. coli can cause serious illness, often leading to hospitalization.

SaferParks.org provides a list of amusement park regulations in each state and keeps records of reported injuries. According to reports, water slides, wave pools, and river rides account for most water park injuries and deaths. Children in water slides often have a problem staying in the middle of the slide, so they often get thrown against the sides. Wave pools pose serious drowning risks for children under age 14. With crowds of people bobbing up and down in wave currents, it’s difficult to spot someone in trouble, because they look just like other swimmers bobbing up and down.