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Hurt at a Theme Park: Can You Sue After Signing a Waiver?

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On March 6th, 2014, 63-year old Anthony Theisen was injured while riding an indoor amusement park roller coaster at Mt. Olympus Theme Park in the Wisconsin Dells. Theisen fell 17 feet and was left in a coma. In a similar incident, on December 30th, 2013, 23-year old Carson Tueller and his family went to a trampoline park. In what was described as a “freak accident,” Tueller broke his neck and remains paralyzed.

The number of indoor amusement parks has skyrocketed over the past couple of decades, providing a fun place for families to gather year-round. Looking for exciting places to take their children, parents rush to establishments that have all sorts of distractions for both kids and adults, such as bounce houses, roller coasters, bumper cars, trampolines, wall climbing, and the ever popular laser tag. 

Risks of Amusement Parks’ Activities

While the interiors of amusement parks tend to feature colorful décor meant to excite children, the activities contained within often involve some inherent risk of personal injury. For parents, this may present a mixed message.

On one hand, the public perception is that the rides and activities within a theme park are completely safe, and the presence of danger is only a thrilling illusion. At the same time, some theme parks require parents to sign a waiver form in order for their children to enter the establishment or participate in certain activities.

Many parents will sign a theme park waiver when presented with one, yet barely read it, while others might read the waiver but not completely understand the impact.

In the event that an accident occurs and a child is injured, most parents will need to know: can you sue after signing a waiver?

Riders on a looping rollercoaster, suggesting the question: can you sue after signing a waiver?How an Amusement Park Covers Itself With a Waiver

Even though waivers may seem to be boilerplate documents full of fine print, if properly drafted and executed, a waiver is enforceable just like any other contract. In general, to be enforceable, the waiver:

  • Must be clearly worded and unambiguous in its intent to relieve any and all legal liability, even for amusement park negligence.
  • Language should be prominent and not be part of the fine print.
  • Must be signed by the person who it is being used against. This means that each adult needs to sign a waiver and the adult needs to sign a separate waiver for each child.

When a Waiver is Not Enforceable

While carefully drafted waivers are enforceable, there are cases in which a court might not enforce a waiver. These exceptions may include:

  1. Gross negligence or willful conduct: If a waiver purports to absolve the operator of gross negligence or willful conduct, the waiver may be found to be invalid. Gross negligence and willfulness typically involve outrageous acts or omissions. Such examples include when an employee purposely neglected to engage safety systems on a ride, or when maintenance records show a pattern of blatant disregard for safety resulting in personal injury.
  2. Age of the waiver: It may be a valid defense if several months have passed since a waiver was read and signed, or if the waiver did not apply to the visit during which the injury occurred.
  3. Inconsistent with state law: If the waiver contains language that is inconsistent with the law of that state, a court may find the waiver to be invalid.
  4. Limitations in the waiver: If the waiver is very specific about the types of injuries that it covers, and the injury falls outside of what is specified in the waiver, then the waiver can be found irrelevant.

When to Call a California Theme Park Injury Lawyer 

Due to the intricacies of injury law, and the complexity of most amusement park waivers, “Can you sue after signing a waiver?” is a question that often needs to be answered on a case-by-case basis. If you have a family member who was injured at a theme park, but a waiver was signed, it’s recommended that you speak with an experienced personal injury attorney who can understand the unique details of your case, as soon as possible. 

Orange County theme park accident attorney Maryam Parman and her firm Avrek Law have over 50 combined years of experience serving personal injury victims. We can answer the questions you have, free – Avrek Law works on a no win, no fee basis. This means you only pay our fee if we win your case. With over 45,000 cases successfully resolved, and over $1 Billion recovered for past clients, Avrek Law is the firm you want on your case.

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