When fun is dangerous

It’s fair season. States and counties all across the country are pulling out the stops to celebrate the industries and the people that make each of them unique. One thing that tends to be common to them all, however, is the amusement park.

There is an art to this particular industry. The gauge of success, according to one legacy carnival operator, is how well he does in giving you the means to “stare the Grim Reaper in the eye,” while ensuring that you land “back down on the ground and not have any hair out of place.”

Unfortunately, sometimes all the fun turns to tragedy when a bolt breaks, a shock absorber bursts or a safety chain gives way. When that happens, catastrophic and even fatal injury can occur. Victims of such misfortune should know that they have a right to seek compensation for whatever damage they might endure, whether it is to cover necessary medical care, replace lost wages or earning ability, or to recognize the loss of a loved one.

There are those who may try to argue that anyone who seeks out the thrills of a roller coaster, Ferris wheel, twirling ride or water park slide know the risks and accept them by buying a ticket. However, providers of these rides, like any business, have obligations to keep their patrons safe. Indeed, while laws vary, nearly every state has statutes requiring they meet certain safety standards.

Here in Indiana, state officials recently exercised their enforcement authority ahead of the 17-day state fair. A team of 13 inspectors scoured through every one of the more than 50 rides checking for potential hazards. By the time the fair opened, all the rides were reportedly approved for operation.

Such is not always the case, though. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that as many as 4,800 emergency room injuries caused by amusement rides occurred between 1997 and 2003. It also reported 55 deaths between 1987 and 2001.

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