The lack of legal safety standards specific to theme parks makes amusement park injury cases highly unpredictable. Usually settled out of court, when a case does make it to trial, varying standards of care are often confusing to jurors.
In most cases, when someone suffers an accident in an amusement park, the park prefers to settle out of court. By settling, the park doesn’t have to admit liability and can often avoid negative publicity. The latter could do irreparable financial damage to a park in lost revenues, especially when with an admission of liability, so most amusement parks prefer to settle rather than run the risk of losing in court.
However, when a case does go to trial, theme parks win more frequently than plaintiffs as injured victims are thought to assume the risk. The lack of a mandatory standard of care applied to theme parks also plays a role.
Standard of Care for Theme Parks
In a large percentage of the lawsuits that make it to trial, an accident lawyer has to prove that the injuries the client suffered are directly connected to the theme park violating a standard of care.
However, standards of care are rare for theme parks, which leads to the traditional practices and usages applicable to a particular community or industry becoming the accepted standard. It often comes down to the standards set out by the experts testifying in the trial, which are usually based on the industry they work in.
This leads to frameworks that differ from case to case, which confuses jurors. A judge may advise jurors to evaluate the actions of one bumper-car operator using a "reasonable duty of care," while another judge may impose the "highest duty of care" on another jury in a different case. This lack of uniformity sometimes seeps into the testimony of expert witnesses and often confuses the jurors who must decide on issues of liability.
Furthermore, the plaintiff’s accident lawyer will need to secure expert testimony to explain the various technical issues involved in these types of cases. Even if it seems the negligence is obvious, such as a ride operating for months without an inspection, an expert is needed. Experts can explain to the jury what steps could have been taken to prevent injuries or death.