Amusement Parks May Not Be Liable for Injuries from Bumper Cars | DENENA | POINTS

Amusement Parks May Not Be Liable for Injuries from Bumper Cars

One of the most popular activities at amusement parks are bumper car rides.  Essentially, every rider has their own car with padded sides, and everyone careens around smashing into other cars.  The fun element is the abrupt and unknown approaching crash, as well as the ability to ‘bump’ into others.  There is a possibility of injury, especially from hands that may be on the outside of one’s car during a collision.  However, at least one state court has ruled that the element of ‘passenger control’ in bumper cars places a less stringent duty of care on amusement park owners.  Injuries from bumper car rides may be a ‘reasonable’ risk since riders know that they will be impacted suddenly, and that they alone control their own car.

Some Rides Like Bumper Cars Carry Obvious Risks from Collisions

Last year the California Supreme Court ruled that a woman who fractured her wrist while riding a bumper car, could not recover damages from the park for her injuries.  The injury stemmed from a head on collision, and the woman’s wrist was fractured when she tried to brace herself from the impact.   The ability of the cars to make head-on approaches to other cars was part of the cause of the injury, but the court did not think it was enough to establish liability.

The court felt that riders take some risks voluntarily when the very nature of the activity is to be in a collision.  This does not affect the park’s duty to maintain or repair bumper car rides, but as long as the ride functions normally then riders understand that the collisions are a part of the ride.  As the court noted:

“Low-speed collisions between the padded, independently operated cars are inherent in — are the whole point of — a bumper car ride,”

Since the date of this accident and others, steps have been taken by amusement park operators to eliminate the possibility of head-on collisions by making the cars circle around a fixed island in the center.  This measure was taken to eliminate what was seen as the chief inherent risk in bumper cars.

The other aspect of this ruling was that riders are also in control of their own car, which differs from the situation with roller coasters or other high-speed rides where park employees control the equipment.  The park would only be liable for a bumper care accident if the actions of employees somehow increased the dangers to riders.

This decision supplants a previous California Court of Appeals ruling in the same case, that stated park operators had a duty to prevent injuries of any type in bumper car rides.  That court would have allowed the claim for damages but now the California Supreme Court put an end to the case with their ruling.  Bumper cars are no longer in the same category as roller coasters, at least in the state of California, but other states may look to this ruling to guide similar decisions on risk and liability.