Hosting over ten million visitors each year, Florida may be best known for its great beaches and amusement parks. Indeed, Florida is home to hundreds of small fairs and amusement parks as well as ten (10) major theme parks. In 2019 alone, over 20 million people visited Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.
As exciting as high-speed roller coasters, fast moving water slides, bumper cars, and other adrenaline-inducing rides can be, accidents happen all the time—and in any number of ways. Sometimes it’s a slip and fall. Other times it may be caused by a ride malfunctioning or by an object falling on someone. Sometimes it’s just the nature of the ride itself.
But whatever the cause, each year thousands of people are injured at amusement parks and fairs in Florida.
Not all those who are injured file a claim, however.
Quite often, those who are injured at an amusement park or theme park hesitate to bring a claim because they may have signed a liability waiver, or because waivers were posted around the park, or because their ticket had a waiver on it. In any event, injured victims are aware that they agreed to a waiver of liability.
And so they wonder whether they can still sue an amusement park if they signed a waiver.
Personal injury and amusement park liability law is a complex and ever-changing area of law. It requires the experience and legal knowledge of a personal injury and amusement park attorney like John Fagan to fully understand the nuances of this area of law.
Because this is a difficult area of law that requires legal analysis, if you have been injured in an amusement park or theme park accident, be sure to consult with an accident lawyer right away.
Here are some general guidelines to help you understand liability waivers and amusement park personal injury cases a little bit better.
So let’s start with a basic understanding of what a liability waiver is.
Florida Liability Waivers: The Basics
Although they go by many names (“assumption of the risk”, “waiver,” “release of liability,” “exculpatory waiver,” and more), a liability waiver (referred to in this post as a “liability waiver” or “waiver”) is a legal document that a person participating in an event or activity signs acknowledging the risks of participating in that activity/event, and voluntarily releasing his or her right to sue the organization if he/she is injured.
It is common to sign a liability waiver before participating in any number of events or activities. They are often required by gyms, shooting ranges, and many companies that conduct events or activities such as horseback riding, sky diving, ziplining, etc.
The important aspect to understand is that in signing a liability waiver for yourself or on behalf of your child, you are agreeing that in the event you are injured, you will not sue the organization (for example, the amusement park or gym).
What Are They?
Liability waivers are also required by fairs, carnivals, expositions, amusement parks and theme parks.
Depending on the ride and age of the participant (e.g., a child), liability waivers can be:
- Separate documents
- Printed on the back of a ticket, or
- Warning signs posted around the park or ride
How effective a liability waiver is in preventing you from later suing for your injuries depends on a number of things.
Different Rules for Different Parks
In Florida it is important to distinguish between small fairs, carnivals or expositions and amusement parks and theme parks.
Because small fairs and other moveable amusement parks (like carnivals) are regulated differently from the larger “fixed site” theme parks or amusement parks. The smaller fairs are strictly regulated and must comply with Florida’s statutory laws.
Large amusement or theme parks like Disney World or Busch Gardens, on the other hand, do not have to comply with the above laws.
They do, however, still owe their patrons a duty of care.
While Florida law once held that amusement parks or theme parks had a higher duty of care to maintain the premises in a reasonably safe condition for their invitees, the law currently imposes only an ordinary duty of care to keep the premises safe. Keeping abreast of the changes in the law is why you should consult with an experienced personal injury lawyer.
Are Amusement Park Liability Waivers Enforceable in Florida?
Generally speaking, the courts disfavor liability waivers.
But that does not mean that they are unenforceable.
They are enforceable.
But they must meet certain legal requirements to be valid.
Some of the more important requirements are that a valid Florida liability waiver have:
- Clear and unambiguous language that is understandable. The waiver doesn’t need to list out every single possible thing that could happen, but it must be clear and unambiguous as to the scope of the release, what is being released and its duration. The waiver must be written so that an ordinary person would understand what he is signing away.
- No “magic words,” but a clear intent to release defendant from liability for negligence – Although the language in a Florida liability release does not need to use the words “negligence,” it must nevertheless be clear that the document is releasing the defendant from personal injury caused by his negligence.
What this means, then, is that a wavier that is unclear or confusing may not be enforceable.
But There Are Limits
And even valid liability waivers have their limits.
While you may be prevented from bringing a lawsuit for an amusement park’s ordinary negligence, the law does not allow any amusement park to escape from liability for injuries caused by gross negligence, intentional torts, or defective design or manufacture (products liability) of rides.
In sum, the area of liability waivers is far more complex than one might think. If you have been injured in an amusement park accident, you may be able to sue even if you did sign a waiver. To find out whether you have a viable lawsuit, consult with an experienced amusement park personal injury lawyer.
North Central Florida Personal Injury Attorneys
Florida accident lawyer John Fagan and his experienced team are dedicated to helping accident victims. If you have been injured due to the negligence of another, contact us now for your free consultation or simply call our firm at: 777-JOHN. We serve clients throughout Florida. Our main office is in Orange Park. We have consulting offices in Palatka, Middleburg, Keystone, Starke, Gainesville, and Ocala.