Carnival Ride Safety, Accidents, Injuries, and Fatalities in West Virginia

Many of us have heard in the recent news about the tragedy that took place at the Ohio State Fair. A man was killed, and seven others were injured when a ride malfunctioned. These rides are designed to be thrilling or scary, but passengers are usually confident that they will be safe. As is seen in this case, however, accidents can happen, and it may be necessary to contact a personal injury attorney to learn what your rights are after such a tragedy.

Recent Amusement Park Ride Injuries

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission(CPSC) estimated that 30,900 injuries caused by amusement park attractions were seen by hospital emergency departments in 2016 alone.

Those injured are out of millions of people who visit carnivals, fairs, and festivals each year, the Outdoor Amusement Business Association, which represents much of the mobile amusement industry, estimates.

Since 2010, the CPSC reports that there have been 22 fatalities caused by thrill rides, including Wednesday’s death in Ohio which was caused by corrosion on a support beam that caused the failure and breakage, leading to the death of an 18-year-old.

Recently, there have been several serious incidents at amusement parks and carnivals that may not have made the national news as much as the Ohio State Fair tragedy, but they do demonstrate that these rides are not always as safe as they seem. Some of these include a young girl falling out of a ride in July, and a young boy being launched from a water slide in May. The consequences of these recent ride accidents range from minor injuries to death.

Carnival Ride Regulation

There are no federal laws governing the inspection of carnival rides. This power is left to the individual states. The amount of regulation required by each state can be divided into three basic levels.

The first is little or no inspection required. These states allow owners and operators to operate rides when they have not been inspected properly. The second level requires an inspection by a third party. This means that someone has to inspect the ride, but the inspections are not regulated by the government. The third level requires state inspection. The ride must be inspected by a state official using state criteria. This is generally considered the most thorough and reputable type of inspection.

The good news for West Virginia is that West Virginia law requires the third level of inspection. All rides must be inspected by a state inspector before being used the first time in the calendar year. However, the law for Ohio is very similarly written.

While these are measures in the right direction, it is again a reminder that accidents can always happen, no matter how careful the inspectors and ride operators are.

Another important note is that this article focuses on the regulation of mobile rides, such as would be found at a carnival, fair, or temporary event. There is a completely different set of laws and regulations for fixed-site rides in permanent locations such as amusement parks.

Common Ride-Related Injuries in WV

Although the types of injuries from a carnival ride are widely varied depending on the type of ride, cause of injury, and other factors, there are a few types of injuries that are particularly common. Some of these injuries are the fault of the ride manufacturers or operators, but passengers need to consider their health issues before riding:

  • Head, neck, and back injuries are common in rides that suddenly change directions. Those with pre-existing head, neck, or back conditions should ride this type of ride with caution. Whiplash is the most common amusement park ride injury.
  • Traumatic brain injury can result from rides that impose G-forces on passengers. This is especially risky for someone who has recently had a concussion or other type of traumatic brain injury.
  • Strokes can result from neck trauma. Potential passengers who have had a neck injury should be especially cautious about riding rides that may cause additional neck trauma.
  • Fast rides can result in brain aneurysms.
  • Mechanical malfunction or improperly using the ride can result in many other injuries from being thrown around within the ride or being thrown out of the ride. Remember, ignoring the operator’s safety instructions can not only harm you but can harm others.

Causes of Ride-Related Injuries

The safety of a carnival ride depends on everyone involved. The person who assembles the ride, the person who operates the ride, and the person who experiences the ride all have at least some responsibility for safety. If any of these people do not follow the proper procedures, safety can be compromised.

  • Safety of the Ride. Injuries can be caused by the ride itself failing to be safe. As the ride is put together, the assembler needs to be sure that everything is done correctly, and constantly be checking for possible mechanical problems with the ride. If these problems go unnoticed, it could end in disaster. Mechanical failure was the main problem with the ride at the Ohio State Fair.
  • Safety of the Operation. The operators need to take their jobs very seriously. It is a fun job, and it is centered around helping others have fun, but if it is not done correctly, can have serious consequences. Operators need to be sure that all passengers are correctly and securely fastened into the ride, and operate the ride as smoothly as possible.
  • Safety of the Passengers. Passengers have the responsibility of being cooperative with the operators of the ride. They need to properly fasten themselves into the ride, listen to directions, and behave safely and responsibly. This is for the safety of themselves and the others on the ride.

Passengers also need to be aware of how the ride can affect their health. Passengers with specific health needs, such as heart or back problems or pregnancy, may need to avoid certain rides. Many rides have warnings that specify health problems that might be affected by the ride, and these warnings should always be followed. However, it is always best to think for yourself to consider if the ride might be dangerous for you, even if your health condition is not listed.


Carnival rides are usually safe, but as was proven by the tragedy at the Ohio State Fair, accidents can happen. Being informed about the laws in your state and the potential hazards of each ride can help you to make a wise decision in these situations. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the Ohio State Fair victims. Please be cautious with these rides so you and your family can have a safe, fun time together.

West Virginia Amusement Ride and Carnival Injury Lawyers

The Robinette Legal Group PLLC in Morgantown, WV represents the injured and their families across the state of West Virginia. Attorney Jeff Robinette is a top 1% Lawyer for Personal Injury and Malpractice claims.

Questions? Call today for a free consultation: 304.594.1800

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( West Virginia Personal Injury Attorney )

Jeffery Robinette was admitted to practice law in 1991 and is licensed in all levels of state and federal trial courts in West Virginia. Mr. Robinette is also licensed in all state and federal appeals courts in West Virginia and the United States Supreme Court. As a National Board Certified Trial Attorney who has handled hundreds of motor vehicle, injury, and construction defect claims and a leading author on insurance claims settlement issues and difficulties in West Virginia, Jeff Robinette is uniquely qualified to represent your best interest.