Fall has arrived and with it comes the creepy, intended to be frighteningly fun haunted houses, fields, amusement parks and more. And while guests enter these popular haunts voluntarily and for the fun of it, what does one do if injured in a place, for example, like Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios in Hollywood, California? After all you’ve entered the haunted venue of your own free will, so does the park actually have any liability in regard to your injury? Read on to find out!
Halloween Horror Nights
Halloween Horror Nights is a special event, like many others held at amusement parks around the country, held annually at Universal Studios. The event features live entertainment including haunted houses, haunted mazes, and other scare zones designed to “scare” teenagers and adults. Among the themes for this year’s event are The Curse of Pandora’s Box, the House of 1000 Corpses, Stranger Things, Ghostbusters, Killer Klowns from Outer
Space, Creepshow, and more, each complete with zombies, witches, monsters, and the like.
Common Injuries at Halloween Horror Nights & Other Amusement Parks
Given the number of guests and the ‘scare tactics’ employed, injuries can and do happen at the event. Among the most common injuries reported are slip, trip, and fall injuries, food poisoning, and other issues related to rides. During Halloween Horror Nights, guests of Universal are exposed to even more potential dangers as amusement parks work to outdo one another in the fright department.
- Slip & fall injuries
- Food Poisoning
- Malfunctioning props in the haunted houses
- Negligent scare tactics
- Injuries due to being jostled on the rides
Slip, trip, and fall injuries are the most common, often occurring as a result of poor lighting or tripping hazards like cords or props. Walkways, especially in haunted houses or scare zones can be slippery, narrow, or uneven, causing patrons to lose their balance when “attacked or surprised” by zombies, ghosts, or monsters. These falls can cause sprains, broken bones, or head injuries.
Other common injuries are the result of “scares gone too far” when the actors chase guests too aggressively causing them to fall or knock down other guests. Anxiety attacks and even heart attacks have been reported as a result of overzealous “monsters.”
Damaged or malfunctioning props – from broken animatronics to worn out props can fall or malfunction and hit guests causing serious injuries. Carbon monoxide can also be an issue at haunted venues where fog machines are in use. Machines which run for extended periods can cause slippery services, and machines running without proper ventilation can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
If Injured at Halloween Horror Nights, is the Park Liable?
Now, to the point, if you are injured at Halloween Horror Nights, what should you do? And, more importantly, is the park liable?
Amusement Park Liability Waivers
Amusement parks sometimes require guests to sign waivers as a means of limiting their liability should someone be injured in the park. For an amusement park liability waiver to be legitimate and legal valid it must:
- Be clearly worded as to the intent to relieve the park of any and all legal liability, including liability for negligence;
- Prominently display the terms and not conceal them in fine print;
- Signed by each individual guest, though an adult can sign a waiver for each minor child;
- A waiver pertaining to an amusement such as a haunted house, also may include warnings for guests who have high blood pressure, heart problems, artificial limbs, pacemakers, or other physical limitations.
- Even where a guest has signed a waiver, the park can be found liable when shown it negligently failed to:
- Maintain equipment and all attractions in a safe condition and regularly inspect the equipment;
- Properly train the ride operators;
- Properly operate a ride or amusement;
- Properly display safety requirement notices warning guests of the risks and dangers; or/and
- Provide guests with correct safety instructions.,
If a waiver is signed, parks may still be liable in the case of negligence, such as:
- Not maintaining equipment
- Not properly training personnel
- Not displaying safety notices, or
- Not providing proper safety instructions
Guest Conduct at Halloween Horror Nights
Of course, you as a guest of the park are expected to behave properly.
As a guest, you cannot engage in an activity or event considered inherently dangerous. For example, if you trespass an area with clear signage marking it prohibited, or if you do not follow safety instructions that were clearly outlined. This could be age, height, or weight restrictions or simply following the required safety instructions on rides.
Note- The park could still be held liable if the ride/attraction operator should have realized a guest was too young or too small or recognized an obvious disability that could expose you to greater risk.
A well and you have accepted some risk, simply by attending the event. Advertising shows it as horrific and scary, but it is not reasonable to expect you to know about a defective or poorly maintained mechanism in a ride or to inherently know safety rules if you were not instructed them or proper signage is not displayed.
Know the risk and dangers before you go – They should be clearly explained on tickets, the park’s website, and advertising materials.
Be aware of any warnings or disclaimers, but if you are injured at Halloween Horror Nights or any other Haunted venue this Halloween, contact the Barnes Firm and know your rights.