New York is one of 44 states that regulate amusement parks. The states that have few or no amusement parks don't have any oversight. However, there are no federal regulations in place regarding amusement parks. Before 1981, they were regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, but this ended because of budget cuts.
Some experts say this patchwork approach to regulation hurts consumers. In some states, regulations for permanent amusement park rides are minimal and may only require an operator to carry insurance. In contrast, other states have full-time inspectors and regular inspections. The large theme parks in Florida have their own teams of inspectors, but the state is one of several that only requires reports on park injuries if a person dies or is in the hospital for more than 24 hours. Some people argue that traveling carnival rides are a greater concern than permanent amusement parks. This equipment is subject to the wear and tear of environmental conditions and may be run and maintained by people who are less qualified.
Some attorneys say that the threat of lawsuits from injured people is a greater deterrent than more regulation. They say that if the consequences of an accident are extremely high, parks are more likely to comply. Injuries and fatalities in recent years have included a boy killed on a water slide in Kansas and children falling from a Ferris wheel in Tennessee.
If a person is injured on property owned by another party, the property owner may be held financially responsible. This is known as premises liability. The law recognizes that a property owner or manager has an obligation to keep a property safe for visitors, and it does not only apply to things such as amusement park rides. For example, if a person trips and falls because of an uneven sidewalk or dangerous stairs, the owner could also be liable.