Nicholas-Adkins - MSM&C

Attorney at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling

Practice Areas: Social Security Disability, Workers’ Compensation, Personal Injury

Fall fairs are a family-friendly, all-American institution each year. Unfortunately, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (USPC) estimate that nearly 24,013 people were injured by amusement park attractions in 2022 alone.

In 2023 at the Iowa State Fair  a child was injured when an object hit them in the leg after coming loose from one of the amusement rides. In another incident, a tractor pull official was injured when he was “struck by a skid loader and pulled to the ground” and sustained 11 broken ribs, enduring multiple leg fractures, and spending 23 days in the hospital, undergoing numerous surgeries, all of which resulted in permanent damage to his right leg.

How Ride Malfunctions Cause Fall Fair Injuries

Ride malfunctions are a common cause of injuries and fatalities at fall fairs and festivals in Iowa and across the country. 

Under premises liability law, legal theories to prove ride malfunction liability include:

  • Negligent maintenance of a ride 
  • Negligence of a fair employee or staff member
  • Mechanical failure due to age 
  • Negligence on the part of the ride manufacturer
  • Negligent hiring or training of staff members
  • Failure to inspect the ride
  • Failure to post warning signs

A personal injury attorney builds a case by gathering specific facts through an accident investigation and witness interviews to help ride injury victims recover compensation for their:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Pain and suffering

How Security Negligence Can Result in Injuries at the Iowa State Fair

Amusement parks, fairs, and festivals are required to follow strict security guidelines and expect patrons to follow their safety measures, but negligence and poor judgment can still lead to accidents on the premises. 

The types of dangers and risks from a lack of safety and security measures that can cause fall fair injuries include:

  • Inadequate lighting at night or in shaded, dark areas
  • Little or no emergency exits
  • Little or no hazard or warning signs
  • Exposed electrical cable in high-traffic areas
  • Malfunctioning security equipment
  • Overcrowding and overcapacity of guests
  • Unsafe walking areas cluttered with obstacles
  • Lack of organization, planning, or training of personnel for emergencies

How Product Defects Can Cause Injuries at Fall Fairs

The manufacturer of a ride or a defective part of a ride may be found liable for fair injuries. There just needs to be concrete evidence that the defect in the product caused the malfunction, which caused the injuries.

The three main product defects that could result in a lawsuit are:

Design Defects

A poorly designed or improperly tested product will show that the ride is more than likely defective, unsafe, or dangerous to the public.

Manufacturing Defects

Manufacturing defects are not a result of the product’s design, but the process of it being made. And, when the product was made, it was made unsafe.

Marketing Defects

These defects relate to the warnings or instructions included (or not) with a product. With rides, those warnings could be shown on signs or tickets. Failure to do so could make the manufacturer liable for injuries.

What Are Common Injuries Resulting from Fall Fair Accidents?

Personal Injury Law

When rides malfunction at fall fairs, injuries could be caused by objects hitting someone in the head, body limbs getting caught in moving parts, lacerations from cables snapping, and more. 

More specific injuries and their causes include:

Broken Bones

Arms, wrists, and legs tend to be more prone to broken bone injuries due to rough rides, falls, or slips. These accidents could be caused by a ride operator (or rider) not properly securing seatbelts, which leads to the rider hitting the structure of the ride or falling out of their seat. 


Faster, more aggressive rides, like roller coasters, bumper cars, and spinning rides, can cause whiplash or other neck injuries that jerk someone’s head quickly back and forth. Symptoms include neck stiffness, dizziness, a tingling sensation in hands, and fatigue.

Concussions and Traumatic Injuries

High-speed rides with gravitational forces could cause the head to move and shift quickly, knock into objects, and lead to a concussion or traumatic brain injury (TBI). Although the risk of suffering from a TBI from a roller coaster is low, it is still a possibility. Other traumatic injuries from fair rides because of brakes failing or the failure to properly restrain riders are amputations, and even decapitation.

What Are the More Common Parties Liable for Fair Accidents?

Some of the more common parties that could be found liable for causing injuries at fall fairs include:

  • Fair or festival organizers, including the state
  • Event hosts, such as a church or park
  • Maintenance workers who set up the ride equipment
  • Ride operators
  • State agencies responsible for inspecting and repairing the rides
  • Ride engineers for design flaws and structural defects

How a Defendant May Prove They Were Not Liable for Fair Ride Injuries

Proving negligence is the basis of any claim that is filed after a fair ride accident, which means verifying that the vendor or another party was at fault and acted in a careless or reckless way that caused the victim’s injuries.

But how will the defendant prove they were not actually liable for the plaintiff’s fair ride injuries? They may argue that:

  • The rider did not abide by the safety rules
  • The rider accepted the assumption of risk
  • The rider was aware of the disclaimers on admission tickets saying they assume liability

To establish that they were not liable, a defendant must demonstrate a lack of responsibility for the incident. This could involve showing evidence of compliance with safety regulations, proper ride maintenance, and that all necessary precautions were taken to prevent such accidents.

In the context of fair ride injuries, the defendant might argue that the victim did not follow safety instructions or had an existing health condition that contributed to the injuries. The onus is on the injured party to prove that the site managers or owners neglected their duty, the defendant at the fair must provide clear evidence that they fulfilled theirs. Understanding the nuances of such personal injury cases is crucial for both parties.

If you have been injured in a fair ride accident, call us at 515-444-4000 or contact us here for a free consultation. 

Providing Unmatched EXPERIENCE On Your Case When you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been treated unfairly or you’re in the middle of a legal disagreement, it can be difficult to know what your rights are and how to proceed.

  • The attorneys at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland, & Cooling help me understand and keep me up-to-date on everything with my case this law firm is top-notch if you need a law firm to fight for you this one is the best in the state. I thank the partners at Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland, Cooling for having such talented lawyers on their team, and their hard work and dedication to my case

  • Professional, responsive, and most diligent individuals I have ever had the pleasure of working with on my case. This firm gets the job done and they care legitimately about their clients. Anyone who loves chihuahuas as much as me has to be a great person. I would recommend this firm to everyone.

  • I was in a bad situation after a work injury and wasn’t sure if my employer was trying to do things that weren’t legal in regard to my medical care and returning to work too soon. A friend of mine put me in contact with Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling. They were extremely helpful and very quick to contact me, ask and answer questions, and help me with my case. I appreciate all they do and for taking me seriously!

  • I was recently in a car accident which was a traumatizing experience. However, I got in contact with Mueller, Schmidt, Mulholland & Cooling and never looked back. Everyone was friendly and they reassured me things would work out. They turned a stressful experience to nothing at all. I would recommend to others in the area

View All