Is That Zip Line Safe? When Operator Negligence Leads to a Fall

A man is taking zip line
Backview of a man is doing zip line activity

When operator negligence leads to zip line fall injuries or fatalities in Illinois, the individual or company that owns or operates the attraction can be held liable. Zip line falls and collisions cause broken bones, head injuries, lacerations, paralysis, and even death.

Zip Line Falls

As zip lining becomes more popular throughout the United States, the number of falls and collisions caused by operator negligence continues to increase. Since 1997, tens of thousands of zip line injuries have been reported with about 12% requiring hospitalization. While there is no official record of zip line fatalities, there have been over a dozen reports of deaths since 2006.

In September 2019, a 10-year-old boy fell from a zip line in Florida and was seriously injured. The employee operating the ride allegedly neglected to ensure the boy’s harness was properly secured before allowing him to take off. In surveillance video of the incident, the leg straps on the boy’s harness are noticeably unbuckled. He could be seen losing his grip and falling more than 20 feet to the floor. The boy suffered serious injuries as a result of the zip line fall, and he had to be taken by medical helicopter to the hospital.

Liability for Zip Line Ride Accidents

Under some circumstances, ride operators may be held responsible for zip line falls. The organizations that run amusement rides and their employees or volunteers have an obligation to ensure their patrons are safe. The Amusement Ride and Attraction Safety Act necessitates permits for the operation of zip lines and other amusement rides and regular inspections to ensure proper design, construction, and maintenance. The act also specifies requirements for ride attendants, which include:

  • Checking all passenger safety devices before starting the ride
  • Not operating more than one ride or attraction at a time
  • Refraining from operating rides while under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  • Abstaining from using a cell phone or engaging in other distracting activities while operating rides

Should ride operators fail to uphold these legal standards and, as a result, a patron suffers a serious injury, the organization that runs the ride and any negligent workers involved in the accident may be held financially liable.

Release Forms for Ride Participation

Signing a release form for a zip line attraction does not necessarily relinquish patrons’ rights to take legal action if they suffer serious injuries on the ride. As common carriers, operators of such rides owe a duty of care to patrons. The state’s legal standards establish that ride operators cannot exempt themselves from liability for their negligence.