Alton Towers Rollercoaster Crash - Who is Responsible and What are the Consequences?

Alton Towers Rollercoaster Crash - Who is Responsible and What are the Consequences?

Four people have been seriously injured after following a crash between two carriages on The Smiler rollercoaster at Alton Towers. The theme park is currently closed whilst an investigation from the health and Safety Executive (HSE) takes place.


The terrible accident has left 4 seriously injured with one person allegedly losing their leg, 12 others have also suffered injuries. HSE are currently carrying out a full investigation into the accident to ascertain the cause and liability.

The £18 million roller coaster has an impressive 14 loops - more than any other roller coaster in the world, however it has previously been closed on two occasions because of health and safety concerns.

In July 2013 it closed following reports that a bolt had fallen from the ride, subsequently in November 2013 the roller coaster closed after plastic guard wheels came loose and hit riders in the front row of the roller coaster.

The Smiler roller coaster was manufactured by Gerstlauer a German firm , which built a rollercoaster carriage which caused in a fatal accident in Texas in 2013.

Today at Unlock the Law we take a look at when victims of roller coaster accidents will be able to make a claim, and who will be held responsible for the accident.

Who is responsible for a roller coaster accident?

Riding roller coasters and thrill rides are all part of the fun of going to theme parks and funfairs, however no one ever anticipates that something will go wrong. Unfortunately, theme parks can be a source of serious accidents such as that at Alton towers, and someone must be held responsible for such accidents under the law. Theme park owners, managers, operators and employees are under a legal obligation to ensure your safety at their theme park and where this obligation is breached, they may be liable to pay compensation to the victims of the accident. The HSE will investigate who exactly is responsible for the accident and usually issue a fine where fault can be found.

Fixed site theme parks such as Alton Towers are much less likely to be the source of accidents than travelling fairs as they are regularly inspected by HSE, however as we have seen this does not mean that accidents don't happen. Regular health and safety checks should be carried out to ensure the safety of both workers and guests at the theme park and if these have not been carried out, not carried out correctly or where problems have been discovered and corrective action or precautionary measures have not been taken, those responsible will be held liable and may need to pay a fine and a sum of personal injury compensation.

Can the victims make a personal injury claim?

Accidents can occur at theme parks for a variety of reasons such as rides stopping, mechanical or electrical failure and even accidents on the ground due to health and safety failures. There are however certain injuries that are typical of theme parks and fun fair rides that can be very serious.

Where a part of a rides machinery breaks or there is an electrical fault, this can cause serious injury to passengers and employees. Theme park rides often move at very high speeds and victims may suffer bruising, broken bones, burns, loss of limbs, stress and chest head or spinal injuries. IF such an accident is a result of negligence on the part of the park owners or operators, such victims could make a personal injury claim.

Furthermore, many theme park goers who ride roller coasters, bumper cars or waltzers will experience high speeds and often mild collisions which may cause minor injury such as aches or bruising. However, if the ride stops or a collision occurs through no fault of your own you may be able to make a whiplash compensation claim. If the ride was not operated with due care and attention,and you suffered an injury as a result, the operator may be liable to pay you compensation.

What happens next?

The HSE investigation currently being carried out should ascertain the cause of the accident and in turn who is responsible. After the HSE has carried out the investigation they may proceed with a prosecution of those responsible in the courts. Following a successful prosecution, the courts will determine the appropriate penalty to impose on the guilty party. The court may impose a fine, order the guilty party to pay prosecution costs and even impose a prison sentence where the incident is particularly severe - usually if manslaughter or culpable homicide is determined.

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