Alton Towers injuries include amputation, park admits liability to victims

Posted | Contributed by Bobbie1951

A 17-year-old girl injured in a rollercoaster crash at Alton Towers has had her leg amputated, it has emerged. Leah Washington was on the front row of the Smiler ride, which crashed into an empty carriage in front of it. Three others who were also in the front row sustained serious leg injuries, while a fifth person is being treated for internal injuries.

Read more from The BBC.

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Vater's avatar

I can't think of a scenario in the United States where an organization would proactively and transparently admit fault and instruct the victims to lawyer up in order to be compensated. This is beyond commendable.

Jeff's avatar

Right? That surprised me as well.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

Kick The Sky's avatar

Not sure what the liability laws in Britain look like, but in the US an accident like this would end up costing the park tens of millions in damages. The instinct in that situation is to pucker up and not claim any blame for the situation.

That said, it just makes one think that any day any of our lives can change and we have no clue that it could happen to us. The chances of being in a coaster accident like this are infinitesimally small. You are much, much, much more likely to lose a leg in a car accident. Still, the girl that was injured will have to live with what happened on this one day for the rest of her life. It could be any of us, anywhere...

Certain victory.

sws's avatar

This is so tragic.

It does make me wonder who is the British equivalent of Ed Markey.

rollergator's avatar

Speaks very highly of the British legal system that these kinds of statements could even be issued. To a large degree, it's reflective of societal differences, but it's nice to be reminded that businesses CAN claim responsibility for those they've harmed.

matt.'s avatar

Vater said:

I can't think of a scenario in the United States where an organization would proactively and transparently admit fault and instruct the victims to lawyer up in order to be compensated. This is beyond commendable.

Walmart reached a settlement in the Tracy Morgan accident and essentially admitted fault. It's clear that part of the settlement was that Morgan's representatives had to praise Walmart for admitting fault and reaching an amicable settlement, but it seems thematically similar to what Alton has done here.

So yes, it does happen.

Last edited by matt.,

I was talking about this in the last forum, that I couldn't think of an American park that would take nearly any of the steps that Alton Towers did, including recommending retaining lawyers so compensation would be negotiated, admitting fault, etc. I think it is a smart move business wise, but I'd also like to think they're also just a good company that really is upset at the losses and injuries caused by their ride. Other parks could definitely take a page from the AT book.

"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

I think that a big part of the park's willingness to fully admit liability, aside from being a shrewd PR move, is that there are caps on awards in the UK (and many other countries) that we don't have here. They know they're going to have to pay out one way or another, but they don't have to worry about a jury awarding hundreds of millions of dollars.

Think of this the next time Tort Reform comes up on a ballot near you.

It's possible that Alton Towers knows that it has the proper liability insurance for errors/omissions in place just for this type of situation and has determined that the payout will be covered.

Also, I would bet that they expect that the contractor(s) who turned the keys over to them will have coverages that apply to a system failure like this.

I don't mean to be cynical, but, like politics, it's easy to appear generous if you are promising other people's money.

In the states, if something like this happened, there would be a line of attorneys waiting to take the case before the riders were even evacuated from the train. Perhaps there aren't as many ambulance chasing attornies in the UK? (This instance, however, goes beyond what a stereotypical "ambulance chasing" attorney would go after.)

It is my assumption that here in the states, if the park admitted fault for the accident, that the cost of the settlement would immediately and significantly go up. From a financial standpoint, its better to leave it up to the court to determine fault, and what the payout should be. I don't know if its similar in Briton or not. From a PR standpoint, admitting fault may help smooth things over faster (at least for those not involved in the accident).

Tort law is very very different in Great Britain, it's not at all like the legal free for all it is in the United States

CoasterDiscern's avatar

With all respect I totally disagree with your last sentence Vater.

Someone loosing their leg when its the parks responsibility to ensure all guests are safe on all rides and attraction is not commendable in any respect in my books. Regardless if they are advising the victims to seek out legal action. To me thats the least they can do.

Ask not what you can do for a coaster, but what a coaster can do for you.
Vater's avatar

Please tell me where I said anything about someone losing their leg being commendable.

Also, context. You're right that taking responsibility for the incident and advising the victims to seek legal action is the least they can do. But notice that I make mention of similar scenarios in the United States and how "the least they can do" is almost never done...and certainly not with the immediacy that Alton did here. So, by comparison, yes, it's commendable.

Last edited by Vater,
CoasterDiscern's avatar

It seems as though in your first response your generalizing everything that Alton Towers did as being commendable. Regardless of what the US does in situations like this, and regardless of how far and beyond Alton Towers has gone to address the matter generously and respectively, I don't see anything commendable at all. Absolutely nothing. If anything, comparing it to the US just goes to show the level of arrogance the US parks have. There is no golden star to be pinned up anywhere here.

So what exactly are you saying is beyond commendable?

Last edited by CoasterDiscern,
Ask not what you can do for a coaster, but what a coaster can do for you.
LostKause's avatar

Alton Towers reaction to the disturbing situation that has occurred is the "beyond commendable" that I am getting from Vater's post. Everyone makes mistakes, even huge ones. It's how they deal with the mistake and how they make things right again that matter.

Vater's avatar

CoasterDiscern said:

So what exactly are you saying is beyond commendable?

I'm not sure I can explain it with any more clarity than I already have. At least ten people understood and agreed with my first post alone, without even reading the further (unnecessary) explanation I gave in response to you.

CoasterDiscern's avatar

So you think because the organization proactively and transparently admitted fault it should be commended for doing so?

I totally disagree.

LostKause I totally agree with you everyone makes mistakes, but in a situation like this, I don't see how anything could be given praise. If Alton Towers sent the best lawyer in England to represent me as my attorney, I wouldn't be sending them back a thank you card for their thoughtfulness especially after I lost my leg.

Ask not what you can do for a coaster, but what a coaster can do for you.
Jeff's avatar

I think when it's "normal" for a company to be dodgy and not admit to anything, then yes, it is commendable for a company to own up as they have. I'm sure that was Vater's point. It's OK if you don't agree.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Phrazy

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