- July 1
- Personal Injury
In May, a gust of wind at a Houston school carnival sent an inflatable bounce house tumbling 30 yards, injuring 10 people inside. And that wasn’t the first time a bounce house injured people. The Houston accident and others like it raise questions about the safety of these inflatable amusement devices.
Known as bounce houses, bouncy castles, inflatable jumpers, moon bounces and moonwalks, these devices are supposed to be a safer alternative to trampolines, because they’re enclosed by netting that keeps children from falling out. However, in 2012, nearly 19,000 people – mostly children – sought emergency room treatment for injuries caused by bounce houses. Many of those injuries occurred when children’s arms or legs became entangled in the netting that’s supposed to keep them safe.
High Winds, High Risk
Three children inside a bounce house on a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., beach suffered broken bones and other injuries in 2015, when a waterspout surged ashore and tossed the rented bounce house into the air. One of the victim’s families filed a lawsuit against the city and the bounce house operator, claiming it had been improperly assembled and secured.
In 2014, a similar accident ejected three children from a bounce house after the wind carried it 20 feet off the ground. One boy was hospitalized for three weeks with a severe head injury before being transferred to a rehabilitation center. That accident involved a small 8×8 bounce house that retails for a few hundred dollars, and it had been properly staked to the ground.
When high winds cause bounce house injuries, those incidents are often referred to as “freak accidents.” But because these types of accidents are becoming more common, the term “freak accident” is a misnomer – windy weather, or the threat of high winds, is known to be a major contributing factor in dangerous bounce house crashes.
Texas law requires bounce house rental companies to have all inflatable amusements inspected annually and to carry $1 million in insurance. However, it’s unclear whether that law is consistently enforced.
An inspector who lives in the Dallas area told TV station KTRE that about half of the bounce house rental companies not in compliance with the law are unaware of the law, while the other half chooses to ignore the regulations.
Bounce house operators should provide clients with the proper staking hardware and show customers how to secure the device to the ground. But businesses that don’t care about safety or the regulations that apply to them may skip this important step.
Finding Reputable Companies
The same law that mandates annual inspections for bounce houses also requires each device to display an annual inspection sticker. Before renting an inflatable amusement device, a customer should ask to see that sticker and examine the protective netting to make sure it’s in good condition (rips in the netting may cause entanglement injuries).
A bounce house company whose rental rates are considerably lower than the competition may be operating illegally – if the company isn’t paying for the required $1 million in insurance, and isn’t replacing faulty equipment, its rental rates may be lower. But that “good deal” isn’t worth the possibility of serious injuries.