The weather is improving and people will be celebrating children’s birthdays by renting the beloved inflatable “bounce houses.” Be wary though, there are safety hazards tied to these entertaining play arenas. In the last week, two kindergartners in New York fell from at least 15 feet in the air after the bounce house in which they were playing was blown 50 feet high by a gust of wind.

This isn’t an isolated incident. Bounce house injuries are on the rise as their popularity increases. They’re not only found at birthday parties, but community events, picnics, local fairs and carnivals and indoor parks. In a study done by Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, it was found that bouncy house injuries rose 1500% from 1995 to 2010. The last two years of the study, injuries doubled still. This is just the beginning of bounce house season; we’re bound to see many more injuries during the spring and summer, continuing the steady climb of injuries in the last twenty years.

Becoming airborne isn’t the only way to acquire a bounce house injury. Children get friction burns, concussions, and the most common bounce house injuries are broken bones. This can happen when children fall either inside or outside the house, or when they collide. In the case of seven-year-old Austin Barnes from Florida, he was bounced so hard by a jumping teenager he flew right over the wall of the house onto his head, suffering a skull fracture that resulted in a coma. There are known incidents of play houses suddenly deflating and crashing in on top of people, which happened to a two-year-old last year. If not for a ten-year-old girl rushing in to save her, the toddler more than likely would have suffocated.  There is, unfortunately, the possibility of these bounce house injuries resulting in fatalities. Most of those were caused by severe head injuries.

Yes, they can be fun, but inflatable bounce houses can also be dangerous. The Center for Injury Research and Policy has some safety tips for you if you do decide to partake in the enjoyment of bounce houses.

Injury Prevention Tips

  • Limit bouncer use to children six years of age and older.
  • Only allow a bouncer to be used when an adult trained on safe bouncer use is present.
  • The safest way to use a bouncer is to have only one child on it at a time.
  • If more than one child will be on the bouncer at the same time, make sure that the children are about the same age and weight.

Proper Use

  • Remove shoes, eyeglasses, jewelry and all sharp objects from your pockets before entering the bouncer.
  • No rough play, tumbling, wrestling or flips. Stay away from the entrance or exit and the sides or walls of the bouncer while you are inside of it.
  • If the bouncer begins to lose air, carefully exit the bouncer.

Setting Up an Inflatable Bouncer

 Outside set up:

  • Place the bouncer on a flat surface.
  • Remove all rocks, sticks or objects such as sprinkler systems sticking up from the ground before setting up the bouncer.
  • Make sure there is open space around all sides of the bouncer.
  • Place the bouncer away from tree branches or power lines.
  • If the bouncer will be set up on a hard surface, place a soft surface around the entrance/exit to the bouncer.

Inside set up:

  • Only set up bouncers in rooms where the ceiling is several feet above the top of the bouncer.
  • Place the bouncer away from walls.
  • If the bouncer will be set up in a room with hard floors, place a soft surface around the entrance/exit to the bouncer.

Who is liable if you or your child are injured while using a bounce house?

 It’s not an easy question to answer; there are factors that need to be considered before liability can be determined.

  • Did the bounce house have a defect which caused it to be unsafe when used? Then the bounce house manufacturer could be held liable for your injuries under a product liability claim.
  • Where did you use the bounce house? Was it set up properly? Did the homeowner/park/event planner take reasonable safety measures or were they aware of any dangerous hazards on their property that may have contributed to your injury? Then you might have a claim on your hands depending on the location of the bounce house.
  • Was the bounce house provided by a rental company with staff on hand operating it?  If so, they may be negligent of not running, handling, or maintaining their equipment properly.