Specialty Insurance Basics for the Amusement Industry

McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance

The amusement industry is built on a foundation of fun and thrills. But with those thrills come risks that are unique to the sector. For example, water parks must contend with a risk of drowning or water-borne illnesses. Amusement parks risk mechanical failures from their rides that may cause injuries or even death. Fairs and petting zoos deal with diseases that could jump from animal to human. These risks require specialty insurance.

What is specialty insurance?

While there may be some overlap with the concepts and coverage of traditional business insurance, specialty insurance plans are underwritten to address unusual risks. A parasailing company, for example, might have a higher risk of liability claims. 

Technically, specialty insurance can cover just about anything of unique risk to an organization not covered by standard general or professional liability insurance. It makes sense to pursue specialty coverage in settings like rodeos and petting zoos that have unpredictable, live animals. Zoos, entertainers, concerts, and more all typically have a customized type of insurance.

Read more: Top Five Recommendations For Choosing The “Right” Insurance Program For Your FEC or Park

Does your business need it?

Your business may not be firing performers out of cannons or flinging patrons through high-speed rides. However, specialty insurance is a great option when a company’s operations involve high-risk activities or other unique concerns about liability. Construction contractors often find themselves on the wrong end of lawsuits and seek specialty insurance to help offset that risk.

Insurance providers create customized specialty plans to address coverage needs within specific industries or business types. McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance’s focus on the amusement sector is a perfect example of this.

Insurance differences

Liquor liability insurance

This type of coverage is vital if your venue serves alcohol. Common situations liquor liability insurance covers include:

  • A staff member selling alcohol to underage people.
  • A staff member drinking alcohol while working and causing an accident.
  • A staff member over-serves alcohol to a patron.
  • An intoxicated individual drives drunk and causes an accident.
  • An intoxicated individual injures another person.


Concert venues and stage shows that employ special effects will want to pay attention to this type of specialty insurance. Any entertainment company or activity involving fireworks, fire, or explosions is a prime candidate for specialty pyrotechnic insurance since injuries or other damages from pyrotechnics may not be covered under standard liability policies.

Special events and cancellations

Special events insurance protects companies against concerns specific to events like festivals, carnivals, or even a 5K run. Severe weather, fires, electrical outages, bomb threats, disease outbreaks — these are all valid reasons to cancel, relocate, or reschedule a special event. But that leaves a lot of ticket buyers in the lurch, not to mention dozens or hundreds of vendors and employees. Without this type of coverage, one canceled event may threaten to bankrupt the special event host.

Inland marine

This coverage is a bit of a misnomer. Even though “marine” is in the name, it has nothing to do with waterways, oceans, lakes, or rivers. (If you want that type of insurance, you’ll need to research “Ocean Marine” policies). Instead, it covers business property transported over land or stored away from the business site. This coverage type is ideal for traveling carnivals, plays, concerts, or other stage shows.

Machine breakdown

While, thankfully, the occurrence of roller coaster malfunctions leading to injury is relatively low, and the number of deaths is practically nil, the risk is not zero. Over one thousand injuries due to amusement park rides are reported each year. Each incident leaves venue owners exposed to lawsuits, fines, workers’ compensation, and other liabilities.

Active shooter

Active shooter insurance is not confined to amusement sector businesses. Indeed, the risk of an active shooter event is a concern for all companies. But public-facing businesses in the amusement and entertainment industries need to pay special attention to this coverage, especially venues open to larger crowds. The liabilities surrounding active shooters are substantial. Damages can include legal fees, settlements, and medical care. And often, standard business policies do not cover active shooters or provide inadequate coverage.

Read more: Reopening & Preparing: Active Shooter Response

Finding experienced specialty insurance providers

Specialty insurance is meant to be customized for high-risk businesses’ unique risks and liabilities. But all businesses and industries have their quirks. To make the most informed decisions, you will need to consult with a provider with considerable experience.

McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance brings more than 35 years of experience and a deep understanding of the amusement sector to the table. We routinely cover amusement parks, water parks, carnivals, live shows, festivals, and more. We’re also committed to bringing together the best in insurance, risk management education and training, as well as safety consultation through our IAAPA Elite Insurance Program

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