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Do I Need a Lawyer If I Was Injured in a Crowd Surge?

People with hands up at concert at night

It’s April, which means we are approaching music festival season in California and across the U.S. This month and next, artists from around the world will be performing in Southern California at Coachella and Stagecoach, which will bring over a quarter of a million music fans out to the desert.

While enjoying a large concert or festival is great fun, it can also leave concertgoers susceptible to injuries from crowd surges. If you sustain serious injuries in a crowd surge, you should talk to a lawyer about pursuing a legal claim. Concert promoters and venues have a duty of care to provide a reasonably safe environment for spectators. If they fail to do so and that failure results in harm, it may be grounds for a personal injury lawsuit.

In this blog, the California injury attorneys from Wisner Baum define what a crowd surge is, how they happen, what concertgoers can do to avoid them, and what legal rights victims may have.

What is a Crowd Surge?

Crowd surges, also known as crowd crushes, are tragic events that can occur during large gatherings such as concerts or festivals. These incidents often result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities due to factors such as overcrowding, inadequate exits, and poor crowd management. Below are examples of some notable crowd surges, including the injuries sustained:

  • Seoul Halloween Crowd Crush (2022): In the Itaewon district of Seoul, at least 159 people died, and over 150 were injured during a Halloween celebration. The narrow alleyways and overcrowded conditions led to a fatal crowd surge. Many victims suffered from cardiac arrest and injuries related to being crushed or trampled in the chaos.
  • Astroworld Festival Crowd Crush (2021): During Travis Scott's performance in Houston, Texas, a crowd surge resulted in the deaths of ten people, including a nine-year-old boy. Twenty-five people were hospitalized and over 300 attendees sustained minor injuries. Hundreds of personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits were filed in the wake of the Astroworld Festival crowd surge. Some of the injury cases resulted in settlement agreements.
  • Hajj Pilgrimage Crowd Crush (2015): This tragic event near Mecca was one of the deadliest in history, with over 2,400 pilgrims killed. The crowd crush occurred during one of the final rites of the Hajj pilgrimage, exacerbated by the convergence of two large groups on a narrow street. The high death toll was attributed to suffocation and trampling.

How Do Crowd Surges Happen?

Crowd surges happen due to a variety of factors, often involving a combination of physical and psychological elements. Key factors include:

  • Overcrowding: Exceeding the capacity of a space can lead to a density that makes individual movement impossible.
  • Restricted Exits: Inadequate or insufficient exits can prevent people from dispersing safely in an emergency.
  • Panic: Situations that induce panic can cause sudden movements of large groups, exacerbating the crush.
  • Poor Planning and Crowd Management: Lack of proper planning for crowd control and failure to anticipate the size and flow of the crowd can lead to dangerous situations.
  • Communication Breakdown: Ineffective communication among organizers, security, and the crowd can prevent timely interventions.

What Can You Do to Lower the Risk of Harm in a Crowd Crush Situation?

First, it needs to be stressed that crowd surges are nearly always caused by overcrowding, poor crowd management, and/or lack of clear communication. An awareness of these potential issues can help you stay safe if the event starts to feel dangerous. Below we highlight some tips that can help you avoid crowd surges:

  1. Keep a watchful eye for overcrowding: If you start to feel pressure from too many people around you, try to find space before it is too late.
  2. Don’t put backpacks or purses down in a crowded area: An overcrowding situation can happen in the blink of an eye. If you set a backpack or a purse down on the ground, you may get trampled trying to grab it.
  3. Make space for your chest: The number one cause of death in crowd surge situations is not enough oxygen. It may seem obvious, but you need to have space to breathe when you are in a crowd. Keep your arms out so you have the space you need to breathe.
  4. Avoid barriers or walls: Another common way that people are harmed in crowd surges is being pushed into a solid object like a wall or steel barrier. You may be able to “go with the flow” of people in an overcrowding situation, but if that flow takes you into a solid object, it can cause serious injuries.
  5. Stay on your feet: This is not always within your control, but when you are in a crowded area, do whatever you can to maintain your balance.
  6. Take care of yourself by taking care of others: if you push people around you in a crowd, it is likely you will be pushed back. However, if you are actively trying to help people around you stay safe, they may be more likely to do the same for you.

Common Injuries in Crowd Surges

1. Crush injuries: These occur when the pressure and force of the crowd pushing and moving together causes individuals to get trapped or pinned against hard surfaces, resulting in injuries such as broken bones, bruises, and lacerations.

2. Suffocation or asphyxiation: In crowded conditions, there is a risk of individuals being unable to breathe properly due to the pressure of the crowd or lack of oxygen, leading to suffocation or asphyxiation.

3. Trauma from falls: People can lose their balance or be knocked down in a crowd surge, leading to catastrophic injuries such as traumatic brain injuries, sprains, and fractures.

4. Trampling injuries: In crowded and chaotic situations, individuals may be knocked down or trampled by others moving quickly in the crowd, resulting in serious injuries such as internal bleeding, broken bones, and head injuries.

5. Panic attacks and psychological trauma: Crowd surges can be frightening and overwhelming, causing some individuals to experience panic attacks, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

6. Dehydration and exhaustion: In crowded environments, individuals may find it difficult to access water or rest, leading to dehydration, exhaustion, and heat-related illnesses.

Who is Responsible for Injuries in a Crowd Surge?

Injuries sustained during crowd surge events can be devastating, both physically and emotionally. In cases where a crowd surge causes serious injuries, there are a few key parties that may be held responsible in a lawsuit, including:

1. Event Organizers: Event organizers must ensure the safety of attendees at their events. This includes taking measures to prevent crowd surges and having adequate crowd control measures in place. If they are negligent and do not have adequate staff, or do not properly train their staff to effectively control the crowd, they may be liable in a lawsuit.

2. Security Personnel: Sometimes promoters or venues may hire third party security companies for crowd control. These companies are responsible for managing crowd behavior and ensuring that attendees are safe. If security fails to take appropriate actions during a crowd surge, they may be held liable for resulting injuries.

3. Venue Owners: The owners of the venue where the event takes place may also be held liable for crowd surge injuries if they fail to provide a safe environment for attendees.

4. Performers: In some cases, performers may also share liability for crowd surge injuries. If their actions or the actions of their fans contribute to a crowd surge, they may be held responsible.

Legal Rights After a Crowd Surge Event

As we have seen, crowd surges can happen if venues, organizers, or promoters fail to have adequate security staff, do not train staff in responsible crowd control, or are simply negligent in providing a reasonably safe place for spectators. Injuries that you sustain during a crowd surge can have lasting impacts on your life and require long recovery periods, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. Some of these injuries can even be permanent, such as traumatic brain injuries or mental injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

If you sustain injuries in a crowd surge or a crowd crush event at a concert or any other venue, you may need an injury attorney to help you pursue justice and compensation. At Wisner Baum, we have been advocating for injured clients in California and across the nation since 1985. We have a proven track record of success in personal injury and wrongful death cases across a broad range of practice areas. With over $4 billion in verdicts and settlements, your case is in good hands with us.

Our California law firm has offices throughout the state to meet the needs of our clients.

Call us today at 855-948-5098 or fill out our contact form for a free case evaluation.



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