If you’ve ever been to the circus, or even if you haven’t, odds are that you’re familiar with what acrobats do. They jump around and do all these unlikely stunts under precarious circumstances. Acrobatics, I guess is what we call this gimmick. It’s pretty amazing stuff. If you’re anything like me, you may have at some point wondered how often acrobats make mistakes — after all, there’s no way they don’t — and how often these screw ups end on a fatal note. In terms of safety, there’s only so much wiggle room when it comes to death-defying sky ballet (which is basically what acrobats do).
There’s not too much data on this subject. At least, not on the first page of Google search results for “circus injury statistics”. One easily accessible study from 2009 looked at injury patterns for Cirque du Soleil performers between 2002 and 2006, which recorded thousands of incidents causing injury, concluded that most of them were minor, and went on to say that other kinds of sports are generally more dangerous. Good to know.
All this being said, circus injuries are especially relevant today: five acrobats fell off a high wire in Florida, an incident which made national headlines.
Not Part Of The Act
This year, 2017, marks the twentieth anniversary of Circus Sarasota. They’re celebrating with SYNERGY, described by the organization as a “circus experience beyond compare.” Part of this experience includes a high wire act that at some point involves eight people forming a human pyramid. It was during rehearsal for this act that five of the eight acrobats fell from the high wire.
“Okay, so how high are we talking here?” This was my first question.
According to sources reporting on this incident, the wire was about 20 to 25 feet in the air. Which is arguably tall as heck. The fire department was alerted immediately and the fallen acrobats were rushed to local hospitals in varying conditions. There were, thankfully, no fatalities, although four of the five were initially under something called “trauma alert” and two of them remain in critical condition. Doctors expect everybody to make a fully recovery.
According to CEO of The Circus Arts Conservatory, Pedro Reis, the accident was not caused by some sort of malfunction. The high wire’s rigging, in other words, was not to blame — it was simply a matter of lost balance. For Reis, mishaps like this are a sad but inevitable part of working with a circus:
“They did it flawlessly yesterday. Unfortunately, accidents happen.”
He also made it clear that today’s incident doesn’t mean the upcoming SYNERGY performance is cancelled. This show, as with any show, must go on.
Injured On The Job
People get injured doing their jobs all the time. It’s not just a circus or a sports thing. Accidents happen — that’s why we have worker’s compensation. That’s also why most states, including Tennessee, make it mandatory for employers to provide insurance in case of injuries in the workplace.
Circus performers are obviously going to need some substantial worker’s compensation benefits, since being an acrobat is relatively unsafe. However, worker’s comp isn’t just for people who work dangerous jobs. It’s for people who work… jobs. And, depending on the employer’s policies, worker’s comp tends to account for medical expenses, rehab, disability benefits, and lost wages.
Does the general ubiquitousness of worker’s compensation mean that nobody has to worry about money if they get injured at work?
Yeah, well, no.
The thing is, employers and insurance companies are trying to make as much money as possible. If they spend money, they aren’t saving it. Compensating workers involves spending money, so it’s in the best interest of employers and insurance companies to not compensate workers whenever possible. They have very good lawyers for this (disputing injury claims to save money).
We can hope that today’s fallen acrobats have employment agreements in place that ensure proper compensation for their injuries. Still, it’s probably too optimistic to assume their employer’s attorneys aren’t frantically searching for contractual loopholes. In the courtroom, facing off against high-asset entities is incredibly difficult and often impossible for individuals — this is why trustworthy legal representation is so crucial. If you’re ever injured on the job, or under any other circumstances involving questions of liability, the smartest thing you can do is get in contact with an attorney immediately. You better believe that’s what those acrobats did.