Jet Skis, Personal Watercraft, and Florida Tourist Season

Tourist season is about to kick off in south Florida, and that means more tourists on jet skis.  While it is true that in Florida, jet ski riding happens all year long, but during the buys winter months many of the jet ski riders on Florida waters will be inexperienced.

Riding a jet ski is fun… but it can also be dangerous.  The U.S. Coast Guard cites hundreds of accidents in each year in which people are killed or injured in jet ski accidents.  Some of the blame can by laid upon careless operators, but there are others  who could be held responsible:  the NTSB determined that rental operators of jet skis have a significantly higher association with jet ski accident rates as opposed to the general boating population— nearly 25% higher.

Injuries from Jet Skis

Injuries from a jet ski accident can be devastating:

  • Spinal cord trauma
  • Brain and head injuries
  • Fractures
  • Lacerations
  • Amputation
  • Drowning & near drowning

Reckless Operation of Defined

The Personal Watercraft (PWC—another name for jet ski) Act of 2005 in the U.S. reads as follows:

Every personal watercraft shall at all times be operated in a reasonable and prudent manner. No person shall operate a personal watercraft in an unsafe or reckless manner. Unsafe personal watercraft operation shall include, but not be limited to the following:
(1) Becoming airborne or completely leaving the water while crossing the wake of another vessel within [100 feet] of the vessel creating the wake.
Or wake jumping (2) Weaving through congested traffic.
(3) Operating a vessel at greater than slow/no wake speed within [100 feet] of an anchored or moored vessel, shoreline, vessel underway, dock, pier, boat ramp, marina, swim float, marked swim area, person in the water, person(s) engaged in angling, or any manually-propelled vessel.
(4) Operating contrary to the “Rules of the Road” or following too close to another vessel, including another personal watercraft. For the purposes of this section, following too close shall be construed as proceeding in the same direction and operating at a speed in excess of [10 MPH] when approaching within [100 feet] to the rear or [50 feet] to the side of another motorboat or sailboat which is underway unless such vessel is operating in a narrow channel, in which case a personal watercraft may operate at speed and flow of other vessel traffic.

Reckless driving of a jet ski in Florida is defined as:

“maneuvering a personal watercraft by weaving through congested vessel traffic, jumping the wake of another vessel unreasonably close or when visibility around the vessel is obstructed, or swerving at the last possible moment to avoid collision is classified as reckless operation of a vessel”.[19]

Responsibility for Jet Ski Accidents

Most lawsuits related to jet ski accidents cite negligence. The body of law requires that an individual be responsible and pay for harm caused by their own carelessness.  Reckless driving is absolutely negligent.  But other common factors in jet ski accidents may also be negligent—including speeding, boating while distracted, and operating the jet ski while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

The liability may be shared, as well, with the company that rented the jet ski to the operator who caused the accident.  It is incumbent upon jet ski rental operators that they must make sure to properly maintain their jet skis.  They must also make sure that the person renting the jet ski from them was a competent operator.  Any failure to do so could make them additionally liable.

Under product liability law, the manufacturers of the jet ski involved in the accident may also be held liable for harm that comes to users.  Defects in design, manufacturing defects, and failure to warn of known danger could all lead to the manufacturer being held liable:

  • Design defects can occur by improper safety in the design itself of a product. For instance, if part of a jet ski becomes hot enough to burn the rider or passenger, that could be considered a design defect. Manufacturing defects can occur if a product is not built to proper specs.  In a jet ski, this could mean problems such as:

    • Fuel system leaks
    • Overheating
    • Throttle sticking
    • Hull cracks
    • Inadequate flotation of the jet ski
  • Failure to warn occurs when the manufacturer does not alert the user about potential danger in the product.  Insufficient instructions about the safe way to use the jet ski could also be considered failure to warn.

Limited Liability in Jet Ski Accident Cases

Jet ski injury claims are not the same as other boating cases.  Injured parties may be subject to limited liability—and actually be prevented from filing lawsuits in some instances.  Florida laws may prevent a vessel’s owner or the renter of said vessel from being held liable for an accident–  if it can be proven that the incident occurred due to circumstances beyond their knowledge or control.

Signed waivers can also complicate the ability to file a claim.  However, this is not automatic.  It’s true that almost always such waivers must be signed before a rental is allowed.  But the rental company still has a duty of care, and to provide safe equipment and a safe riding environment.

The amount of pre-rental safety instruction may actually void the signed waiver.

An Attorney Can Help You Win Your Case

Have you or a loved one been injured in a jet ski accident?

If so, the attorneys at Thomas and Pearl want to speak to you.   Thomas and Pearl have the staff and resources to investigate jet ski accidents, research the watercraft involved and their safety records, gather eyewitness testimony, examine police reports, and recreate accident scenes.

Thomas and Pearl can also seek out expert medical opinions regarding your injuries to help justify proper compensation for you.

Before you speak with an insurance company that will attempt to settle your case in their best interest, call Thomas and Pearl.  Your Thomas and Pearl jet ski accident attorney will be there to help you represent your best interests.

$150 MILLION in verdicts and settlements

Thomas & Pearl attorneys have the skills and training to conduct a thorough accident and injury investigation.   Ask about our experience as attorneys helping victims of jet ski accidents in Florida.

Ask about the more than $150M (MILLION) dollars in recent and past jury verdicts and settlements we have gained for our clients.

We’ll evaluate your case situation with you, develop a strategy to win or successfully negotiate the highest amount of compensation for you.

Experienced legal help can make the difference between a successful resolution and losing.  And you pay nothing unless we get that successful resolution for you.

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