This article discusses liability in Florida for Waverunner, Jet Ski and Sea-Doo Accidents. These brand vessels, known collectively as personal watercraft (PWC), are no doubt fun and exciting to use; however, personal watercraft accidents cause a higher number of severe injuries than other types of boating accident. A shocking 36% of all boating accidents nationwide involve personal watercraft.
Personal Watercraft Injuries and Death
Studies show that on average, over 120,000 people are injured from personal watercraft accidents per year. Recently, the U.S. Coast Guard reported over 620 fatalities involving recreational watercrafts as well as over 2,600 injuries throughout the U.S.
Personal Injury Compensation for Personal Watercraft Injuries
In Florida, Jet Ski, Sea-Doo and Waverunner accident victims may be eligible to receive compensation for pain and suffering, mental anguish, loss of capacity for the enjoyment of life, loss of earning capacity, medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning ability, mental anguish, and other damages.
Causes of Personal Watercraft Injuries
Such accidents are typically caused by other negligent and careless operators. Most PWC accidents are caused by:
- Falling from personal watercrafts.
- Wake jumping (causing tailbone fractures and compression fractures to vertebrae)
- Crashing into objects like docks, buoys, rocks, sand bars or waterborne debris.
- Collisions with other personal watercrafts. Almost 70% of PWC crashes are with another vessel, with a majority of that percentage being with another PWC. Green operators who are not familiar with estimating speed and distances on the water. Further, PWCs lack brakes and the stopping distance from 50 mph is hundreds of feet.
- Accidents due to PWC equipment failure.
If your accident was due, in whole or part, to the negligence of another operator or boater, then you should contact a maritime personal injury lawyer to file a claim as soon as possible.
Who is responsible for Injuries on PWC?
According to the Coast Guard, PWCs have a higher rate of collisions than any other type of boat and there are multiple reasons why. A responsible Harley Davidson motorcycle owner would never allow a person to take their motorcycle out on I-95 at rush hour, who has never ridden a motorcycle before. However, an owner of a Waverunner would not have a problem allowing a friend, who has never operated a Waverunner, take their PWC out for a ride in the crowded Florida Intracoastal Waterway. According to the Coast Guard, a Waverunner is subject to the same rules and regulations as any other vessel. Operating Waverunners, Jet Skis and Sea-Doos requires skill, maturity and experience. These owners who loan their personal watercrafts out to others are responsible for the injuries caused by the operators or their personal watercraft.
Waivers and Liability
Oftentimes, waivers are signed by renters of PWCs. While such waivers may protect business owners renting out Waverunners, Sea-Doos and Jet Skis, the renter has not signed away all of their rights to sue the personal watercraft owner, manufacturer or other PWC operators. If an operator, or passenger, is at fault, the operator and/or passenger may have a claim against the actual owner and manufacturer. Typically, in order to sue the PWC rental business, the injury which occurred must have been caused by some sort of defect or negligent maintenance of the PWC. Have an attorney review all waivers if you have been injured.
Insurance for Personal Watercraft
In Florida, car insurance is required by law, but not boater’s or personal watercraft insurance. Boat owners may purchase liability insurance, which would cover the PWC owner and operator for damages caused to swimmers, other PWC operators, boaters and for property damage.
If the PWC owner is a homeowner, then the injured victim may be able to claim monetary compensation for injuries on the homeowner’s insurance policy. In many situations, these insurers will pay up to $100,000 in liability for injuries caused by the homeowner. Not all PWC owners have homeowner policies, which would cover injuries sustained by a PWC.
Our maritime attorney and Army Ranger Veteran, Tim Nies, is a former insurance company attorney where he represented boat owners and cruise lines in injury lawsuits. Tim knows the playbooks of the insurance companies. Attorney Christian Van Riper, a lifelong boat owner, is a former prosecutor. Boat and personal watercraft insurance companies fight hard. Our attorneys fight harder. To discuss your case at no cost or obligation, contact our maritime injury attorneys today.