The State of Florida has more than three times the number of boating accidents of any other state, except California. Personal watercraft and Jet Ski injuries make up an increasing share of these injuries and each year more people seek legal help for personal injuries they suffered in these accidents.
Personal Watercraft Injuries
In Florida, there are over 100,000 personal watercraft (PWC) registered in the State of Florida and PWCs make up almost 15 percent of all registered vessels. Most PWCs are privately owned (97 percent), with only 3 percent being rental vessels.
PWC injuries accounted for 30 percent of all vessel injuries and 13 percent of all vessel fatalities. The most common injuries were broken bones, cuts and bruises. However, serious injuries such as head injuries, back injuries, spinal injuries and amputation also occurred.
Personal Watercraft Accident Data
Most PWC accidents involve a collision with another vessel (45 percent) or a collision with a fixed object (19 percent). Other accident types include falling on the PWC, falling overboard, colliding with a floating object or person, capsizing, fire, and wake damage.
The primary causes of PWC accidents were as follows:
– Carelessness/inattention (25%)
– Operator inexperience (21%)
– No proper look-out (17%)
– Excessive speed (9%)
– Operator inattention (5%)
– Off throttle steering-jet (3%)
– Hazardous waters (2%)
– Machinery failure (2%)
– Sharp turn (2%)
– Violation of navigational rule (2%)
– Congested waters (2%)
– Weather (2%)
– Alcohol use (2%)
– Equipment failure (1%)
– Ignition of fuel vapor (1%)
– Skier or occupant behavior (1%)
– Standing/sitting on gunwale, bow, or transom (1%)
– Other (2%)
Possible Areas of Rule Violation That May Lead To a Cause of Action
Lack Of Proper Boater Education By PWC Operator – Florida does not have a “boating license” requirement, but it does generally require anyone born on or after January 1, 1988 to successfully complete an approved boater safety course and obtain a Boating Safety Education Identification Card if the person wants to operate a motorboat of 10 horsepower or greater. However, statistics show that over 75 percent of PWC operators involved in an accident had no boater’s education.
Negligence And Negligent Entrustment By Owner/Rental Facility – Florida PWC rental facilities must abide by rental rules established by the state. A violation of these can be the basis of a cause of action for damages if the violation lead to a PWC injury. For example, rental facilities cannot rent a PWC that does not have proper safety equipment, exceeds the recommended engine horsepower or load capacity, or is not seaworthy.
The PWC rental facility also may be responsible for an injury if it negligently entrusts a PWC to someone who it knew or should have known was not capable or qualified to operate the vessel. Negligent entrustment may exist if the rental facility:
– Rents the PWC to someone under 18 years old;
– Fails to display safety information on proper PWC operation and navigational rules;
– Fails to provide pre-rental or pre-ride instruction on the safe operation of the vessel if the PWC has a motor of 10 horsepower or more;
– Does not verify that a renter has a boater education ID card, or its equivalent, in the renter’s possession before renting out the PWC; or
– Does not provides an on-the-water PWC use demonstration and a ride check to evaluate the proficiency of a renter.
The Tallahassee accident lawyers of Barrett, Fasig & Brooks are available to help you protect your rights if you have been injured in a personal watercraft or Jet Ski accident. Please call us today at (850) 224-3310 for a free consultation. Se habla espanol.