Personal watercraft go by many names: sea-doo, jet ski, wave runner, etc. These recreational vessels use inboard engines and pump-jets to create thrust and steering. Most modern personal watercrafts carry 1-4 people who are positioned like riding a motorcycle. The vessels are commonly less than thirteen feet in length.
Jet skiing can be very dangerous. On average 40-50 jet ski riders die in the United States annually. Typically, there are another 600-700 non-fatal injuries resulting from jet ski accidents.
But why are personal watercrafts so dangerous? The main issue is training. Unlike many vessels on the water, jet skis are purely recreational. That means that riders and passengers are seldom experienced seafarers with knowledge of navigational rules and seamanship. In fact, personal watercraft are widely available for rent at tourist destinations around the country. Jet skis are also fast. Even average vessels can go well over 50 miles per hour. Finally, jet skis can be difficult to control. Many operators are surprised to learn that a personal watercraft cannot steer without the throttle being engaged. That means that the vessel may be unable to turn when slowing down.
Personal watercraft accidents can result from collisions with other vessels, groundings, striking stationary objects, passengers being thrown from the vessel, sudden starts/stops, and break-neck turns.
The main causes of jet ski accidents include:
Disobeying the Rules of the Road
Failure to adequately train
Boating under the influence
Failing to consider weather conditions
Towing accidents (tubing, skiing, wakeboarding)
Personal watercraft accidents are often fatal. Non-fatal injuries can still be significant and life-altering, including:
Maritime law is a uniform body of law among the states that applies to accidents on navigable waters. That means that personal watercraft injury claims may be subject to special laws that not every attorney will be familiar with.
The legal theory relevant to most personal watercraft injuries is known as “negligence.” The elements of negligence under maritime law are duty, breach, causation, and damages. In more general terms, negligence occurs when one party fails to act with adequate care towards another under the circumstances.
Maritime negligence claims can result in monetary compensation for injured individuals. The compensation may include medical expenses, lost wages, loss of earning capacity, disability, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.
Maritime law, also known as admiralty law, is a combination of federal statutes and ancient common laws that apply to vessels and mariners. These are not ordinary cases. In addition to understanding this unique area of law, maritime attorneys are also familiar with the maritime industry in general. This helps them understand the salty components of a case that a landlubber may not know. You may be entitled to damages under the Jones Act, LHWCA, unseaworthiness, and maintenance and cure.
Personal watercraft injuries can happen in the blink of an eye and change everything. You can be permanently injured or lose a family member. This could result in difficulty paying the bills, medical treatment, and severe grief. If negligence was the cause of a jet ski accident and you or a loved one is the victim, call a maritime attorney as soon as possible. Maritime law may provide you with options for relief. There’s no obligation to speak with an experienced maritime lawyer at Mariner Law, PLLC. Consultation with a Jones Act lawyer is free: (253) 600-2531. The firm proudly serves mariner clients in Washington, Oregon, New York, Connecticut, Alaska, and nationwide.