Jet Ski Accidents

“Money can’t buy happiness,” starts one viral meme. “But money can buy a jet ski. Have you ever seen a sad person on a jet ski? Everybody’s happy on a jet ski.”

Of course, there is truth to this. Cutting through the water on a Jet Ski, WaveRunner, Sea-Doo or other personal watercraft can be immensely thrilling. But it can also be very dangerous.

Operators are too often reckless, careless or just not paying attention.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is reports that while personal watercraft account for 12 percent of the total vessels registered in the state, they disproportionately account for 16 percent of all accidents.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our injury lawyers know there are a host of different injuries people have suffered as a result of being ejected or falling off a personal water craft.

Possible injuries include:

  • Brain Injuries
  • Spinal Cord Injuries
  • Vaginal Injuries
  • Orifice Injuries
  • Internal Organ Damage
  • Bone Fractures
  • Chest Trauma
  • Abdominal Injuries
  • Lacerations
  • Burns
What is a Personal Watercraft?

To be clear, when we talk about a “personal watercraft,” we’re referring to a small, jet-powered craft that somewhat resembles a snowmobile (if you’re from up north). Riders sit, stand or kneel astride the vessel, rather than inside, as you would a boat.

They are often generically referred to as “jet skis,” but the term “Jet Ski” is actually a brand name. Years ago, they were known as “water scooters.”

The most popular personal watercraft are known as “sit down” models, where the operator sits down to operate while one or two passengers can be seated behind. There are also “stand up” models, which are built for a single rider who usually stands and is more used for stunts, tricks, races or competitions.

Most personal watercraft are shorter than 13 feet in length, but they can tear across the water surface at speeds of up to 65 mph.

While the majority of personal watercraft vessels are used for recreation, they do have numerous other uses

Personal Watercraft Accidents in Florida

The U.S. Coast Guard reports there are more than 1.3 million personal watercraft registered nationally. In Florida, there are nearly 111,500 registered personal watercraft. Only about 2 percent of those are rental watercraft, with the remaining 98 percent being privately-owned. However, 9 percent of all vehicle accidents and half of all personal watercraft accidents occur on rental vessels.

Palm Beach County ranks No. 3 for the most personal watercraft accidents statewide, while Miami-Dade ranks No. 4.

Most common sites for personal watercraft accidents:

  1. Bays and sounds
  2. Ocean/ gulf
  3. Inlet/passes
  4. Rivers/ creeks
  5. Lake/ pond
  6. Canal/ cut

The FWC reports that in 55 percent of PWC accidents, the vessel was in “cruising” mode, meaning it was moving at a steady clip. In 17 percent of accidents, the PWC was changing directions and in another 15 percent the PWC was changing speed. A small percentage of accidents happened while the vessel was wake jumping or drifting.

Accidents involved:

  • Colliding with another vessel – 54 percent
  • Colliding with a fixed object – 14 percent
  • Fall on PWC – 12 percent
  • Falling overboard – 9.5 percent
  • Struck by boat – 4 percent

The most commonly-reported injuries were:

  • Broken bones – 23.5 percent
  • Contusions – 23.5 percent
  • Lacerations – 18 percent
  • Internal injuries – 9 percent
  • Head injury – 7 percent
  • Back injury – 5 percent

A small percentage of accidents resulted in neck injuries, spinal injuries, teeth and jaw injuries and amputations. Keep in mind: These were only the injuries reported to the FWC. There are probably numerous other minor injuries that were never reported.

Personal watercraft injuries accounted for 27 percent of all vessel injuries, which is substantial considering the fact that only 12 percent of all registered vessels are PWCs.

Jet Thrust Propulsion Injury

It’s important to note one of the injuries unique to personal watercraft, and that is jet thrust propulsion injury. Also referred to as “hydrostatic injuries to the genitalia” or “orifice injuries,” this has been the subject of a number of successful lawsuits in recent years.

What happens is the rider is usually tossed off the back of the vessel and lands in the path of the high-pressure water jet thrust. This thrust is so powerful, it shoots water into the rider’s orifices with excruciating pressure, resulting in severe and mutilating injuries to the vagina, rectum or anus. In some cases, it can be fatal.

This will almost always require emergency medical intervention, and emergency surgery may be necessary.

Personal Watercraft Liability

Responsibility for injuries in a personal watercraft accident will depend on who owns the craft, who was operating it, whether alcohol was involved, if the vessel somehow malfunctioned or if another vessel was involved.

Possible defendants include:

  • Operator/ rider
  • Owner
  • Manufacturer
  • Mechanic/ repair shop
  • Third party vessel operator

Many personal watercraft accidents are the result of:

  • Excess speed
  • Operator inexperience
  • Lack of proper training, as mandated by FWC
  • Operator inattention
  • Speeding by other vessels
  • Defective safety equipment or other machinery
  • Failure of rental firm to provide safe equipment/ proper instruction

If the personal watercraft was rented, your case could be complicated to a degree if you signed a limited liability waiver, agreeing to release the rental company from legal responsibility. However, these waivers aren’t absolute, so you should still talk to an attorney to find out if you have a viable case.

Call the injury attorneys at The Ansara Law Firm at (888) 267-2728 or locally at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Palm Beach and Miami-Dade Counties.