Miami Personal Watercraft Accidents
Personal Watercraft Accidents
Miami is the home of sea, sand, sun, and fun. Getting out on the water is central to the Miami lifestyle. Part of the fun for many is dashing through the waves at an exhilarating rate of speed on a personal watercraft (PWC)—a Jet Ski, Ski Doo, Wave Runner, or one of any number of PWC brands beloved of Miamians and visitors alike. Personal watercraft are hull-less vessels of under 13 feet in length, accommodating between one and four riders, designed for recreational use on the water. At least 1.3 million Americans own personal watercrafts, and a trip to the beach any weekend will reveal that Miami has more than its share. With the growing number of these recreational watercraft in our waters, we can expect accidents to occur, causing injuries and even occasionally fatalities, many of which can be avoided by safe use of the vessels, including riding at appropriate speeds, avoiding areas where people are swimming, and refraining from excessive alcohol or drug use when taking a PWC out on the water, and following safety guidelines set forth by the U.S. Coast Guard and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Agency.
Preventable injuries and fatalities from PWC accidents are typically the result of some type of negligence on the part of either its driver or the operator of another vessel. When this is the case, an injured victim, or the survivors of someone fatally injured by another’s negligence, has the right to claim compensation for economic and non-economic damages in a civil personal injury legal action. For a person who has suffered a serious injury or wrongful death as a result of a PWC accident caused by someone else’s negligence, choosing the right lawyer to represent you is essential to ensure the best outcome and an adequate financial recovery, given the circumstances of the accident.
Personal Watercraft Injury and Fatality Statistics
The United States Coast Guard reports that nationwide, in 2015, personal watercraft accidents resulted in 10 drownings and 23 fatalities caused by other injuries, for a total death toll of 33. An additional 623 people were injured by personal watercraft in the United States. This was an improvement over the 2011 toll, when 44 people died in PWC accidents.
Miami-Dade County leads the State of Florida in the total number of personal watercraft accidents. With 12,685 recreational PWC registered to individual owners in the county in 2015, and another 552 available for rental, 33 PWC accidents resulted in 29 injuries that year. Fortunately, unlike some prior years, 2015 saw no fatalities; however, at least one PWC death has occurred in the county as of this writing in 2016.
Personal Watercraft Accident Types
There are numerous ways for personal watercraft accidents to occur, many of which can be prevented by safe usage, care, and attention:
- Colliding with another vessel
- Colliding with a fixed object
- Colliding with a floating object
- Falling overboard
- Grounding the watercraft
- Striking a swimmer or other person in the water with the PWC
- Accident involving a water skier towed by a PWC falling or hitting an object; internal injury to a skier pulled by a PWC
- Flooding or swamping of the PWC
- Engine explosion or fire
Underlying Causes of PWC Accidents
Certain conditions and actions make a PWC accident more likely to happen, for example:
- An inexperienced operator (rentals are responsible for more accidents than individually-owned machines)
- Reckless or careless driving of the vessel
- Distraction, inattention, or improper lookout
- Making excessively sharp turns
- Alcohol or drug impairment
- Equipment failure
- Attempting to steer off-throttle
- Operating in congested area
- Violating safety or navigation rules
- Inclement weather and excessively rough water
The Law in Florida Regarding Personal Watercraft
Because Florida has had a disproportionate number of personal watercraft accidents in the past, our state has more restrictive laws than some others. In the latter part of the 1990s, more than half of the nation’s PWC accidents occurred in Florida and California combined. As a result, Florida implemented new laws to reduce the damage:
- Restrictions on use of PWC within 100 feet of another vessel
- Restrictions on operation of PWC within 150 feet on the shore
- Restriction of “spraying” activities
- Raise in operator age requirement to 14 years of age
- Mandatory boating safety course for operators under age 22
- Wake-jumping restrictions
Personal Watercraft Injury Types
These are some of the more common types of injuries that occur in personal watercraft accidents in and around Miami:
- Internal injuries
- Head injuries, including traumatic brain injuries (TBI)
- Back injuries, including herniated discs
- Spinal cord injuries
- Soft tissue injuries, such as sprains or strains
- Neck injuries
- Dental and jaw injuries
- Drownings and near drownings
Getting the Legal Help You Need
If you or a close family member sustained serious injuries in a Waver Runner, Jet Ski, Ski-Doo, or other personal watercraft accident caused by the negligence, carelessness, or wrongdoing of another person in Miami or the surrounding area of South Florida, you may be entitled to recover compensation for your damages. For the best results, you will need to retain an experienced personal injury attorney with a record of substantial recoveries for clients injured by this specific type of vessel. You can find the experienced legal help you need by calling the Miami, Florida, law firm of Lipcon & Lipcon, P.A. to schedule a free consultation to learn about your legal options.
The attorneys at Lipcon & Lipcon have been honored with the highest possible AVVO rating and have earned the prestigious designation of AV Preeminent by Martindale-Hubbell. They have also been selected as being among the top lawyers in Florida by the Legal Action Network and are lifetime members of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for lawyers who have obtained settlements and verdicts for clients in excess of a million dollars.
Florida law restricts the amount of time you have to file a legal claim, so call Lipcon & Lipcon today to protect your right to recover money for your injuries. You pay nothing up-front or during the process of our preparing and presenting your case for settlement or trial. You only pay legal fees after we have won money for you.