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Smoke on the Water – Personal Watercraft Accidents Cause Surprising Injuries in Fort Lauderdale, Florida
COVID-19 is driving more families from the crowded beaches and onto the waterways of Broward County. Whenever there is an increase in boating activity, personal watercraft accidents and injuries are sure to follow. Some of the biggest brands in recreational watersports manufacture Jet Skis, WaveRunners, powerboats, and Sea-Doos. Yamaha, Kawasaki, and Honda. While manufacturers limit personal watercraft speed to 65 miles per hour, unscrupulous mechanics and backyard repair operations can remove electronic safety controls and allow for boaters to drive at unsafe speeds near beaches, surfers, and other watercraft.
Dangers of Personal Watercraft
While personal watercraft (PWCs) are routinely used by professionals to save lives and enforce laws, they are marketed to inexperienced recreational users with little formal training and a real need for speed. Powerful watercraft and amateur operators are a dangerous combination when dealing with PWCs because their pumpjet control system affords operators reduced control at lower speed rates.
These watercraft are also highly susceptible to wave action. At higher speeds, the ejection of passengers and operators from the craft into the path of oncoming watercraft, surfers, or directly into the wash of the PWC’s impellers can cause serious injuries, including Traumatic Brain Injuries (TBI) and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Just how dangerous are personal watercraft? According to the U.S. Coast Guard, PWCs scored number two on a list of vessel types with the highest casualties. Operator inattention, improper lookout, inexperience, the force of wakes and waves, and operating while intoxicated were the leading causes of death and serious bodily injury. These statistics rang true for all major manufacturers and all model types. Whether you or a family member were injured on a WaveRunner, Jet Ski, or standup Sea-Doo, there is a real chance that someone else’s negligence, intoxication, or inexperience caused the accident.
The Rules Do Apply
Unlike other states, Florida does not issue boating licenses. Instead, Florida requires completing an approved boating safety course by anyone born on or after January 1, 1988, who plans on operating a personal watercraft with an engine of ten or more horsepower. All personal watercraft operators must comply with the U.S. Coast Guard’s navigation rules and all of Florida’s boating laws.
In addition to the rules of safe boating, personal watercraft operators must reasonably operate their vessels. Someone running their boat at an unsafe speed, failing to keep a lookout, creating an unreasonable wake, or speeding near swimmers and surfers can be held liable for their negligence. Property damage due to wakes, personal injuries from personal watercraft, and deaths from PWC-swimmer collisions are just a few situations that allow Florida juries to find that the watercraft’s operator was negligent. When a PWC operator is negligent, they can be liable for your injuries, according to Florida jury instruction 401.4.
No two boating collisions are the same. If you were injured because you were ejected from personal watercraft, were struck by a Sea-Doo, or had property damaged by an excess wake, it is critically important that you work quickly to protect your interests. Not sure if your injuries were caused by negligence? Call [FIRM NAME/NUMBER] for a [free] case evaluation today.
Boating Under the Influence
When the sun is shining, and music is going, it is tempting to drink or two before hitting the water. Tempting as though it may be, boating under the influence (BUI) is a severe offense on Florida’s waterways. In addition to criminal punishments, boating under the influence is one of the leading causes of accidents and fatalities on the water in Broward County.
A person is guilty of boating under the influence if they are operating a vessel on Florida’s waterways, and they have a blood alcohol content of either .08 grams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood or their ordinary faculties are impaired by any listed substance. A personal watercraft operator can also be responsible for boating under the influence if they damage property while intoxicated or impaired.
Did a personal watercraft operator damage your property while boating under the influence? If so, you have a right to be made financially whole.
If you were injured or a personal watercraft operator damaged your property while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you have a right to be made financially whole. Florida Jury Instruction 401.8 allows juries to find a person guilty violating a criminal law responsible for the financial damages their criminal act caused.
You have a right to demand compensation when you or a loved one are injured due to someone else’s decision to operate a watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You may also be able to hold the watercraft rental company liable for the injuries you suffered. Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
Boating Regulatory Zones
Speed is a massive part of the allure of personal watercraft. When you are out on open water with calm seas and no one around, opening the throttle of a Yamaha or Kawasaki PWC is a thrilling and memorable experience. When you are in restricted waters, on the Intracoastal, or other congested waterways or surfers or swimmers nearby, speeding is reckless, and it can be downright criminal.
Serious injuries, deaths, and severe property damage can occur when boats speed through boating regulatory zones. Florida law established four standard regulatory zones to keep boaters, property, and swimmers safe.
- Vessel Exclusion Areas– All watercraft or specific types of boats are excluded from the area. Vessel Exclusion Areas may be established to protect wildlife, surf areas, and swim lanes. They will be marked on nautical charts and by visible daymarks with a diamond featuring a cross.
- Maximum Speed Areas– All personal watercraft must be operated at or below the listed speed limit. Vessels exceeding the speed limit will be held responsible for the damages and injuries they cause.
- “Slow Speed, Minimum Wake” Areas – These zones are established to protect moored vessels, wildlife, and other objects that are sensitive to wakes.
- “Idle Speed, No Wake” Areas– These zones are even slower than no-wake zones. They are common near swim lanes.
The Broward County Safe Boating Guide has more information about these regulatory zones. If a personal watercraft injured you or a loved one while you were in a boating regulatory zone, call [FIRM NAME/NUMBER] for a [free] case evaluation.