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Couture Law P.A. » Tampa » Jet Ski Accidents

Jet Ski Accident Attorney
in Tampa, FL

Our injury lawyers proudly defend victims of PWC accidents

Jet Skis, also known as personal watercraft (PWC) are popular recreational devices on Florida’s waterways. State requirements for individuals who wish to legally operate a Jet Ski are relatively minimal. Florida requires Jet Ski operators to be at least 14 years of age. The minimum age for renting a PWC is 18. Individuals born after 1988 must either complete a boating education course approved by the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) or pass an equivalent course. Visitors may pass a temporary certification exam. With so many young teens, tourists, and adults with limited experience operating PWCs on Florida’s waterways, accidents can happen for several reasons.

Causes of Tampa PWC accidents

In 2021, Florida reported 195 PWC accidents, 17 of which involved a fatality. Approximately half of the people who were involved in a Jet Ski accident had completed the required education course. Common causes of these accidents are:

  • rider inexperience
  • mishandling the PWC
  • speeding
  • intoxication
  • failure to follow navigational rules
  • Failure to keep a proper lookout

Rider inexperience in Tampa Jet Ski accidents

Although the minimum age for operating a Jet Ski is 14, it is not uncommon for parents to allow children to operate PWCs when they are even younger. Minor Jet Ski riders are less likely to be able to appreciate the inherent risks of being on the water on an engine-powered vehicle. They may not fully understand the navigational rules. Younger riders may lack maturity in making judgment calls. They have less life experience and knowledge of the world; therefore, their perception of danger is different than the perspective of a mature adult. Nevertheless, inexperience can cause anyone of any age to become involved in an accident. Florida’s large population of tourists has access to Jet Skis. Many tourists operate PWCs with little or even no experience prior to visiting the state.

The mechanics of operating a Jet Ski is very different than driving a car or even riding a motorcycle or scooter. Many PWCs do not have brakes. Therefore, the operator must manually shift to reverse to cause the watercraft to slow down. Jet Skis have a much larger stopping distance than cars, scooters, or motorcycles. An inexperienced rider who is traveling at a fast pace should be comfortable allowing enough room to make a safe stop. Jet Skis require acceleration to make safe turns. An inexperienced operator may not fully understand that it is mechanically impossible to control the direction of a Jet Ski unless the watercraft is accelerating. In 2020, off-throttle steering ranked fourth among reported Causes of PWC accidents in Florida.

Mishandling as a factor in Jet Ski accidents

Many regard Jet Skis as toys. Therefore, they are prone to mishandling. Improperly handling a Jet Ski can cause an accident. Non-professional PWC riders sometimes do tricks for thrills or to impress others. Not only can handling a Jet Ski in certain ways without proper training endanger the rider but doing so can also endanger others who may be on the water nearby. Another dangerous practice is to overload the PWC with more people than the watercraft is designed to transport. Other examples of dangerous Jet Ski practices include:

  • Jumping the wake of another vessel
  • Weaving through congested traffic
  • Operating a PWC at a greater speed than slow or no wake within 100 feet of an anchored or moored vessel, stationary structure, swim float, swim area, person in the water, fisherman, or manually-propelled vessel
  • Traveling at more than 10 mph within 100 feet of another vessel
  • Generally operating contrary to navigational rules

Speeding causes PWC accidents

Speed is a common factor in Tampa Jet Ski accidents. As PWCs have become increasingly popular, manufacturers are making newer models capable of traveling faster. Today, many models are capable of achieving 60 mph. Excess speed limits the operator’s ability to stop. This is especially true of inexperienced drivers who are riding models that do not have brakes. Speed can also prevent the Jet Ski operator from seeing hazards early enough to safely avoid them. Others on the water have less time to react to Jet Ski traffic when the rider is traveling at an inappropriately fast speed.

Intoxication in Jet Ski accidents

For many, consuming alcohol is a natural part of enjoying fun on the water. Nevertheless, having “a few beers” while operating a Jet Ski or just prior to getting on the water can be dangerous. Not only do alcohol and drugs impair perception, judgment, and reaction time, but being on the water adds to the intoxicating effect of drinking and abusing drugs. The motion of the water, the sound of the Jet Ski engine, the wind, fatigue, and the glare of the sun can all affect a sober person while operating a Jet Ski.

Failure to follow navigational rules

Some think of riding a Jet Ski is a safer activity that is free of the rules, lanes, and restrictions that govern vehicle traffic on the road. However, this is untrue. Florida’s waterways are similarly governed by navigational rules. The rules are intended to allow water vessels, swimmers, and fishermen to share the water safely. Florida’s navigational rules require Jet Ski riders and passengers to wear an approved personal flotation device. When towing skiers or a person on an inflatable tube, PWCs must have a person other than the driver looking out, or the PWC must be equipped with a wide-angle mirror. Florida also requires PWC operators to attach the engine cutoff switch to a lanyard or to the operator’s clothing, person, or personal floating device. Attaching the switch allows the operator to turn off the engine if he or she falls off the watercraft. Florida also prohibits individuals from riding Jet Skis more than 30 minutes after sunset and more than 30 minutes before sunrise. Therefore, it is illegal for PWCs riders to be on the water at night or in the early morning before daylight.

Driver inattentiveness

Driver inattentiveness and failure to keep an appropriate looking ranked second among the causes of PWC crashes in Florida in 2020. Jet Ski drivers may become distracted by other people or objects on the water, other passengers, or skiers. Virtually anything that requires the operator to remove his or her eyes and mental focus from keeping a proper lookout for hazards is a distraction that can cause an accident. An inattentive Jet Ski operator has an increased risk of colliding with other vessels, injuring swimmers, colliding with floating or fixed stationary structures in the water, and unintentionally becoming airborne.

Injuries caused by Florida Jet Ski accidents

Jet Ski accidents can cause minor or very severe injuries, depending on the nature of the accident. Some PWC accidents can be deadly. Common injuries include:

  • lacerations
  • broken bones
  • burns
  • soft tissue injuries
  • spine injuries
  • head injuries

LACERATIONS CAUSED BY JET SKI ACCIDENTS

Most people do not imagine Jet Ski accidents causing severe lacerations. Nevertheless, PWCs generate a powerful jet stream of water that can tear bodily orifices. Therefore, a female Jet Ski rider may sustain a severe vaginal laceration in an accident. The powerful water jet may cause an anal or rectal laceration in male and female riders who are involved in an accident. Lacerations may occur in passengers who fall off the back of a PWC. The water jet causes severe injury that requires immediate emergency medical attention and may result in death. People who sustain this type of injury may require surgical implantation of a colostomy bag. In 2020, lacerations were the most common injuries in Florida PWC accidents.

BROKEN BONES

A broken bone may be a simple fracture that heals in within weeks, or it may be a complex fracture that requires surgical intervention. Broken bones ranked second among injuries most commonly sustained in Florida PWC accidents in 2020. Depending on the location of the broken bone, the injury may require major modifications to the accident victim’s lifestyle. A broken arm or leg may interfere with the individual’s ability to go to work. A vertebral fracture may limit the individual’s mobility for months. Fractures that cause significant pain can also impact the accident victim’s lifestyle. Some broken bones require months of physical therapy and rehab. Depending on an accident victim’s pain level, lifestyle modification, and doctor recommendations, a civil court may award compensation to the accident victim for pain and suffering. Accident victims also receive compensation for lost wages due to the time they are required to miss from work to visit doctors and therapists, rest, and recover from the injury.

JET SKI ACCIDENTS CAN CAUSE BURNS

In some cases, a Jet Ski crash may cause a fire or an explosion. Jet Ski explosions can also occur while idling or fueling. Fires can cause first, second, or third-degree burns. Explosions may cause burns or loss of limbs. Both fires and explosions can cause death.

SOFT TISSUE INJURIES IN PWC ACCIDENTS

Sprains, strains, and muscle pulls are common injuries in PWC accidents. These injuries are most often less severe than other types of injuries. Nevertheless, they can cause an accident victim to require time off from work. A sprain occurs when the ligament, which connects the two bones that form a joint, stretches beyond its normal range of motion. A severely sprained or torn ligament can also cause a tear in the muscle. Strains occur when the muscle or tendon, which connects the muscle to the bone, stretches beyond its normal range of motion. Whiplash is a common neck injury in accidents that involves muscle strains and ligament sprains in the neck.

Most minor soft tissue injuries are treatable with rest, over-the-counter pain killers, muscle relaxers, and hot or cold therapy. However, some soft tissue injuries require ongoing therapy and monitoring. In very severe cases, the accident victim may require surgery. Doctors may recommend chiropractic care, massage therapy, and physical therapy to help Jet Ski accident victims recover from a soft tissue injury.

SPINE INJURIES CAUSED BY JET SKI ACCIDENTS

The impact of landing on the water after falling from a Jet Ski can injure the spine. Injury to the spine may also occur if the torso twists or suddenly moves into an unnatural position. The spine can become injured in a few different ways:

  • vertebral fracture
  • disc herniation
  • pinched nerve

A vertebral fracture is technically a broken bone. However, because the vertebrae protect the spine, vertebral fractures can be dangerous if the fracture is severe. Doctors treat minor vertebral fractures by prescribing rest, limited mobility, ice or heat, and pain medication. In some cases, an accident victim who has a vertebral fracture may be ordered to wear a back brace. More severe fractures may require surgery to realign the bones and prevent spinal cord damage.

The discs are located between each vertebra, allowing mobility and providing cushioning. When a disc herniates, the soft, jelly-like center of the disc pushes through the rubbery outer casing. Disc herniation may cause pain in the extremities, depending on where the disc is located. Most cases do not require surgery unless the herniated disc causes incontinence or difficulty walking.

A disc herniation or bone fracture may cause a pinched nerve. The nerve becomes pinched when a bulging herniated disc or bone fragment from a fracture presses against a nerve. In minor cases, resting and taking pain medication may alleviate symptoms and allow the body to heal. More severe cases require surgery to remove the material that is pressing against the nerve. Accident victims should always see a doctor immediately after an accident and avoid self-diagnosing neck, back, or shoulder pain.

Jet Ski accident lawyer in Tampa

If you or someone you know has been involved in a Jet Ski accident, contact a Tampa personal injury lawyer. Our attorney represents Jet Ski accident victims and their families in insurance settlement negotiations and in civil court.

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