There’s nothing like fun on the water. Boating, waterskiing, kayaking, sailing, paddleboarding, windsurfing – just a few of the many ways South Floridians get out and enjoy the waves. One of the more popular aquatic activities is the use of personal watercraft (PWC), which began as “water scooters” in the 1950s and evolved into stand-up and sit-down varieties.
A fast-growing segment of the recreational marine industry, there are over 117,000 personal watercraft registered in the Sunshine State. PWCs today are marketed under brand names such as:
- Yamaha’s WaveRunner
- Kawasaki’s Jet Ski
- Bombardier’s Sea Doo
- Honda’s AquaTrax
- Polaris’ Sealion
- Arctic Cat’s Tigershark.
Individuals on personal watercraft lack protection in a way similar to those who ride motorcycles. Such exposure leaves them extremely vulnerable to serious injuries in an accident. Help yourself by:
- Wearing highly visible clothing
- Wearing a life jacket
- Not operating under the influence of alcohol or riding with someone who is
- Not speeding
- Not going out in rough waters
- Taking a boating course.
Easier to use and more affordable than boats, personal watercraft don’t come hazard-free. Last year alone, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission reported that PWCs were involved in 22 percent of all reportable boating accidents, and 44 percent of those accidents involved a collision with another vessel. In 2015, a total of 33 personal watercraft accidents were reported in Miami-Dade County, which was more than any other. Combining Miami-Dade with Monroe County and Pinellas County accounted for 51 percent of accidents statewide.
Common accidents include:
- Colliding with a vessel
- Colliding with a fixed object
- Falling on the PWC
- Falling into the water
- Being flooded/swamped.
Lack of experience is often a contributor to these accidents as is reflected in the fact that 43 percent of the personal watercrafts that were involved in accidents last year were rentals. Failure to take proper precautions or have adequate instruction before operating a machine that can go 60 miles an hour can end in disaster. Even experienced riders can get into trouble by operating the PWCs too fast, recklessly, or under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Sometimes, injuries result from a defect or malfunction in the machine itself.
Recent South Florida PWC accidents include:
- A man riding a WaveRunner near Picnic Island lost control while doing circles at a high rate of speed, striking a channel marker, and fatally hitting his head. Two passengers were also injured.
- A woman operating a WaveRunner in Man of War harbor while on a PWC tour was struck from behind and thrown into the water with fatal injuries.
- A child passenger was injured in Aventura when the PWC he was riding collided with a parked boat.
- Two women on a Jet Ski near Key Biscayne were injured when the PWC ran aground.
- A man who was simply standing in the water near Monument Island was injured after being struck by a PWC.
If a personal watercraft accident caused an injury or death in your family, you need an experienced attorney to effectively represent your interests. As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski & Funt, P.A. has helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless accident victims, and we are highly experienced in handling a wide range of marine accident cases. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. If you wish to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you, we encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-964-8644-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.