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Personal Injury Blog

Who is Legally Liable for Jet Ski Accident Injuries?

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Riding on a jet ski is one of those unique vacation experiences. You may look forward to it for months or spot the rental place and decide to try it on impulse. You may decide to jet-ski alone just to feel the wind on your face or with friends to share the experience. But what happens when a high-speed frolic turns into a tragic accident? A few hundred jet ski accidents and a small number of deaths happen every year. And it's an unfortunate truth that because jet skis are high-speed recreation that the injured drivers are often blamed even when the accident was not their fault.

To discover who is responsible, you'll need to consider all the factors at play. Jet ski accident liability isn't as clear-cut as someone, say, getting injured on a theme park ride. Because there are so many contributors to the situation. Let's take a look at a selection of other players who might be the root cause of this terrible accident.

Another Boat Driver

Courtesy in the marina and along tourist-covered coasts is incredibly important. The more people in the water, the more careful each boat and personal watercraft driver has to be. It is vital that boats not only give each other space, but also respect each other's trajectories. You may be thinking that if another boat didn't hit the jet ski to cause the accident, then a boat driver isn't responsible. But that's not necessarily true. If another boat cut across the water in front of your jet ski and left a wake wave, for example, they may be directly responsible for the accident.  

 

The Jet Ski Rental Company

Rental businesses don't always fulfill their full responsibilities. Whether this was an accidental oversight or purposeful corner-cutting negligence, the rental company is still liable for failing to complete their duties in providing safe watercraft rental.

Rental companies are responsible for keeping their jet skis in top condition, well-tuned to perform well with inexperienced drivers. If a malfunction occurs or something breaks while you are out on the water, this is the rental company's failure.

The company is also responsible for giving you at least a quick summary of safety procedures. How to ride, how not to ride, and any local dangers. If, for example, there are sharks in the area your rental company is obligated to tell you before letting you go out on the water.

Liability Waivers

If the rental company is at fault, you may be worried about the liability waiver you signed to rent the jet ski. What you signed essentially says you won't be coming back claiming to have a crick in the neck because the handles were at the wrong height.

However, if the rental company really did fail to maintain the vehicle and rented you a defective high-speed personal watercraft, that is not included in most liability waivers. Make sure your lawyer takes a look at the waiver so you have a real idea of what the limitations are.

The Marina or Waterfront Management Company

Most people don't realize this, but there's also a possibility that the marina or beachfront where you were riding might be at fault for the accident. Any stretch of water and beach that are designated for recreational activity, the organization that opens the area is also responsible for making sure the area is safe. Patrolling the water for dangers, marking shallow rocks, and monitoring safe recreational activities.

The marina or waterfront are also responsible for any buoys, lines, piers, and floating docks that are part of their recreational area infrastructure. If your jet ski hits a buoy that is out of place, or shallow rocks that should have been marked, then these are examples of the marina or waterfront management company being at fault.

The Jet Ski Manufacturer

If your jetski malfunctioned but you can't figure out anything that you or the rental company did wrong, then the true responsible party might go all the way back to the manufacturer. Manufacturer errors do occasionally happen and personal injury suits are often the first time these risks are identified. In fact, if you successfully bring suit to a faulty manufacturer, you may save other lives by forcing them to do a recall on other units that may be defective as well.

A Tourist Guide Company

Finally, there is your tourist activity planning company or jet ski tour guide. Many people join a group or take a tour to enjoy their jet skis, meaning they are following the instructions and movements of someone who is supposed to be an expert with their safety in mind. If you were involved in an organized jet ski activity that resulted in an injury, there's an unusually high chance that your injury was ultimately the fault of the tourist guide or their company.

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If you or someone you know has been injured in a jet ski accident, the situation has so many layers that liability will take some investigating to discover. Was the marina a dangerous place to jet ski, or did your tour guide take you on a route too tough for beginners? Did your rental company fail to maintain the jet ski or warn you about local dangers, or did the manufacturer create a defective product that eventually failed under your use?

For more details on jet ski liability, to look over your rental liability waiver, or to consult on your case please contact us today. Our legal team is ready to help in any way we can.

What to Do If You're Involved in a Boating Accident

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Boating accidents can be as minor as little fender-scuffs or they can be devastating vessel-sinking collisions that put every passenger in harm's way. It all depends on the relative speeds and point of impact for both boats. Experiencing a boat accident can be surprising, devastating, and even tragic. But when one happens, the best thing you can do is know how to respond quickly and correctly.

Someone will need to keep their head in order to handle the situation and help others involved to deal with the disaster. If you are well enough to make decisions after a boat accident, it can help to know exactly the right steps to take. Let's dive into the correct process for dealing with a boating accident both ethically and legally.

Rescue Everyone from the Water

According to the US coast guard, over 70% of boating accident fatalities are caused by drowning. If not rescued quickly, they may not have the strength, ability, or wherewithal to stay above water. The accident could become an even greater tragedy if someone was lost during the post-accident chaos.

This is why the first priority in any boating accident is to get everyone out of the water. If either vessel is still afloat, they must render aid to all survivors. Do your best to get everyone in life jackets or hanging onto a sturdily floating piece of debris. Do a headcount immediately to ensure that everyone has been found and rescued from drowning. Remember to include boat staff in your count as well.

Move the Vessels to Safety

In many boating accidents, the collision occurred in an aquatic thoroughfare where water vehicles pass frequently at high speeds. Just like pulling off the highway in a car, you will need to get your vessels out of the direct path of boat traffic. It's best if the damaged vessels can dock to move on to the next steps. But floating in a low-traffic section of the water is often as much as damaged boats can manage.

Seek Medical Attention for All Involved

Every single person who was involved should go see their doctor and get inspected for signs of long-term damage. Injuries can appear overtime after an experience like the body-displacing whiplash caused by a boating accident. 

For anyone overtly injured, call 911 and ask them to meet you at whatever dock you tied up after the accident. Then, for everyone who feels alright, be sure to visit the doctor and have a few tests in the week following the accident. 

Do Not Apologize

No matter how rattled you feel or whether you think the accident might be your fault -- Do Not Apologize. Saying a sympathetic "I'm so sorry" can be legally construed as accepting fault in the accident which can hurt your chances of a fair insurance claim. No one who has received legal advice will make the mistake of accidentally accepting blame. Keep yourself out of trouble by watching what you say carefully. Help everyone get medical attention, but do not apologize for the accident.

Trade Operator and Insurance Information

Liability is also an immediate concern. Each party should trade the names of their boat operators and their insurance data so the other can make a claim. The drivers will also be held liable but each case will determine whether the fault lies with a boat operator or the company that employs them.

Make sure to give your operator's card and insurance information to the other boaters and get theirs in return.

Get Contact Info from Witnesses

Witnesses are incredibly useful in describing what they saw and determining who is truly at fault. If there were any witnesses of the accident, especially those that stuck around during the medical assistance, they should not be reached out to. Collect their names and contact info to get started and worry about using them as reference witnesses later.

In the meantime, just be friendly. Locals and vacationers who witness a boating accident are usually not shy about sharing what they saw from their perspective.

Take Photographs

Photographs tend to be quite powerful in both insurance and civil court cases. Photographs taken immediately after the accident can also serve as proof and a confirmation of what happened after the evidence and gone and wounds have started to heal. 

Report the Accident to Authorities

If anyone or any bot got seriously hurt, you'll need to report the boat accident to the coast guard. You may also need to make a report to local authorities. You will need to submit a Recreational Boating Accident Report form if anyone was injured, killed, if a boat was lost, or if property damage equals $2,000 in value or more.

Consult a Boating Accident Lawyer

Once you have taken care of your duties to yourself and others to begin post-accident recovery, it's time to reach out to a boating accident lawyer. If there are no great disputes, then a lawyer can help you get a fair assessment from the insurance companies who may be hesitant to pay your fair share. And if the accident was pointedly caused by another, a lawyer can help you build a strong civil case. Whether you're filing an insurance claim or a lawsuit after your boating accident, the Freeman & Freeman team can help you. Contact us today for a consultation on your post-boating-accident needs.



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