What are my Rights in a Personal Watercraft Injury Suit in Florida?
Excluding California, Florida has more than 3 times the number of boating accidents than any other state. There are over 1 million registered boats in the state and of those, more than 100,000 are personal watercraft. About 15% of all the registered boats are personal watercraft. Around 97% of those are privately owned and a miniscule 3% are owned by rental companies. Amazingly, however, personal watercraft account for close to 30% of all vessel injuries in Florida.
Most of the accidents involving personal watercraft involve colliding with another vessel or with a fixed object. The causes of these accidents run the gamut but include:
- Inexperience of the user
- Carelessness or inattention of the operator
- Excessive speed
- Drug or alcohol intoxication and
- No proper look-out
Rented personal watercraft cause a disproportionate amount of vessel accidents in Florida. For 2012, about 38% of accidents involving personal watercraft involved rental units. If you add borrowed vessels- another situation where the operator is inexperienced or unused to the machine- to that tally, it becomes almost 66%. As a result, Florida has regulations in place to govern the rental of personal watercraft. The regulations require, among other things:
A person must be at least 18 years of age to rent a personal watercraft in Florida
Anyone 21 and under must have a boater safety education identification card along with a state issued identification card to operate any vessel with 10 or more horsepower (with some exceptions)
The rental agency must provide instruction on the safe operation of the vessel
The rental agency must provide an on the water demonstration and a check ride to validate the competency of the renter
You can bring a lawsuit against the offending party in Florida state court in most cases. Typical causes of action include:
Negligence action against the operator/owner based on one of the following reasons:
Negligent entrustment by rental facility if the facility did not provide safety instruction or have proper safety instructions posted; if the rental facility did conduct a proper demonstration or check ride; or if the renter is not 18 or does not have boater safety education credentials.
Reckless or careless operation by the operator. Anyone who operates a personal watercraft with a willful disregard for the safety of person or property is guilty of a misdemeanor and potentially liable for injuries under a negligence theory.
Finally, if you have been injured in a personal watercraft accident, you should contact a skilled and experienced attorney. There are often special circumstances involved in these types of accidents and knowing the right way to handle your case can be the difference between recovery and failure. Please contact the Broward and Miami-Dade County firm of Gerson & Schwartz, P.A. and take advantage of our more than 40 years of experience with cases like this. Give us a call at (877) 475-2905 to set up your free consultation today and make sure your rights are preserved. We have the knowledge, skills and experience to get you the results that you deserve.