A horrible jet ski accident was reported to have occurred about a mile and a half south of Bill Baggs State Park, near Key Biscayne. Two young women were riding the jet ski together on Monday afternoon. The reports indicate that the watercraft ran aground and propelled the women off the jet ski, critically injuring one of the women. The other woman was reported to have suffered some facial injuries. The seriously injured woman was flown to the trauma center at Jackson Memorial Hospital. The reports indicated that she suffered head and neck injuries, and was not moving her extremities.
The fortunate occurrence regarding this event was that a party boat was passing by, and the experienced captain in charge of the boat, Captain Alexis Perez, came to the rescue of the women. The seriously injured woman was laying in the water, unable to move, and likely would have drowned if it was not for the prompt intervention by this captain. He was able to move the woman onto the back of the jet ski, waiting with her until Miami-Dade Fire Rescue divers arrived.
Jet ski accidents in Florida are not uncommon. They travel at very high speeds. Many times the operator has rented the jet ski and is not fully acquainted with its operation. In other words, inexperience, as well as traveling at high rates of speed, are often the causes of jet ski accidents. Sometimes the company that rents these jet skis can be legally liable for failure to warn of dangers, and failure to take appropriate measures to assure that the operator is sufficiently acquainted with the operation of the jet ski so that it can be safely operated. Sometimes the accident is a direct result of some defect in the jet ski itself that can lead to a products liability action against the manufacturer of the jet ski.
These personal watercraft accidents have led to serious injuries and deaths. The operator of these personal watercraft should be experienced, and there should be proper warnings issued. If the jet skis are rented, the company profiting from the rentals should take all reasonable measures to make sure that they are entrusting these jet skis to experienced operators of jet skis, providing appropriate instructions to those who may not have the experience, and not renting to someone who has never operated a jet ski before without hands-on instructions and guidance.
Accidents at sea involving personal watercraft, such as jet skis, fall within the Admiralty jurisdiction of courts, and Admiralty and Maritime law will apply to any legal claims asserted as a result of a jet ski accident. There are many intricacies in Maritime law that one must be aware of if a claim is asserted for a jet ski accident, including the potential argument of the owner of a jet ski that liability should be limited in accordance with a very harsh admiralty law called the Limitation of Liability Act. Under the Limitation of Liability Act, which should be abolished because it is an outdated law that really serves no purpose in the modern day maritime industry, an owner of a boat, including a small personal watercraft, can assert that their liability should be limited to the value of the boat or watercraft after the accident happens.
With the case of a jet ski, this would be minimal. There are ways to overcome this outdated Limitation of Liability Act, and an experience maritime lawyer will know how to do that. We have criticized this law for many years, and so have the courts that have addressed issues involving the best law. Despite the criticism by the courts, recognizing that the rationale for this law when it came into existence no longer exists, the Limitation of Liability Act remains applicable law today. We hope one day this act will be abolished.
Our firm continues to be advocates for those who have been harmed at sea. We have been helping injured parties and families who have lost loved ones from from boating accidents for over 30 years.
Sources:2 injured in personal watercraft accident near Key Biscayne, 7News Miami.