The lawyers at Grazian and Volpe have noticed a marked increase in the representation of clients injured in boat crashes with or on Jet Skis during this short Chicago summer season. The injuries have been serious including broken bones, head injuries and in one case, a wrongful death. We decided to do some investigation into this spike in jet ski and boat accidents and found some very interesting information that needs to be shared as widely as possible.
Jet skis are the common name for personal watercrafts or “PWC and are defined by the US Coast Guard as a jet-propelled boats shorter than 13 feet in length. PWCs do not use propellers like traditional watercraft and are powered by water jet propulsion making them generally a more agile and faster watercraft and potentially more dangerous.
PWCs have been widely marketed as an affordable alternative to boats and accessible to all members of the family. Unfortunately this appealed to many inexperienced boaters as well as parents allowing the use of these craft by children and teens. Children and teens are very attracted to the speed and agility of these crafts resulting in a boom in serious injuries and deaths due to the unsupervised or reckless use of these watercraft.
PWC manufacturers have added little in the way of safety features and have focused on pushing the limits of speed and performance. Original engines averaged at 500cc-today’s average engine is around 1500cc and can reach speeds of 60-70 miles per hour.
PWCs do not have rudders meaning that there is virtually no steering unless the rider is accelerating and a PWC traveling at top speed can take 300-400 feet to make a stop; meaning that the riders needs to accelerate from danger rather than stop for it. That is not a natural reaction and a major cause of collision injuries.
Riders falling off a jet ski may be subject to horrific orifice injuries caused by the high pressure force of an extreme volume of water pushing into a riders’ orifices. An uncomfortable injury to describe and catastrophic to experience.
Parents need to exhibit safe riding habits with jet skis and to teach the same to their children. They may be liable for injuries caused by their children operating jet skis or their child may face terrible injury for reckless or inexperienced operation of a PWC.
Illinois law states that a person at least 12 years of age and less than 18 must possess a valid Boating Education Certificate of Competency issued by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources or be accompanied and under the direct control of a parent or guardian, or a person at least 18 years of age designated by the parent.
It has been the experience at Grazian and Volpe that many parents are not familiar with the law and do not understand how dangerous jet skis can be- until it is too late and a child or another boater or swimmer has been harmed.
Boat Accidents: Too Many Passengers Mean Too Much Danger
The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court has ruled that a lawsuit accusing the State of New York of wrongfully allowing too many passengers on a tour boat can proceed to trial. The tour boat capsized on a lake in 2005 killing 20 passengers and seriously injuring several others. Twenty-seven victims’ families later sued the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, which had inspected the boat annually since 1979 and certified the tour boat could carry up to 48 people.
The National Transportation Safety Board investigated the tragedy and found that the boat should not have had more than 14 passengers and blamed the accident on the boat’s instability. Lawyers for the surviving family members moved to eliminate the state’s defense that it could not be held liable due to sovereign immunity. In general, state employees are generally shielded from legal liability when working within their discretion.
Now, the Appellate Division of the state Supreme Court has found that the state was not immune to being sued in the tour boat case because its employees showed no discretion during its annual inspections.
As Chicago and South Chicago personal injury attorneys for over 25 years we have handled multiple injuries and wrongful death accidents suffered by passengers of over-loaded boats. These vessels are dangerously subject to capsizing. The passengers are left without enough lifejackets and their chances for recovery without injury or death greatly diminished. Liability in private boat accidents has been a simpler issue when the owner has disregarded the passenger limits. The same can be said of privately operated tour boats. The discussion occurring in New York now raises the issue of State complicity where the state improperly certifies the capacity of a boat. This ruling could have implications for both private and state or agency run boats. We will be monitoring this case for application to Illinois boat accidents. Please watch for our commentary at LinkedIn and at our website at myaccidentlaw.com. John Grazian may also field some of these issues at WCIU, You ad Me in the Morning and on Twitter at GrazianTalksLaw.