Abundant waterways and warm weather make for hours of boating fun. However, boating can turn dangerous quickly due, in some instances, to poorly designed boats or personal watercraft. Additionally, many boat owners and operators unfortunately do not have the proper training and/or experience to properly operate their vessels, or simply do not keep safety top-of-mind.
Safety issues can arise if the manufacturer did not adequately research and address inherent hazards in the design of the watercraft. Manufacturers have an obligation when designing watercraft to anticipate not only the foreseeable uses of their products as sold, but also foreseeable misuses. Then, with that knowledge they must design with safety in mind, install guarding mechanisms where feasible, and warn the consumer of potential risks during such foreseeable uses. For example, many accidents involve the moving prop of a boat. These accidents can be minimized or avoided through the use of prop guards and better instructions and warnings regarding safe boating operation and prop related dangers. In such cases, it is our responsibility to evaluate what was known by the manufacturer or industry, and to seek the assistance of experienced and qualified experts to determine if reasonable steps were taken to appropriately consider safer design alternatives or other accident prevention mechanisms.
Jet skis and other personal watercraft also offer plenty of fun during summer months. The Boat Owners Association of the United States says personal watercraft account for 9% of all registered watercraft in the U.S. and yet are involved in 26% of the total boating accidents reported. Further, 70% of all PWC collisions occur with other vessels, most of which are other personal watercraft.
As designed many jet skis and personal watercraft have inherent flaws which can lead to serious injuries and death. Many jet skis are grossly overpowered and often come to be out-of-control in the hands of inexperienced or younger riders. Further problems arise when, once riders are dislodged or fall off, the uncontrolled water craft becomes hazardous to others if not designed properly to stop. This creates risks not only for the users, but for those in the area.
Another concern with many jet-propelled watercraft is the propulsion system itself. When users are thrown from or fall off such jet skis, the thrust of water from the jet propulsion system can cause severe orifice and internal damage. Lastly, often the instructions and warnings relating to the inherent risks associated with the safe use of such personal watercraft are inadequate, and accidents and injuries result. For all of these reasons, when a jet ski or personal watercraft accident happens, the design, instructions and warnings related to the safe use of the jet ski must be examined to determine if product defect or warnings claims exist.
Also, like any gasoline powered vehicle, fuel system defects can pose serious risk. If the release of dangerous flammable fluids or a build up of fumes in unventilated spaces occurs, it can lead to a situation ripe for fires and explosions.
There are steps you can take to better ensure a safe and happy boating experience. Following basic safety precautions such as wearing a personal floatation device, keeping the engine kill switch lanyard attached, and avoiding alcohol use, can go far in ensuring a safe boating event. There are an abundance of safe boating and personal watercraft safety courses offered online, which are recommended for all inexperienced users. Watercraft users should always act to protect oneself. But, as a legal community and as advocates for product safety, it’s important to be aware that sometimes accidents result because manufacturers and sellers of watercraft fail to use or provide better designs, effective guards or adequate warnings.