With the warmer months approaching, people are once again going to start taking advantage of Lake Michigan, the Fox River, the Chain of Lakes and other inland waterways. Among the many popular waterfront activities available are the use of jet skis, also known as personal watercrafts (PWCs). While these PWCs are a fun way to spend a summer afternoon, they can also turn dangerous if riders do not take proper precautions. In fact, according to the U.S. Coast Guard, hundreds of people each year are killed or injured in PWC accidents. Many of these accidents are caused by careless PWC operators, but there are also other people who could be held responsible.
Responsibility for Jet Ski Accidents
The majority of lawsuits related to jet ski accidents proceed against the PWC’s driver based on the legal theory of negligence. Negligence is a legal doctrine that requires people to pay for harm that they caused through their own carelessness. Common negligent causes of PWC accidents include excessive speed, distracted boating, and operating a PWC while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
However, more people than just the operator of the jet ski could be responsible for the crash. For instance, many companies rent PWCs to tourists or beachgoers. These companies are responsible for properly maintaining their jet skis and making sure that the people to whom they rent are competent pilots. A failure to fulfill either of these requirements could make them liable for damage that their jet skis cause.
Courts may also hold the manufacturers of the jet ski in question responsible for harm that comes to users. This would happen under the products liability doctrine, which requires companies to pay for dangerous products that they make. There are several types of flaws that could give rise to a products liability lawsuit: design defects, manufacturing defects, and failures to warn:
Design defects occur when the producer of the jet ski fails to design it safely enough. For instance, a jet ski designed so that a hot wire next to the gas tank presents a fire risk might qualify as a design defect.
Manufacturing defects occur when the company designs the PWC properly, but fails to build it to the right specifications. A flawed manufacturing process that led to the jet ski having a leaking hull could be a manufacturing defect.
Failures to warn are slightly different. Rather than resulting from an inherent danger in the product, they arise when the manufacturer fails to warn the user about a possible danger in the product or fails to provide enough instructions about the safe way to use the device.
If you have been injured in an accident with a PWC, seek the counsel of a skilled Illinois personal injury attorney. They can examine your specific case and identify different parties who may be responsible for your injuries. Our firm helps clients in a variety of northwest suburban towns including Rolling Meadows, Buffalo Grove, and Inverness.
About the Author: Attorney Ken Apicella is a founding partner of DGAA focusing in the areas of personal injury, employment, insurance coverage disputes, and civil litigation. Ken earned his J.D. from DePaul University College of Law in 1999. He has been named a SuperLawyers Rising Star and a Forty Illinois Attorneys Under Forty to Watch. Ken has written and lectured for the Illinois Institute for Continuing Legal Education and regularly serves as a moderator at Northwest Suburban Bar Association's Continuing Legal Education seminars.