Michigan Jet Ski Accidents Preventable Says Attorney Terry Cochran

Provide Great Fun But Can Lead to Even Greater Tragedies

LIVONIA, MI – Riding personal watercraft also known as jet skis, on Michigan lakes is a great way to have fun on a hot summer day, but it’s also a tragedy waiting to happen if common sense and due care are not followed.

Most owners know how to operate a personal watercraft because Michigan law requires completion of safety training classes before young operators can become licensed. But owners often will let untrained friends “take a turn” on the water and then very bad things can happen.

“The problem with personal watercraft is people striking other people in the water, either another craft or a swimmer,” says attorney Terry Cochran, senior partner of Cochran, Kroll & Associates, Livonia, MI. “Operators of personal watercraft, travelling at high rates of speed, must always be very careful and extra vigilant to spot people in the water. The craft may inadvertently travel into a designated swimming area, or a swimmer may wander outside the area. Since you can’t brake the vehicle, tragedy can easily occur when the operator is inattentive.

Another major factor is the use of alcohol by personal watercraft operators. “Friends are out having fun on the lake on a hot weekend day,” adds Cochran. “When alcohol becomes part of the formula for fun, then the watercraft should be docked for the day.”

Cochran also cautions against using personal watercraft for tubing. “I know lots of people use personal watercraft for tubing or water skiing but these vehicles are not designed to pull people through the water,” says Cochran. “The craft may have a hook for towing but the operator has very little control over a tube swinging directly toward a swimmer. Many states allow use of personal watercraft for tubing if there is a passenger spotter, but it still is a dangerous practice.”

And the consequences of careless personal watercraft operators can be very serious, especially for young people. In any given year, about 20 percent of all personal watercraft injuries in the U.S. are to youth under the age of 18. Of those injured children, 46% were operators and 27% were passengers.

Today there are more than one million personal watercraft vessels in use, resulting in an average of about 5,000 accidents each year causing 2,600 injuries and more than 70 deaths.

The Coalition of Parents and Families for Personal Watercraft Safety conducted a 10-year study of personal watercraft that showed: 55.1% of the injuries were to the head, face, and/or neck; 60.7% of the trauma cases involved 10-14 year olds; 83% of the accidents required at least 1 surgical procedure; 42.2% of the victims were admitted to intensive care; 42.4% had disabilities after injury and 6.1 % died. Other injuries include carbon monoxide poisoning, burns, amputations, hypothermia, head trauma, disfigurement, and broken bones.

Watercraft vessels are usually operated by a person who is sitting, standing, or kneeling. As an inboard boat, personal watercrafts are required to follow the same rules and requirements of other powerboats, in addition to any specific rules applicable to personal watercraft.

Personal watercraft are about 8 feet long and are powered by self-contained engines with an enclosed propeller that uses pressured water for thrust. These smaller watercraft can reach top speeds of 70 m.p.h. Most models are designed to accommodate 2 to 3 passengers. A personal watercraft cannot be steered when the engine is off, even though momentum may still carry the craft forward.

Jet skis make up only 6.5% of all boating vessels owned in the U.S. but are involved in 55% of all boat collisions. The U.S. Coast Guard found in 2002 that a personal watercraft operator is seven times more likely to get hurt than a motor boat operator and 30 times more likely than a canoer or kayaker.

Collisions with docks, larger boats and other personal watercraft account for more than 65% of all reported injuries. Collisions often occur when operators attempt to jump the wake generated by another vessel. In Michigan, no one younger than age 12 can operate a personal watercraft. Persons 12 and older who were born after 1978 can operate a personal watercraft only if they obtained a safety boating certificate, which is issued after taking required safety classes. “Personal watercraft operators and owners have a legal duty to exercise the highest degree of care in order to prevent injuries to others,” says Cochran. “The overwhelming majority of boating accidents are caused by factors that can be controlled by the operator. If you’ve been the victim of a personal watercraft accident, you have the right to seek reparations for your injuries. Because these vessels pose a unique danger of serious personal injury and death, and involve complex legal and safety issues, you need an experienced attorney to help you.

The attorneys at Cochran, Kroll & Associates have the skills, legal knowledge and experience needed to protect people who have suffered personal injury or the death of a loved one because of a boating accident and will seek to win payment for their clients’ injuries, expenses, and loss.

The Law Offices of Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. is dedicated to representing individuals and families who have suffered catastrophic losses as a result of injuries, disabilities and death. The firm does not represent insurance companies or corporations but instead bases its practice upon representing individuals and families.