David G. Smith
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Jet Ski Safety and Liability Tips

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Jet skiing and other water sports are a great way to enjoy the warm weather. But if you don't follow basic safety precautions, they can have fatal consequences.

Last Saturday, an Oakland man drowned after he was thrown from a jet ski in South Lake Tahoe according to media reports.

A wave threw 22-year-old Raeshon Williams and another person off the watercraft about 100 yards from shore. Neither man wore a life jacket.

Anyone jet skiing, water skiing, or knee-boarding is required by law to wear a life jacket. Had these men done so, one life could have been saved.

As you plan your final summer adventures, keep the following tips in mind to ensure a safe afternoon on the lake. And if you do have an accident, keep reading to understand your legal rights.

  • Understand how to operate the boat, jet ski or other watercraft you are using. Read and follow the operator's manual.
  • Make sure every single person wears a Personal Floatation Device, aka a life jacket.
  • Wear proper clothes for your sport. Jet skis require form-fitting clothing; ideally, a wetsuit, which provides more protection than a regular bathing suit.
  • Always wear the engine cutoff lanyard. If you fall off the jet ski, the lanyard will automatically cut off the engine so the jet ski doesn't ride off without you.
  • Don't make sharp turns, especially near other vessels.
  • Obey all posted signs, such as "No Wake" and "Right of Way."
  • Stay alert and observant at all times.

If you do get into an accident on a jet ski or other watercraft, and you think someone else caused the accident, you may be able to recover medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages. Here are some possible scenarios.

  • If you were a passenger on a jet ski or watercraft, and the driver caused the accident, the driver's homeowner's insurance policy may cover damages. Some homeowner's insurance policies also have a no-fault medical provision where the insurer will pay medical expenses, regardless of fault, up to the policy limits (usually between $1,000 and $5,000).
  • If you rented a jet ski or watercraft, or if someone loaned you the watercraft, that company or individual could be held liable. If the rental company didn't provide life jackets, did not provide an operator's manual, or rented you a defective machine, it could be at fault. Most rental companies, however, require that you sign a waiver that releases them from liability in the event of an accident. In the eyes of a lawyer, waivers make things tricky, but they don't mean that you don't have a case.

If you do get into an accident on the water, contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. During the initial (free) consultation, a lawyer will consider the details of the accident, whether you signed a waiver or other contract, and the extent of your injuries to determine the best course of action.

Enjoy these last few weeks of summer and stay safe on the water!

Photo courtesy of whologwhy, Flickr

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David G. Smith
2201 Broadway
Suite 506
Oakland, CA 94612

Phone: 925-308-6484
Fax: 510-893-2701
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