Charleston, SC Jet Ski Rental Accident Attorneys
Water Sports Injury Lawyers Serving Folly Beach, Isle of Palm, and Shem Creek
Jet skis and other personal watercraft (“PWC”) can provide riders and passengers with hours of fun while out on the ocean or one of the many lakes and rivers in South Carolina. However, personal watercraft are also deceptively dangerous. According to the United States Coast Guard, personal watercraft are involved in a shocking 19 percent of all boating accidents, and they are responsible for more than 36 percent of all boating injuries.
Not surprisingly, about 37 percent of all personal watercraft accidents involve rented watercraft. In Charleston, some of the biggest jet ski rental companies include Tidal Wave Water Sports, Hydrofly Watersports, Sealand Adventure Sports, Coastal Rentals, and Sun & Ski Beach Services. Jet ski rental companies generate huge profits by renting these potentially dangerous watercraft to residents and tourists. To keep the money coming in, many rental companies minimize the inherent risks of operating a PWC, encouraging a carefree attitude towards what is too often a deadly activity.
If you’ve been injured in a jet ski rental accident, the Charleston personal injury and wrongful death attorneys at the Steinberg Law Firm are here to help. We’ve assembled a dedicated team of experienced lawyers who are committed to helping accident victims and their families recover fair compensation from rental companies that fail to ensure the safety of riders and passengers. To schedule a free consultation with an attorney, call the Steinberg Law Firm at 843-720-2800.
Types of Jet Ski Injuries From Charleston River Accidents
The U.S. Coast Guard estimated that there were 5,265 boating accidents in 2020. These accidents resulted in 767 deaths and 3,191 injuries. A startling 22 percent of these fatal accidents involved personal watercraft, such as jet skis and WaveRunners. Of course, not all PWC accidents are fatal; most are not. Non-fatal accidents can also turn a victim’s life upside down, potentially requiring months of doctor appointments, physical therapy, and surgeries—and even then, many victims still suffer from the long-term effects.
Some of the most common PWC injuries include the following:
Drowning is perhaps the most obvious risk involved in a jet ski accident. While many people only associate drowning with fatal accidents, this is not always the case. There are two types of drowning incidents, fatal and non-fatal drownings. The medical definition of drowning is “experiencing respiratory impairment” as a result of being submerged underwater. Thus, a person starts to drown as soon as they are underwater for a long enough period that their brain stops receiving the oxygen it needs to function properly.
Head injuries, such as concussions, typically occur when a jet ski rider or passenger collides with another vessel, buoy, or hard object after being thrown from a personal watercraft. A concussion is a type of traumatic brain injury caused by a bump, blow, or jolt to the head. This physical force causes the brain to suddenly shift and collide with the inside of the skull. Concussions can cause immediate injuries but may also result in permanent changes in how the brain’s chemistry works.
Personal watercraft operators and passengers frequently break one or more bones in a collision. Like PWC brain injuries, broken bones are usually the result of a rider being thrown from the PWC and colliding with another object. The most common broken bones in jet ski accidents are broken necks, arms, legs, and facial bones.
Common Causes of South Carolina Jet Ski Accidents
Jet ski accidents are incredibly common and claim hundreds of lives annually in the United States. Thus, it’s no surprise that various organizations in the government and non-profit arenas devote significant time and resources to understand their causes. When it comes to the causes of personal watercraft accidents, there isn’t much debate; the most common types of jet ski accidents include the following:
Of the 2,806 PWC accidents that took place in 2021, the United States Coast Guard estimated that 221 involved “operator inexperience.” New or unskilled operators are more likely to make simple, preventable mistakes that can end up costing themselves—or someone else’s—life.
Speed was cited as the cause of a PWC accident in 202 cases in 2021, based on the most recent data from the United States Coast Guard. Speeding while riding a personal watercraft is especially dangerous because many of these vessels don’t have brakes. And, those PWCs that do come equipped with brakes are difficult to control when slowing down. Quickly turning a jet ski or failing to anticipate another jet ski approaching can result in a rider flying off the jet ski and sustaining serious injuries such as hitting their head on the jet ski, a dock or rocks.
Inattention/Distraction/Failure to Keep a Lookout
The United States Coast Guard keeps detailed records of all jet ski accidents. So detailed, in fact, that it separates similar causes of accidents into individual categories. For example, “operator inattention,” “improper lookout,” and “navigation rules violation” are all listed separately. Together, these types of accidents are responsible for 971 of the total 2,806 PWC accidents.
Of course, many jet ski accidents involve two or more of these factors; however, the United States Coast Guard only lists one cause per accident. Thus, it’s likely that each of these accident types occurs even more frequently than reported.
The following are the most common types of personal watercraft collisions:
- Collision with another PWC or boat.
- A rider being ejected from the jet ski.
- Collision with a fixed object.
- Non-rider being hit by a PWC.
- Falling off the watercraft.
- Running aground.
- Waterskiing/watersports accident.
Although the vast majority of these accidents are preventable, jet ski operators tend not to treat the activity with the respect and care necessary for safe operation on South Carolina’s bodies of water.
Drug and Alcohol Impairment
Drug and alcohol use contributed to 170 personal watercraft accidents in 2021, according to the United States Coast Guard. Impaired operators have an increased tendency to speed, making them unable to control and watch where they are going on the water. Although jet ski safety signage may be posted to inform drivers and other visitors, it does not always mean everyone will follow the rules.
What is Considered “Boating Under the Influence” in South Carolina?
Recreationalists who rent jet skis do so to have a good time, which often includes alcohol. While boating under the influence is illegal in South Carolina, the state’s BUI laws are slightly different from the traditional DUI laws.
Under South Carolina Code of Laws § 50-21-112, it is against the law to operate any motorized vessel, including PWCs, if:
- The operator is under the influence of alcohol;
- The operator is under the influence of drugs; or
- The operator is under the combined effects of alcohol and drugs.
In terms of alcohol impairment, you’ll commonly see cited presumptions online about an operator’s BAC at the time of the accident. However, these only apply to criminal cases. In personal injury and wrongful death cases, these presumptions do not apply, and the judge or jury is free to make any inferences that are reasonably drawn from the evidence. For example, while it is not against the law to operate a PWC while consuming an alcoholic beverage (as long as the operator isn’t legally intoxicated), a jury in a personal injury case can find that the operator’s alcohol consumption contributed to their negligence.
Keep in mind, however, that it would be difficult to hold a jet ski rental company liable for a BUI accident unless they had knowledge that the person they rented the jet ski to was intoxicated.
Are Liability Release Waivers Valid in South Carolina?
When you rent a jet ski, before you’re allowed to head out onto the water, the rental company will probably ask you to sign a waiver. A waiver, also called a “release,” is a type of contract that limits the rental company’s liability in the event of an accident. Generally, under South Carolina law, waivers are enforceable like any other contract. Thus, if you sign a waiver and get hurt while using the company’s equipment, you may not be able to sue the rental company.
However, waivers, like all contracts, are not always enforceable. Further, even when a waiver or release is valid and enforceable, certain accidents and injuries may fall outside the scope of the waiver. Of course, jet ski rental companies hire sophisticated lawyers to draft their waivers, and by design, these documents are usually phrased in a way to give anyone who signs them the idea that the company cannot be sued, no matter what the circumstances. However, a waiver can usually only cover those risks that are inherent in the activity, and they do not cover situations where the rental company was negligent or where the rental equipment was defective. And because a waiver is only an agreement between the renter and the rental company, signing a waiver will have no effect on an accident victim’s ability to bring a personal injury claim against another negligent person.
For example, assume you rent a jet ski, and suddenly, for no reason, the engine cuts out without warning, leaving you stranded on the water. If another person on a PWC doesn’t see you and hits your jet ski, you may have grounds to sue the rental company for renting you a defective unit, as well as the other operator for their negligence in failing to notice a stranded jet ski.
Were You Injured in a Coastal or River Jet Ski Rental Accident?
If you or a loved one were recently injured in a PWC accident, you may have a claim for financial compensation against the rental company, another operator, or both. At the Steinberg Law Firm, our dedicated Charleston jet ski accident lawyers have over 95 years of hands-on experience helping accident victims recover money damages for everything they’ve been through. Our attorneys take a unique, client-centered approach to every case we handle, taking the time to understand what is most important to you before recommending any course of action. We also provide free consultations to all prospective clients, during which we will listen to what happened, answer your questions, outline the recovery process, and explain what we can do to help. To learn more, and to schedule your free consultation today, reach out to the Steinberg Law Firm at 843-720-2800. You can also connect with us through our online contact form.
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