Brais Law Firm has more than 75 years of combined experience in maritime and admiralty law. If you were injured after renting a jet-ski or wave runner, it is important to hire an attorney who is an expert in maritime law because federal maritime, rather than state law, might govern your case. A non-maritime attorney may be able to represent an injured client using state law, but a maritime attorney knows that federal maritime law may not only govern the case but it may lead to better recovery for your injury.
Personal Water Craft Rental Companies
“Personal watercraft” is the legal name of jet-skis and wave runners, which are both trademark names from Kawasaki and Yamaha. In South Florida, Personal Watercraft (PWC) rental companies are extremely popular. Unfortunately PWC rental companies often rent out jet-skis or wave runners to locals or tourists who have little to no experience operating them. PWC rental companies are required to provide proper instructions and warnings to their customers as well as provide seaworthy PWCs, but often this is not done and leads to a customer being seriously injured. If the jet-ski rental company failed to follow laws and regulations they may be liable for your injuries even if you signed a waiver or release form.
What to Do if You Are Involved in a Jet-Ski Rental Accident?
First, get medical attention. Try to take, or have someone take pictures of the jet-ski, the crash site, and/or of anything related to the accident. Get treated. Do not just think you are sore and it will go away. Do not take chances because the injury may be more intense than it appears at first. Write down the names, phone numbers and addresses of any witnesses. Contact an attorney right away for advice and consultation.
How Jet-Ski Rental Companies Try To Escape Responsibility and How They Can Still Be Held Liable
PWC rental companies make their customers sign pre-injury releases and waivers that release the company from liability and waive all injury claims for recovery. They also use the common “assumption of risk” defense arguing that the renter knew that PWCs are dangerous and the renter, therefore, assumed the risk. The assumption of risk defense and waivers may be a reasonable defense in a negligence action, but in a negligence per se action those defenses may not hold up.
Negligence per se is a complex legal argument where, if you can find that the company violated a statue or regulation, and in so violating that rule they failed to prevent an injury of the type that the statute was meant to prevent, that company may be found negligent per se. See a description of both the negligence and negligence per se standards below.
To prove that a jet-ski rental operator is negligent it must be shown that the operator violated a duty that was owed to the renter. One common duty owed is the duty of “reasonable care”. Rental companies argue that they were using reasonable care, but that personal watercraft are dangerous and accidents happen. They can claim this because the customer signed a waiver acknowledging that they were assuming the risk of the inherently dangerous activity. A skilled Miami jet ski accident lawyer that makes a successful “negligence per se” claim will cause the court to replace the “did he act reasonably” standard with a standard more like “was a law violated that was intended to prevent this injury”.
Negligence per se standard
Owners of PWC rentals can be found “negligent per se” when they fail to comply with a law and that non-compliance may have contributed to someone’s injury if the law is one that was intended to prevent that type of injury from happening to that type of person. In other words, if a law was meant to protect a personal watercraft renter from injury resulting from an accident which occurred because the company did not test the proficiency of the renter and give proper instructions, and that PWC renter is injured because he or she did not know how to operate the PWC, that operator may be found negligent per se and even a pre-injury release will not allow the operator to escape liability.
Brais Law Firm have succeeded at compensating injured clients even when confronted with pre-injury release and assumption of risk defenses.