Our Florida Board Certified Admiralty & Maritime lawyers have brought a lawsuit against a Miami Beach WaveRunner rental company for its violation of boating safety laws which contributed to our client’s injuries. The complaint filed in Federal court alleges that our client was a part of a group of people who rented a yacht along with WaveRunners from the concessionaire. The concessionaire supplied the yacht captain. During the course of the day, the yacht passengers took turns operating the WaveRunners. Our client was given no training on how to properly operate the personal watercraft. The yacht captain had a practice of operating the yacht in close proximity to the people riding the WaveRunners. The yacht, given its size, produced a significant wake. While our client was operating the WaveRunner, the yacht gave off a wake that was parallel to the path our client was heading. Having little of no time to maneuver away from the wake, our client hit the wake causing him to be thrown into the air and land hard onto the personal watercraft.
The impact was immediate and devastating. It caused a severe laceration to our client’s left check requiring approximately 35 stitches, a severe laceration to his right arm required approximately 19 stitches, nasal bone fractures, multiple cervical vertebra fractures at the C2, C3, C4 and C5 levels, a C2-C3 disk protrusion, C4-C5, C5-C6 and C6-C7 disk bulges, a displaced left humorous fracture and concussion. Blood flowing from the lacerations caused to water to turn red and our client feared for his life. One of his companions took him back to the yacht on his personal watercraft. Amazingly the captain did not want to immediately call for help but ultimately did. Our client was taken to Jackson Memorial Hospital wherein he was admitted for four days before returning to California for additional treatment.
The complaint filed in Federal court alleges the WaveRunner rental company violated Florida boating safety laws which require liveries to ensure that all individuals intending to operate the rented personal watercraft have been properly trained on various operational topics. Under maritime law, if a defendant violates a safety statute, it is presumed to be at fault. In order to rebut the presumption of fault, the defendant must not only show that the violation did not cause the accident but could not have been a cause of the accident. This is a very hard burden to overcome.
Separate and apart of being presumably at fault, Florida law deems any pre-injury liability release null and void if the releasee, here the WaveRunner rental company: (1) violated a safety statute; (2) enacted to protect the person injured; and (3) designed to prevent the type of accident that occurred. Florida decisional law holds that such boating safety statutes are enacted to protect personal watercraft renters from injuries occurring from the operation of the watercraft.