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Personal Watercraft Rental Laws

January 14, 2011

On Wednesday, we reported a woman was found dead offshore from Fort Lauderdale beach. It is suspected that the woman died while riding a PWC. The area where the woman was found is a popular tourist destination containing several resorts that rent PWC’s to its guests. PWC’s are more commonly known as personal watercrafts, Jet Ski’s, waverunners, or sea-doo’s,

Florida Stat. §327.39(b) states “it is unlawful for the owner of any leases, hired, or rented personal watercraft, or any person having charge over control of a leased, hired, or rented personal watercraft, to authorize or knowingly permit the watercraft to be operated by any person who has not received instruction in the safe handling of a PWC, in compliance with the rules established by the commission.” In other words, if the PWC she was using was indeed rented, the rental providers were required by law to provide instructions and training to the woman. According to Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, they are required to provide information on the following:

• Reckless operation, noise, nuisance, and environmental concerns
• Operational characteristics of the PWC to be rented- propulsion, steering, and stopping characteristics of jet pump vessels
• Safe vessel operation and vessel “right of way” rules- applicability of the Navigation Rules to PWC operation, problems with seeing and being seen by other boaters, the location and content of warning labels, and how to reboard a PWC
• Responsibility of the operator and safe and proper operation of the vessel
• Local characteristics of the waterway where the vessel will be used

Additionally, all renters must have a boater education ID card and must be over the age of 18. If the women did in fact rent the Jet Ski from one of the many PWC rental concessions in the area, the facility might be held responsible for her death, and her family might be entitled to compensation.

If you are around the water, you see PWC’s everywhere. While they appear to be loads of fun, they can be very dangerous. For instance, because PWC’s are water-jet propelled, a PWC does not have any steering capabilities once the rider lets go of the throttle. They are extremely fast, and difficult to control, particularly in the ocean.

Accidents on PWC’s occur frequently. In fact, our office recently handled a claim in the Florida Keys in which a client rented a PWC to go on a “eco-tour” which was to be led by an employee of the rental location. To our clients dismay, the rental employee led her a couple miles out into the ocean, then left our client out in the ocean to fend for herself. While attempting to get back to the rental location, she was involved in a serious accident.

Before renting a PWC- Jet Ski, waverunner or sea-doo- make sure the rental location has appropriate insurance coverage, and trains you on the proper operation and characteristics of a PWC.

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