Safety first: avoiding injuries on the water

Wherever there are high-powered vehicles, whether on land or on water, there is the potential for serious accidents; unfortunately, this has been the case for one of our recent clients.

Tom was enjoying some time jet skiing along a major river when he was hit by a reversing houseboat. Tom sustained significant injuries, has since had both his legs amputated, and is now pursuing a public liability claim against the boat owner. Maurice Blackburn is arguing that Tom should be compensated for his pain and suffering as well as for the financial impact his injury has had, resulting from his loss of income and medical expenses.

Tom's claim is similar to that of other public liability claims: it is a matter of establishing that the complainant has suffered a permanent and significant injury due to another party’s negligence, as per the Wrongs Act.

Avoiding accidents on the water

If you are in a powered watercraft, it is important to be on the lookout for any potential hazards or other people, and to operate the vessel with the utmost care. Many accidents occur due to a lack of attention, inexperience and speed. During the years 2000 to 2012, there were 20 deaths in Australia related to jet ski accidents.

Important safety precautions include:

  • looking out for others while driving or reversing
  • keeping clear of larger water vessels
  • following navigation rules
  • keeping an eye on the weather
  • never driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and
  • looking out for water wildlife.

You should also follow the standard regulations for operating a personal watercraft, including:

  • holding a current boat operator’s licence
  • wearing a personal flotation device at all times, and ensuring all other relevant safety equipment is carried on your watercraft
  • remaining within the speed limits and following any other signed restrictions, and
  • any other regulations outlined within your state’s recreational safety handbook. 

It’s recommended that you take out jet ski insurance to help cover the assets and health of yourself and others in the case of an incident. Look at any potential insurance policies carefully and read the fine print before purchasing. Your policy should cover injuries, property damage and public liability.

What to do if you are involved in an accident

If you are involved in an incident involving a jet ski or other personal watercraft, you should take the following steps:

  • call for medical help if anyone is injured
  • report the matter to the water police, who will conduct an investigation; this process should be undertaken as soon as possible, before you seek legal advice about a potential claim
  • if you're able, take photos that may be relevant to the situation
  • take note of the watercraft’s registration details, if they are available, and
  • gather the details of any witnesses to the incident who could provide important details in the case of a public liability claim.

If, as in Tom's case, you are injured by a jet ski, boat or a similar personal watercraft, pursuing a public liability claim would involve assessing the injuries, as well as the individual circumstances of the accident.

Dimi Ioannou is a principal in Maurice Blackburn's Melbourne office.

TOPIC: Public safety
RELATED LEGAL SERVICES: Public liability

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Dimi Ioannou

Maurice Blackburn Melbourne
Dimi Ioannou is a principal and Practice Group Leader at Maurice Blackburn Lawyers in charge of the firm’s Public and Product Liability team in Melbourne. Dimi is an accredited specialist in personal injury law. Dimi works in the area of public liability and represents clients in a wide range of consumer law litigation involving different product liability claims. Dimi also represents families at coronial inquests, acting on behalf of the families of those who have died as a result of negligence, as well as many victims of institutional abuse. She is specially trained in trauma informed practice which ensures she works with clients to access justice in a way that recognises the complex trauma they have suffered. Dimi has also represented hundreds of road accident clients who have lodged compensation claims with the Transport Accident Commission. Dimi is passionate and committed about defending the rights of her clients’ entitlements. She knows that the legal world can be daunting, therefore, makes the process as easy as possible for those she is advocating on behalf of. She has provided legal advice to many Maurice Blackburn clients and has been active in litigation in both the County and Supreme courts. She also advocates in many forums for the rights of those who have sustained serious injuries. “We’ve been helping clients for almost 100 years at Maurice Blackburn, and public safety is something I take very seriously. It’s important that people know they are protected if something goes wrong through the negligence of someone else and I pride myself on achieving a just outcome for those affected”. Dimi speaks fluent Greek and is actively involved in Melbourne’s Greek community. Accreditations & memberships Law Institute of Victoria Accredited Personal Injury Specialist Australian Lawyers Alliance member Law Institute of Victoria Public Liability Committee member Law Institute of Victoria Litigation Lawyers Executive Committee member  Leadership program, Mt Eliza Business School, 2014  ...

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