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.