Young Man on a Jet Ski With a Life JacketJet skiing can be a fun and exciting way to enjoy time outdoors during the summer. Jet skis are easier to use and less expensive than other recreational boats. However, what starts as an enjoyable day on the water can end in tragedy.

Personal Watercraft Accident Statistics

Nationally, personal watercrafts such as jet skis are the second most common type of vessel involved in recreational boat accidents. The United States Coast Guard’s 2017 Recreational Boating Statistics indicate that:

  • 18% of reported recreational boat accidents (where the type of vessel was known) involved personal watercraft
  • 46 people died in personal watercraft accidents. 17 people died by drowning and 26 people died from other causes.
  • 624 people were hurt in personal watercraft accidents.

In New York, six people died and 41 people were hurt in personal watercraft accidents during 2018.

New York identified 14 different causes of 2018 personal watercraft accidents, including:

  • 27 collisions with recreational boats which resulted in 19 injuries and two deaths.
  • 14 times when a person left or was ejected from the jet ski or personal watercraft, which resulted in 11 injuries and two deaths.
  • Five capsizings which results in one injury and one death.
  • Three groundings which resulted in two injuries.
  • Three collisions with commercial boats which resulted in no casualties.
  • Two collisions with floating objects which resulted in one injury and one death.
  • Two collisions with fixed objects which resulted in no casualties.
  • One fall from the personal watercraft which resulted in one injury.
  • One fall overboard which resulted in two injuries.
  • One fire or explosion which resulted in one injury.
  • One flooding/swamping which resulted in no casualties.
  • One struck by a boat which resulted in one injury.
  • Five other causes not identified above which resulted in two injuries and no deaths.
  • One unknown cause which resulted in no casualties.

Common reasons for these types of recreational boat accidents in New York include:

  • Alcohol use
  • Operator inattention
  • Weather
  • Hazardous waters
  • Speeding
  • Operator inexperience
  • Machinery failure

Overall, personal watercraft were involved in 14% of New York’s 2018 recreational boat accidents but caused 24% of recreational boat injuries and 21% of recreational boat deaths.

New York Personal Watercraft Safety Laws

New York tries to prevent jet ski accidents by:

  • Requiring jet ski operators to have the following equipment: life jackets for everyone on the jet ski, an engine cut-off lanyard, a sound-producing device, a visual distress signal, a backfire flame arrestor, and a fire extinguisher (if on United States Coast Guard waters).
  • Recommending that jet ski operators have footwear, eye protection, wet suits, and gloves.
  • Requiring jet ski operators to complete a boating safety course.
  • Requiring jet ski operators to be at least 14 years old.
  • Only allowing jet ski use during daylight hours.
  • Prohibiting reckless operation of jet skis such as weaving in and out of boat traffic, jumping the wakes of other vessels, or playing chicken with other vessels.
  • Prohibiting jet ski use within 500 feet of swimming areas.

Additionally, stricter requirements are in place for people who rent jet skis in New York. Jet ski renters must be at least 16 years old.

Jet Ski Injuries

Despite New York’s laws to prevent jet ski accidents, each year people are hurt and killed in jet ski accidents. Jet skis offer very little protection in a crash. When a collision, an ejection, or another type of accident occurs a jet skier may die or suffer a serious injury such as a:

  • Broken bone
  • Neck injury
  • Back injury
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Burn
  • Internal injury

Protect Your Legal Rights After a Jet Ski Accident

Your jet ski accident may not be your fault. An experienced maritime injury lawyer will investigate all aspects of your case to determine who caused the accident and who should pay for your injuries or your loved one’s death.

You shouldn’t have to pay for an accident that someone else caused. Our maritime lawyers represent clients throughout the world, including in all parts of New York. Call Hofmann & Schweitzer today to schedule your free consultation about your potential jet ski accident case.


Paul T. Hofmann
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Focused on personal injury, with an emphasis on maritime, railroad and construction worker tort claims.