Minimize risk of Personal Injury while Jet-skiing and Boating

Posted by Injury Lawyers of Ontario on May 07, 2016

Anyone who is old enough to remember, will have heard the miraculous story of  a seven year old boy who survived going over Horseshoe Falls when the boat he was in capsized. The incident happened in July 1960 when a father, his 7 year old son and 17 year old daughter went boating in the upper rapids of the Niagara River. Their engine failed and the boat capsized, causing all three to be carried towards the falls. The daughter was extremely fortunate to be grabbed at the edge of the river by two helpful strangers just before going over, but her father and brother continued over the falls. Tragically, the father did not survive. The Maid of the Mist crew spotted the boy in his orange life preserver bobbing below the falls and rescued him. The young boy, Roger Woodward, suffered a concussion and was taken to a Niagara Hospital where he made a full recovery.

The Niagara Falls incident could easily have resulted in death to all three family members.  Water related activities, such as boating, water skiing and riding jet-skis are extremely popular in our seemingly short summer season and are, in most cases, an entirely enjoyable and safe activity.  However, there are dangers and risks involved in any water sport, and a failure to take care sometimes results in catastrophic or fatal injuries. According to the Canadian Red Cross, based on data from 1991-2010, there was an average of 166 deaths annually due to boating-related accidents.

The most common injuries associated with boating and jet-ski accidents are mild injuries such as cuts, scrapes and contusions, and more serious injuries such as sprains, fractures, concussions and broken bones.  However, in more extreme boating accidents, such as powerboat collisions and capsizing, victims may experience catastrophic injuries, such as spinal cord injury, brain trauma or death.  Much like car accidents, negligent actions by individuals often play a significant role in boating and jet-ski accidents.

Careless actions that often factor in boating accidents

  • Drinking – According to the Canadian Red Cross, alcohol was present in more than 50 percent of boating related fatalities. Alcohol impairs judgement and weakens reflexes. It is very dangerous to drink while operating a water-related machine because it increases the chances of colliding with rocks, other boats or swimmers.  It also increases the chances of accidentally falling into the water and drowning.

  • Speeding – Speeding while driving is unwise under a number of circumstances, such as when there is a lot of other boating traffic, waterskiers and swimmers that could potentially be injured if not seen in time.  Speeding during inclement weather can result in capsizing. It is also not prudent to speed if waters that may contain rocks, trees or shoals which can result in a collision.  Essentially, there are many situations in which excessive speed can lead to the inability to stop when necessary, as well as loss of control of the machine.

  • Reckless/Distracted Driving – When operating a motorboat, it is important keep your attention on the water ahead of. Much like roads, waterways can be very busy at times and become congested with other boating and jet-ski riders. And if one is inattentive and unaware of what is going on around them, the risk of collisions and crashes may be high.

  • Inexperience – Inexperience is a major factor in boating and jet-ski accidents, particularly with novice riders. Much like driving a car, being able to properly and expertly handle different kinds of watercraft takes time, training and experience. Drivers of motorboats need a different set of skills than canoeist and kayakers. Boats that are not motorized are rarely a danger to other boats, but the risk of capsizing or being caught up in a current is much greater if the canoeist is inexperienced.

  • Boating in rough weather -- Wind, rain and rough water reduce visibility and make it much more difficult to control a boat, including motorboats and even to a greater degree, non-motorized vessels.  Capsizing is a particular danger in stormy conditions with large waves.  Although the weather is outside our control, we can control our actions; it is always prudent to check weather conditions before embarking on a boat ride and to use good judgement given the expertise of the boaters, the kind of boat, and how far you are venturing from land.

Aside from avoiding boating in poor weather conditions, there are other actions that individuals can take to minimize the risk of accidents, including:

  • Boat operators/participants should be educated and trained on the operation of the boat – Like motor vehicles, the law requires all individuals to obtain a boating license before operating any type of motorized pleasure craft. Failure to do so carries a $250 fine.  Anyone driving a motorized boat must complete a written course and test administered by Transport Canada before they will qualify for a licence. It is also most sensible for novice boaters of both motorized and non-motorized craft to practice and/or get instruction from an expert before taking control of a boat or beginning an excursion.

  • Avoid Negligent Behavior – This includes drinking, using recreational or pharmaceutical drugs, speeding, engaging in distracting and/or risky behavior and more. Anything that may impair one’s judgement and physical ability, should be avoided while boating and riding a jet-ski.

  • Always Wear A Lifejacket – According to Canadian Red Cross, wearing a lifejacket may eliminate about 90 percent of all boating-related drownings. Accidents can happen, even when individuals are at their most careful and wearing a lifejacket in these moments will minimize the risk of death.

While boating and riding a jet-ski is a much anticipated activity for many Canadians every summer, there are very real risks associated with these activities, which participants are wise to consider.  When boaters fail to take care or engage in overtly dangerous behaviours, they put family members, friends and the public at risk as well as themselves.  If a reckless boat operator causes injury to their passengers or other boaters or swimmers, they can be held liable for any injuries and losses suffered by the accident victim.

At Injury Lawyers of Ontario, our outstanding team of personal injury lawyers are experts in personal injury claims arising from boating and jet-ski accidents.  If you or someone you love has been a victim of a boating accident resulting from negligence, call us for a free and honest assessment of your legal options. Let us get you the benefits and settlement you deserve.

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