Summer in Michigan often means fun (but sometimes crowded) days on the water. For many, there’s no better way to spend a summer day than cruising around a Great Lake or a smaller lake on a boat. Others love personal watercraft (PWC) for their maneuverability, speed, and size.

Enjoy yourself but stay alert on the water. In 2020, the number of boating accidents in the U.S. increased a staggering 26% over 2019. Injuries and deaths caused by boating accidents increased roughly 25% during that time.

Boat-jet ski accidents often happen at high speeds and can cause catastrophic injuries or death. Victims injured in boat-jet ski accidents may be able to recover compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and pain and suffering caused by the crash. But how do you figure out who’s liable in a boat crash?

What Causes Boat-Jet ski Accidents?

Most collisions between boats and jet skis are preventable—they usually occur because someone was negligent.

Some common causes of watercraft accidents include:

  • Operator inattention.
  • Operator inexperience.
  • Operating under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
  • Excessive speed.
  • Improper lookout.
  • Equipment failure.

Like car accidents, boat-jet ski collisions often involve multiple causes. But unlike car accidents, evidence may be harder to collect. There are no skid marks or traffic cameras and usually fewer witnesses, making it harder to pinpoint the cause.

Who Can Be Held Liable in a Boat-Jet ski Accident?

Figuring out the cause—and determining who should be held financially responsible—often involves an extensive investigation by an attorney who knows maritime law and has experience handling boating accidents.

Potential parties who could be held liable in a watercraft accident include:

  • Watercraft operator.
  • Watercraft owner.
  • Watercraft manufacturer.
  • Rental company.
  • Maintenance company.
  • Dock owner.

If more than one party is responsible, damages will be apportioned according to each party’s percentage of fault for the accident.

Owner Liability

Even if the boat or jet ski operator was negligent, the owner could share liability for damages in an accident.

Under Michigan law, the owner of a boat or personal watercraft can be held liable for injuries or property damage caused in a boat-jet ski accident if the owner consented to the use of the vessel. Consent may be express or implied, and consent is presumed if the operator was an immediate family member.

What Compensation Is Available in a Boat-Jet ski Accident?

Most victims injured in boating or jet ski accidents can seek compensation for tangible monetary losses (economic damages) and pain and suffering (non-economic damages).

Total compensatory damages may include:

  • Doctor bills.
  • Lost wages and lost earning capacity.
  • Physical pain.
  • Rehabilitation.
  • Modifications to your home or vehicle to accommodate a disability.
  • Medication.
  • Home medical equipment.
  • Anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

To recover the maximum amount of compensation possible, you must often fight back against unfair allegations from insurance companies that you’re to blame for the accident.

Can I Still Recover Compensation if I’m Partially at Fault for an Accident in Michigan?

It’s possible. Under Michigan’s comparative fault statute, your compensation will be reduced by the percentage of fault attributed to you. However, if you’re over 50% at fault, you won’t receive any compensation.

If you were injured or lost a family member in a Michigan boat-jet ski accident, call us or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation. We know boating law inside and out, and we have a winning track record with complex injury cases.

Matthew Curtis

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Matthew Curtis

Matthew Curtis is a senior shareholder and member of the Board of Directors at Sommers Schwartz, P.C. For the past 30 years, he has successfully litigated complex personal injury and medical malpractice cases throughout Michigan, and across the United States.