Personal Watercraft – Defective Product Litigation

Columbia, Lexington, Orangeburg, Sumter, Camden, Newberry, and Aiken, SC.


Personal watercraft, sometimes as a class referred to informally under trademark names for brands such as Sea-Doo or Jet Ski, have become popular sights on recreational waterways, such as Man jet skiing and smiling (selective focus)reservoirs, lakes, and even on the ocean. However, the presence of these vehicles can be a cause for concern because they have several design problems that may make them inherently dangerous products.

A High Rate of Injury

Published statistics show that personal watercraft are disproportionately involved in injurious accidents. Even when they only account for 18 percent of watercraft, they may account for 44 percent of boating injuries. An American Medical Association article reported that more than 8.5 times as many personal watercraft injuries were treated in emergency rooms as motorboat injuries.

In addition, although most boating injuries occur as a result of drowning, personal watercraft injuries are from blunt-force trauma, including traumatic brain injury. Drowning injuries allow more room for prevention and intervention by friends, family, and emergency personnel, but when blunt- force trauma injuries occur on the water, it is harder for proper first aid to be given.

A Unique, Deadly Design

Personal watercraft differ from most other watercraft in that they have no propeller or rudder. Instead, they are jet-propelled, with a steerable nozzle that directs the flow of exhaust to turn the watercraft. This works very well to propel and steer the craft when the engine is on. But when the engine is off, it gives no way for a rider to steer or stop the craft.

The design also gives personal watercraft a very shallow draft, which allows them to be operated in very shallow waters frequented by swimmers and children.

According to an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board and information provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, most riders, when faced with a collision, let off the throttle to avoid it, but this leaves them with no way to steer. Since personal watercraft have no rudder or propeller, it may take nearly 500 feet for the vehicle to come to a stop, and in that 500 feet, it is likely to experience the very collision the rider sought to avoid, whether it is an obstacle, another watercraft, or swimming children.

Yet another danger faced by riders of personal watercraft is from the high-pressure exhaust that propels the vehicle. If a rider falls off the vehicle, the exhaust may hit him or her, which is powerful enough to seriously damage the skin and internal organs.

Although some design improvements have been made (such as the transition to sit-down types of personal watercraft, and the introduction of engine cutoff lanyards) to protect riders, many still believe these are inherently dangerous vehicles.

You Are not Alone

If you have been hurt while operating a personal watercraft or by someone else operating one, you can get the help you need to see past the resulting medical bills, lost time at work, and other consequences of your injury. To learn how our personal watercraft attorneys in SC can help, schedule a personal watercraft injury consultation at one of the South Carolina law offices of McWhirter, Bellinger, & Associates, P.A.

With offices in Aiken, Camden, Columbia, Lexington, Newberry, Orangeburg, and Sumter, South Carolina, our personal injury lawyers are ready to serve you.

For immediate help, call today at 888-353-5513.



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