Jet Ski Accidents


John Day loves his jet ski.  At sunrise on almost any Saturday or Sunday for the last fifteen years, he has been out on to the water for an hour and a half ride.  I have long asserted that, as a result of all that time on the jet ski, John could be blindfolded and dropped at any place on Tims Ford Lake and he could drive straight home as he knows every nook and cranny of the 11,000 acres and 240 miles of shoreline of that lake.   Needless to say, after all those years, John is an experienced rider but even experienced riders, and certainly inexperienced ones, should know these facts:

Let’s start with getting some nomenclature out of the way.  Jet Skis, Wave Runners and Sea Doos are the brand names of certain manufacturers.  At our house, we call them a jet ski much like we call a tissue a Kleenex even if we are pulling it from a Puffs Plus box.  The reality is that Jet Skis, Wave Runners and Sea Doos are personal watercraft or PWC.  Now, on to the facts and tips.

Most jet ski fatalities occur from blunt force trauma.  In other words, the driver of the jet ski collides with another object and receives fatal injuries, although drowning deaths do occur.  For 2017, which is the most recent, fully analyzed data year, the numbers were as follows.  48 deaths of which 17 were drownings and 29 were blunt force trauma injuries.

The statistics clearly show that inexperienced operators are the most at risk.  Most accidents involve operators in the 11-20 year-old range.  Non-owners make up 82% of the PWC operators involved in accidents, which means it is friends, family members or renters using the equipment.  84% of the accidents involve operators who received zero instruction or education on boating laws.  (And PWC are considered boats subject to the same laws as boats — and some extra ones like not riding before dawn or after dusk since PWCs do not have headlights).  Finally, in 73% of the accidents, the operator had been driving the jet ski for less than an hour.

So what are the factors that tend to lead to accidents on PWCs, here are some of the leading causes:

  1. Excessive speed is a common factor in jet ski accidents.  Most jet skis do not have brakes.  Some do and it is a great feature but most do not and so in order to slow down the operator only has the option of releasing the throttle, which leads to the next issue.
  2. When jet skis are not under power (the operator is not applying the throttle), you can not steer them.
  3. The combination of factors 1 and 2 take some getting used to. The natural reaction when trying to avoid something is to break or release the throttle but the inexperienced rider either does not know that fact or fails to remember it and when they release the throttle they lose the ability to steer around an obstacle.
  4. Operators who are not paying attention. Unlike driving a car, jet skis and boats do not have designated lanes, which is nice because you can go wherever you like (within the rules) but it does require increased attention.
  5. Drivers operating their jet ski under the influence. Again, jet skis require increased attention and focus which is not compatible with drinking and driving.
  6. The failure to wear a life vest, which is just crazy.  In places, Tims Ford is 150 feet deep.  If you are knocked unconscious in an accident or injured such that you can not tread water, it will not matter how great a swimmer you are.  A life jacket is critical.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a jet ski accident, give us a call for a free, no-obligation consultation.  We will discuss your case with you for free and with no obligation.  If we think we can help and you decide to hire us, we will handle your jet ski accident case on a contingency basis, which means we only get paid if we recover money for you and your family.  Give our award-winning attorneys a call at any of our locations or toll-free:

Murfreesboro: 615-867-9900

Nashvillle: 615-669-3993

Brentwood: 615-742-4880

Toll-Free: 866-812-8787




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