With summer in full swing, the South Florida watersports industry will see its usual explosion of business. Our beaches will be overwhelmed by droves of tourists and residents hoping for a thrilling experience on the water. Opportunistic vendors will cash in on the craze by setting up kiosks and huts along the water offering virtually every kind of water activity. The activities will be pushed on any and all prospective customers, regardless of their level of experience or fitness. Many of these vendors are uncertified and uninsured, and they will “fly by night” as the season comes to a close.

In the 48-year history of our law firm, we have seen no water activity produce more serious injuries and fatalities than jet ski rentals. Jet ski rentals are aggressively marketed as an “entry-level” activity, when in reality, jet skis are full-blown death machines. They require vast knowledge and expertise to operate safety, and even then, they can produce grievous injuries. They require levels of agility and strength that a large part of the population simply does not have. The operational features of jet skis are also far more complicated than vendors lead their renters to believe. Notably, jet skis do not have brakes, and they cannot turn unless the user simultaneously applies enough throttle to overcome the ocean conditions. These nuances produce the vast majority of jet ski collisions among novice renters and many of the tragic cases we have handled over the past several decades. Moreover, renters underestimate how physically demanding it is to maintain a grip on the handlebars in choppy ocean conditions. When exhaustion sets in, renters often lose their grip and fall overboard or face-first into the dash. We have also seen countless cases in which ocean conditions, such as strong tidal currents, overtake a renter’s jet ski, resulting in violent collisions with other vessels, bridge columns, and docks. This is particularly common in the waters surrounding Key West, the jet ski capital of the world, where we have maintained an office since 1987.