Propeller Injury / Jet Thrust Injuries

Virtually all watercraft are prone to hazards with regard to mechanical failures and collisions. But there are two kinds of dangers especially serious for riders of personal watercraft, skiers, scuba divers, those on inner tubes and those who fall off the backs of boats.

Those perils are propeller injuries and jet thrust injuries.

Fort Myers boating accident attorneys at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, know the consequences can be devastating, the impact lifelong. We are committed to fighting for justice for victims who have been traumatized, their lives forever changed, due to the carelessness and negligence of another. The reality is, propeller and jet thrust injuries are totally preventable when proper safety protocol is followed.

Most of these incidents occur when individuals fall overboard or get too close to the back of a motorized vessel. Usually, it’s the operator who is in control of these circumstances to start, and negligence in getting too close to swimmers or jet skiers or in tossing others into the water is what predicates these accidents.

Propeller Injuries

Propeller accidents occur when individuals come into contact with a motorized boat propeller that is in motion.

The U.S. Coast Guard reports in an average year, between 200 and 265 non-fatal injuries are reported as a result of a person being struck by the propeller or propulsion unit of a boat. These figures are believed to be low estimates, as not every state and local agency accurately reports all data to federal officials.

These injuries typically change the course of a person’s life, as they can cause severe internal injuries, damage to the head and face and often affect one’s appendages.

It’s estimated between 25 and 35 deaths occur annually as a result of being struck by propellers.

A study published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences indicated that while most think of propeller injuries as “chopping or hacking” trauma, this isn’t typically accurate. Most propeller injuries result in fractures and broken bones, and deaths result from blunt force trauma rather than lacerations or cuts.

Cases where propellers strike the head and torso are the most dangerous, as the underlying organs are at risk of serious damage.

There are several technologies that can help reduce propeller injuries, primarily involving metal casings designed around the spinning blades to keep objects, animals and persons from making contact. However, they aren’t mandated except in the case of recreational houseboats and a few other non-planing vessels, including those used by livery operations.

Still, the U.S. Coast Guard offers the following tips for operators to reduce the risk of propeller accidents while on a boat:

  • Make sure every passenger is seated safely inside the boat, and not on the bow, transom or gunwale.
  • Slow down when encountering a wake and cross at an angle, rather than head-on.
  • Avoid letting anyone drink heavily, particularly if the boat is underway.
  • Stay at least 100 feet away from diver-down flags in rivers, navigation channels and inlets. On other bodies of water, stay at least 300 feet away.
  • Don’t let anyone near the swim platform while the engine is on. Bear in mind these platforms tend to be slippery, and a fall may be especially likely when the boat is swaying.

When it comes to being on a personal water craft or water skis, there are a few different precautions to consider:

  • If pulling a skier, get back to him or her immediately if he or she falls. Numerous skiers have been injured or killed while waiting to be picked up.
  • Life vests should be brightly-colored so as to be easily visible to other boat traffic.
  • Never put the engine in reverse to back up toward a skier.
  • Don’t put the engine in gear until you can see everyone is safely seated.
  • Never enter swimming zones.
  • Don’t intentionally toss individuals off personal water craft, water skis, inner tube or other craft.
Jet Thrust Injuries

Jet thrust injuries are caused by the force of the propeller thrusting water with intense force to those directly being the vessel, usually a personal watercraft.

This is especially dangerous for females or anyone not wearing a proper protective wet suit. Essentially, when the throttle is on and someone is at the rear of the PWC, water and/or debris exit the thrust nozzle and can cause serious injury.

An appellate court case out of California recently details just how awful these injuries can be. In Colombo v. BRP US, Inc., a compensation of $7.4 million to two teen girls by the manufacturer of a personal watercraft was upheld after the girls suffered severe and permanent injuries after falling off the back. Both were placed directly into the path of the jet thrust. One suffered serious injury to her vagina and rectum, resulting in long-term pain and difficulty controlling bowel movements. The other suffered similar injuries, and was told she would never be able to deliver a child. At no point were the girls warned by the manufacturer, owner or operator that a wet suit should have been worn. Evidence presented at trial indicated manufacturer had knowledge of prior claims of orifice injuries, but did not sufficiently warn consumers of this known risk.

Internal injuries were cited in four of the 137 reportable accidents involving personal watercraft in Florida that year.

Contact Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. There are no fees or costs unless we win. Offices in Fort Myers, Cape Coral, Naples and Port Charlotte.

Call 800-646-1210 for a Free Consultation

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