Boating and Personal Watercraft provide thrills and excitement for Louisiana residents and visitors every summer. As much fun as it can be, there is danger involved as well. For that reason, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has provided rules for personal watercraft (PWC) operators that can help people stay safe.
1. Each person riding a PWC must wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved Tyep I, II, III, or V life jacket (this includes anyone towed behind a PWC).
2. If the PWC has a lanyard-type ignition safety switch, the lanyard must be attached to the operator’s person.
3. A PWC may not be operated between sunset and sunrise.
4. It is illegal for PWC operators to: weave through congested waterways, jump the wake of another vessel when visibility is obstructed, operate in a manner that involves swerving to avoid collision.
5. It is illegal to operate a PWC if you are under the age of 16.
6. You may not chase, harass, or disturb wildlife with a PWC.
7. PWC’s should not be operated around fishermen, anchored boats, or swimmers.
8. You may not allow anyone else to operate a PWC in a way that violates Louisiana law.
9. PWC operators towing a person on water skis or any similar device must also obey these rules.
10. If a PWC is towing a skier and another person is onboard, the PWC must be rated for at least three people.
11. A vessel towing someone must have at least two competent persons on board-one to operate the vessel, and one to observe. If the vessel has a wide-angle convex rearview mirror at least 7 x 14 inches, the operator may observe the person being towed.
12. You may not tow someone from one hour before sunset to one hour before sunrise.
13. The operator of a towing vessel and skier must keep a reasonable distance from other vessels and people, and property must be maintained so as to not endanger others.
If followed, these rules can also help to prove or disprove liability in the event of an accident. For example, if you are in an accident and injured on a PWC operated by someone else, you could bring a lawsuit against them and recover damages to pay for medical expenses and pain and suffering (among other damages) if you can prove they acted negligently and the negligence led to your injury.
Proving negligence requires proving that someone’s behavior fell below the acceptable standard of care in a given situation. It someone has adhered to the Rules described above, it will be more difficult to prove that their behavior fell below the appropriate standard of care. Conversely, if the rules were not followed precisely, a good attorney would use each rule violation as evidence of negligent behavior. A successful lawyer will have knowledge of not only the law, but administrative rules like these as well.
Rules regarding the use of a watercraft can also be important in the insurance claims process of the owner. For this reason it is similarly important to utilize a lawyer that can help you receive the financial compensation you feel entitled to.