In 2007, 5,191 boating accidents claimed the lives of 685 people and injured another 3,673, according to a report by the U.S. Coast Guard. Many of these accidents occurred due to negligence on someone’s part. When a boating accident is caused by another party’s negligence, people who are harmed are often eligible for compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering as well as other damages. To learn more about the legal implications of boating accidents and your right to compensation, please review the information below and contact a qualified boating accident attorney.
Boating Accidents and the Law
As a legal matter, a boating accident occurs when a boat (motorboat, canoe/kayak, pontoon boat, sail boat, jet ski, etc.) is involved in an event or series of events that cause harm, such as property damage, total vessel loss, missing person(s), injury or death. Boating accidents are one type of motor vehicle accidents.
According to the U.S. Coast Guard, common accidents include:
Collision with another vessel
Collision with a fixed, sometimes submerged, object
Collision with a floating object (e.g., log, swimmer)
Mishaps involving a skier or person on a towable object
Mishaps involving a person falling overboard
Grounding, sinking, flooding or swamping
Fire or explosion
Carbon monoxide poisoning
Most boating accidents involve an element of negligence.
File a Boating Accident Report (BAR) with the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction where the accident occurred. Federal regulations require the filing of a BAR within 48 hours when someone dies, disappears from a vessel or is seriously injured. A BAR must be filed within 10 days when a vessel’s damages exceed $2,000 or the vessel is completely lost. Individual states often have stricter regulations.Gather names and contact information of any eyewitnesses to the accident who are willing to testify on your behalf.Photograph or sketch the scene of the accident (if possible), especially damages to the boat(s) involved.Photograph injuries caused by the boating accident (if possible).Keep notes on what you remember about the accident.
Many factors contribute to boating accidents. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, most fall into the following categories:
Hull or Equipment Failure
Operator error is the most common cause of boating accidents. Common errors include:
Lack of training in boat operation and safety
Violating Nav Rules or Rules of the Road (i.e., recklessness, speeding, etc.)
Improper loading of passengers and gear
Alcohol or drug use
Hull, Equipment or Machinery Failure
Some boat accidents are caused by hull, equipment or machinery failure. The hull is the body of the boat. Boat equipment includes masts, rigging, seats, fire extinguishers, lights, communication systems and other equipment. Machinery includes the boat engine, electrical system, fuel system, ventilation system, steering system and so forth.
A failure of one of these systems or components might point to negligence on the part of the owner or operator of the boat for not maintaining the boat, the technician or boat repair facility for not performing quality maintenance, or the manufacturer for designing, manufacturing and/or installing substandard machinery or a flawed or defective piece of equipment.
When a flaw in design, manufacturing or installation can be proven, strict liability law may apply. In cases such as these, which sometimes result in class action lawsuits involving large settlements, negligence may not need to be proved (the fact that the component in question is defective and caused harm is sufficient to prove liability).
If you suspect a design, manufacturing, or installation defect contributed to your boat accident, be sure to retain possession of your boat so that it can be used as evidence in a trial, if necessary.
Sometimes conditions in the environment, including those listed below, contribute to boat accidents.
Presence of a dam or lock
Presence of big waves or wakes
Many times these situations are worsened by another party’s negligence. Government negligence may be present when environment is a factor in an accident. For example, if a speed zone sign has gone missing in congested waters for an extended period of time, a governmental body may be liable. Because there are specific rules and time limits for filing a boating accident claim with a government entity, you should contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible after the accident.
When You Need a Boating Accident Attorney (Personal Injury Attorney)
Although insurance companies sometimes manage boating accident claims, in many cases victims do not receive their just compensation. Personal injury attorneys can help victims file their claims and receive the compensation they deserve.
Victims who find themselves in one of the following situations may need to contact a personal injury attorney in order to determine and exercise their rights:
Expenses from the boating accident have not been reimbursed. Many victims suffer financial losses due to property damage, psychological pain, lost opportunities, lost income and medical expenses. In these cases, a personal injury attorney can help file a victim’s claim to help him or her obtain full compensation for any losses.
The insurance company is taking an excessive amount of time to settle a claim. It is important to note that state statutes set limitations on personal injury claims that victims must be aware of.
A claim is rejected because an insurance company denies the fault of the negligent party.
Without an attorney on your side many of your rights could be violated. Furthermore, the more time that passes the more likely it is that evidence or witnesses that could help your defense will disappear. For these reasons we urge you to contact the attorneys at The Law Offices of Lopez & Humpries, P.A. are experienced Boating Accident attorneys. We will explore ALL possible motions and defenses and aggressively fight for your rights. Call (863)709-8500 for a free case evaluation.