Your Comprehensive Guide on Legal Liability for a Boating Accident
Since boating accidents are different from a normal car accident scenario, there are many questions. For example, you may ask yourself who is responsible? Who should you report the accident to? Who is liable? Will insurance cover the accident? In boating accidents, a boat passenger can be left with serious injuries and unfortunately, sometimes, may lead to death.
Common Causes of Boating Accidents
Like motor vehicle accidents, several factors usually are the cause of boating accidents. They include:
Most boating accidents usually happen because the driver is under the influence of alcohol. Boating under the influence (BUI) is a criminal offense in all states. Those convicted can face heavy fines and possible prison time. If you or the person piloting the boat are under the influence of alcohol, you may want to avoid boating.
Heavy rains or strong winds can cause many boating accidents. Even skilled boat pilots may be unable to navigate the waters well avoiding potential catastrophes. Harsh weather conditions may also make it hard to keep the boat upright and afloat.
Moreover, lightning strikes can damage a vessel and any equipment on board. The strikes also have the potential to electrocute passengers. Someone could also suffer injuries because you experience rough waters during a storm and chose not to return to land after seeing a storm. If you become aware of the threat of bad weather, the best bet would be to get off the water immediately. Such negligence may cause civil liability.
Fumes from a Malfunctioning Boat Engine
Boat engines often emit harmful carbon monoxide. Inhaling high amounts of the gas may cause serious injuries or death of those on board. Even an engine in good condition can poison passengers if toxic gases cannot escape.
Thus, ensure the vessel is well maintained and in case you spot a problem, move to the shore and fix it. Not doing so could cause liability for a passenger’s injuries.
Who is Liable in a Boating Accident?
In case of a boating accident, there is a need to establish cause.
If you suffer an injury while on a sailboat or motorboat, you need to prove that someone’s negligence caused the injury. That way, you can recover damages from the liable person. Negligence refers to failing to act with reasonable care, essentially failing to act how a reasonable person would under the same circumstances. You and your lawyer must prove an individual did not act reasonably, thus causing the injury.
How a Negligence Claim Would Work
To grasp how negligence claims work, let us first explain the major types of boat accidents.
Colliding with another Boat
When two motorboats collide, operators of both vessels will at least bear partial fault. So, injured passengers on both boats may file claims against the operators of both boats. A driver who gets injured and contributes below 50% to the accident, may file a claim against the operator of the other vessel.
If the collision involves a sailboat and motorboat, then the latter is likely to be at fault. This is because boating rules dictate that motorboats should clear the way for sailboats.
Hitting the Wake of another Boat
When a craft hits a big wake, damage can occur to the boat, and passengers may get injured as well. Once the vessel hits a wake, it experiences a jolt that may throw passengers from their seats. It may also knock passengers down and even out of the boat, injuring them.
Boating laws require the operator to look out for anything which can harm their passengers and the boat. But, in an accident, the operator’s liability depends on various circumstances, including:
- The vessel’s speed
- The wake size
- Boat traffic around the accident area
- Whether the operator warned those on board they were approaching a massive wake
- Whether those injured were on a sailboat or motorboat
The boat operator that created the wake might also be negligent. The operator’s negligence depends on the accident site and its boating traffic. If, for instance, the boats entered a no wake zone, then any wake created, breaks the safety rules of boating. In that situation, the operator was negligent. What if the boat zoomed through a crowded area on the water and caused a huge wake? In that case, the operator could be negligent for creating a large wake for the surrounding area.
Hitting a Wave
Wave accidents are like boat accidents. The only difference is there is no other craft to hold liable. Thus, whether the operator was careless depends on various circumstances, as explained above.
Colliding with a Submerged Object, the Land, or a Rock
Even when the weather is clear, a boat can hit a rock or a submerged object. In poor visibility or bad weather, the boat can hit the coastline or a jetty. Whether the operator is liable in such accidents will depend on various circumstances.
If an operator has the area nautical charts, is not speeding, but hits a rock, then he or she may not be negligent. But, if the operator speeds through dense fog, without GPS or charts, and hits a jetty, that would be clear negligence.
Seeking Insurance Coverage
In some places, boat owners, like car owners, must have insurance. But, this is not a rule in all jurisdictions. When possible, establish whether a boat owner has insurance, which may help fund you. Also, if an individual other than the boat’s owner piloted the vessel, they might be liable. Find out if they have insurance to help pay for your damages.
How an Attorney May Help after a Boat Accident
Boating regulations are different from state to state. At times they are different even in parts of the same state. So, it’s important to know your rights and what to do for settlement for personal injuries or damaged property. Talk to one of our qualified lawyers at Riesen DuRant, to help with your claim after a boating accident.
If a boating accident happens to you or anyone you know, it can be scary. The accident can result in severe injuries, boat damages, and death by drowning in some cases. These situations may lead to long-term suffering for not only those involved but their loved ones too.
Contact us for more information.