Boating accidents happen just as common as car accidents, and more often than not, they could be deadlier. Being in a boat accident comes with specific traumas like no other. Injuries can happen due to deadly propellers, and people on board will be exposed to seemingly hopeless situations like being trapped in a sinking boat. Other victims also end up drowning, but all these possibilities lead to one fact: there will be long-term suffering and injuries, long after they may have healed.
Boating accidents are defined as occurrences where a boat passenger suffers from a serious injury, dies, or even disappears. Here, a vessel may also cause or sustain damages, making the concept of boating accidents also encompassing collisions and other vessel-specific damages.
As with car accidents, boating accidents also come with liabilities, claims, and other legalities. If you are a victim of a boating accident, understand that you are entitled to claims and privileges to compensate for your loss, no matter the extent of the injury.
A little knowledge goes a long way and if you wish to learn more about what happens, here is a comprehensive guide for you.
Table of Contents
Why Do Boat Accidents Happen?
As with any other vehicle, boats have their fair share of risks and hazards. Once in a while, accidents do happen because of a large variety of factors. Such factors may be due to human error, the influence of drugs and alcohol, or hazardous weather conditions.
Some conditions are more likely than others to cause boating accidents, as in the case of boating under the influence (BUI). BUI cases happen when the person piloting the boat is intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, impairing their decision-making, coordination, and other mental capacities. This makes them more prone to accidents; sure enough, more than one-third of boating accidents occur because of BUI.
Due to the inherent dangers that it entails, boating while drunk is strictly prohibited. Similar to driving under the influence (DUI), BUI is considered a criminal offense that entails hefty fines and/or jail time. When a person causes injuries and property damages due to BUI, the said person will be legally liable to compensate for the damages. Even if by technicality, the accident was not the fault of the person, the BUI will be a significant consideration in the case.
Human error and boating inexperience is also a likely cause of accidents. These may be due to new boaters encountering unfamiliar situations or even seasoned boaters disregarding safety guidelines. The United States Coast Guard has a set of safety guidelines that all boaters should follow, and there are some local rules and regulations in certain areas that should also be heeded. Failure to comply with any of these can result in damages and injuries, and authorities may arrest the sailors or seize the boat.
Another important cause of boating accidents is boating under hazardous weather conditions. These harsh weather conditions include storms, strong winds, hail, and heavy rains. Compared to boating in tranquil waters and conducive weather conditions, boating in these conditions can make it difficult to navigate and maneuver the boat.
Boating in hazardous conditions put the sailors at the risk of crashing on land or with other boats. Furthermore, the boat may be more susceptible to tipping over or being damaged. Lightning may also prove hazardous for both the passengers and the electrical equipment in the boat. Going out to a boat while bad weather is approaching is therefore highly discouraged, as opting to do so can lead to dire consequences. Accidents due to boating in a storm, or opting not to go back on land even with awareness of an approaching storm, are considered cases of negligence and can lead to civil liability.
Lastly, some boating accidents are caused by problems within the boat itself. Damaged or malfunctioning boat engines may emit toxic fumes that could harm passengers or even cause their death. Lack of proper ventilation can also prevent this toxic carbon monoxide from escaping, and it can suffocate the passengers. Before heading out to go boating, it’s crucial to regularly maintain the boat and check for any damages it may have sustained, even if they aren’t apparent. Failure to do so may cause you to be liable for any injury that it may cause.
What Should You Do After The Accident?
1 – Gather as much information as you can
Ensuring that everyone on board is alright is paramount, as you need to know the approximate extent of the damage. You also need to ensure that people are far from any immediate danger, such as water turbulence or other boat damages. Once ascertaining that things are stable, it’s important to obtain all the necessary information. This can come from those with you in the vessel, as well as other witnesses. Gather the following information from the scene:
- Names and contact details of the boat operators
- Names and contact details of the passengers
- Names and contact details of all possible eyewitnesses
- The identification number of the vessel
- Insurance company names and policy numbers of those involved
- Photographs of the scene, including the location and damages to the boat
2 – Report the accident as soon as possible
In the United States, people are compelled by federal law to report any boating accidents to the U.S. Coast Guard. The professional team to be dispatched will help you know how and why the accident has occurred. Filing boat accidents are important especially one or more of the following instances has happened:
- A person has died
- A person is suffering from a serious injury and will need extensive medical care
- The damage to the vessel is more or equal to $2,000
- The vessel has gone down or destroyed
- There has been a disappearance, where fatal injury or data is possible
As you provide the report, bear in mind that you must provide accurate information only. No speculations about the cause of the accident are welcome, as with other unnecessary information. If you find yourself believing to be the cause of the accident, never accept full responsibility or apologize for the incident. It’s best to allow the professionals to investigate the accident, so opt to call a lawyer for assistance.
What Kind of Injuries Can Happen After a Boating Accident?
Boating accidents can happen in a variety of ways. There could be fuel and fire accidents, fall injuries, drowning incidents, and even machine malfunctions. Victims can suffer from burns, loss of limbs, traumatic brain injuries, lung infections, hypothermia, broken bones, and even death.
The most debilitating of these injuries, however, are brain injuries. Such trauma can offer when a vessel capsizes or crashes. Vehicles get thrown overboard or tossed towards solid objects, such as the boat’s structures or even rocks. Hitting the water can also cause injuries, albeit milder. However, the most fatal incidents occur after direct contact with another object or a boat.
How Can Negligence Claims Work With Boating Accidents?
Negligence claims work better for boating accidents, but they are most successful when the victim can properly identify the types of boating accidents. Here are the most common types of boating accidents:
1 – A boat colliding with another boat
The possibility of two boats colliding is always there, and in such instances, both boat operators will be deemed as partly responsible. Passengers on either of the boats have the liberty to file cases against both of the operators, which is reminiscent of car accident cases.
If an operator ends up injured, however, he or she will be allowed to file a claim against the other boat operator, but only if the other party was deemed partly responsible for the collision.
2 – A boat hitting another boat’s wake
Seeing as boats are entirely vulnerable to sea waves, a boat hitting a huge wave or wake can jolt the entire vessel, prompting passengers to get thrown down or overboard. This sudden occurrence can lead to injuries such as broken bones and head traumas, along with drowning. Under federal law, however, legal liability for wake accidents are not clear.
Although the country is governed by both federal and state boating laws and regulations, boat operators are always required to remain on the lookout for possible hazards. Safe boating practices dictate that operators are responsible for the state of the boat and passengers, but their liability is only limited to the following factors:
- The wave or wake’s size
- The speed of the boat
- The visibility
- The boat traffic in the location
- The boat operator’s initiative, such as warning the passengers of possible dangers of big wakes
- The situation of the injured person
Bear in mind that the boat operator responsible for creating the huge wake may also be deemed negligent, which will depend on the boating traffic and accident location. If the accident occurred in an isolated area, for instance, the operator cannot be found at fault. If it runs through a crowded area and leaves a large wake, however, they will be found negligent for the wake.
3 – A boat has collided with a rock, submerged object, or land
Accidents can happen, no matter how good the weather or visibility may be. The boat can end up hitting a rock or submerged object, causing extensive damage that can cause the boat to sink and passengers to suffer from various injuries.
Boat operators can also end up working in poor weather conditions, rendering them unable to see. In cases like this, boats end up running aground or hitting the coastline, which also causes damage to the vessel and injuries to the passengers.
In collisions, the operator can be held liable, but this will depend on the circumstances. If the boat operator travels slowly and cautiously, however, and proves that fact, they will not be found negligent. If the opposite has been reported, however, a negligence claim may be possible.
4 – A boat operates with no proper safety equipment available onboard
Under the federal and state boating laws, all vessels are required to have safety equipment on board, even the smallest of boats. The rules and regulations state that there must always be the following items for each passenger:
- Life jackets
- Life rings
- Fire extinguishers
While the lack of proper safety equipment onboard will not directly cause an accident, any possibility of rescue and survival will be hampered. A disabled boat, for instance, can be found by rescuers through the use of flares and whistles. Anyone thrown overboard can be saved with life rings and life jackets, and lights can provide a helpful tool for night search and rescues. That said, any lack of these tools can prove to be a good case for claims of negligence, especially against the boat owner.
How Can Insurance Claims Work?
Boat owners are encouraged to purchase insurance policies to protect their vessels, which works like motor vehicle insurance policies. If you are a victim of a boating accident, you must find out if the boat owner has an insurance policy. This can help fund any settlements, especially when it comes to your medical expenses. The person operating the boat may also be held liable, and if they have an insurance policy cover, this can also help fulfill any settlements you may need.
Bear in mind that boating laws vary from state to state, so know what the law dictates in a specific area. You will need to recover damaged properties and personal injuries, and to ensure success, contact a qualified and experienced lawyer to help with your claims.
Work With A West Palm Beach Personal Injury Lawyer
Boat rides are always a welcome experience, especially when you’re doing it to bask in the sun better and enjoy the scenic views. Unfortunately, accidents are always just around the corner. Boat accidents, in particular, can be even more difficult to deal with. Unlike car accidents, you also deal with various scenarios, especially since you’re at risk for the dangers of the water around you.
If you find yourself a victim of a boat accident, it’s best to consult the help of a boating accident attorney. Shiner Law Group is a law firm dedicated to helping clients get the justice they deserve. Serving Florida and surrounding areas, our team of excellent attorneys will help you obtain the help and claims you deserve. Reach out to us today to learn more.