Just like other accidents, boating accidents can be quite frightening. This is especially so because, unlike car accidents, you are far from land, and help could take longer than usual to arrive.
According to the US Coast Guard, the fatality rate for boating accidents was at 5.2 deaths per 100,000 registered and recreational vehicles in 2019. While the number appears low, it does not make boating accidents less scary and dangerous. This article explores what you can do when you are in this dangerous situation.
If you are involved in a boating accident, contact an accident injury lawyer as soon as you can. They will help you claim compensation for damages.
What Are the Causes of Boating Accidents?
Several factors can cause boating accidents. The following are the five top causes of boating accidents in the U.S:
Operator Inattention: This involves negligence or carelessness on the part of the boat operator. It could include operating the boat when the weather is bad for boating trips, or not paying attention to the controls.
Improper Lookout: A lookout is supposed to constantly scan the surroundings to ensure that nothing impedes the boat’s course. This includes things like power lines, buoys, floating debris, other water vessels, or even swimmers. If the lookout on the boat is not properly trained, or there is no lookout, it could cause a boating accident.
Operator Inexperience: Experience is very important when operating a boat. Florida Statutes hold that a boat operator should have completed a commission-approved boating safety education course before he/she can operate a boat. You should find out if your boat operator knows what they are doing before you embark on your journey.
Excessive Speed: It is tempting to speed excessively on water, especially because land travel has so many speed limits. There are no specific speed limits to water travel in Florida apart from the state’s initial slow/no-wake zones. A no-wake speed is a speed that does not create a wake and is never more than five miles per hour. However, the authorities impose limitations on things like wake jumping with other personal watercraft. In Florida, you cannot jump the wake of another vessel unreasonably or get too close to another boat.
Alcohol Usage: Alcohol usage is the leading cause of boat accidents in the US. The US Coast Guard records that alcohol was the leading cause in 23% of fatal boat accidents.
Other factors that could cause boating accidents include bad weather, operating the boat impaired by drugs, mechanical failure, etc.
Who Is Liable in Boating Accidents?
Several parties could be responsible for the accident. These include:
Boat Operators: A boat operator is tasked with ensuring the safety of the vessel and all on board. If they are negligent with their duty, they can be found liable for the boat accident.
Boat Owners: In some cases, one can also hold the boat owner liable for a boat accident and claim compensation from them. This is possible even if the owner is not the boat operator.
Boat Passengers: If a passenger acts recklessly or intentionally to cause a boating accident, they can be held liable. If a passenger prevents the operator from fulfilling his or her duty, he can be held responsible for the incident. In some cases, the operator and the passenger can share liability. An experienced attorney will help you determine this.
Commercial Companies: Commercial companies rent out boats, several types of safety gear, water-spotted equipment, etc. They also train boat operators, skippers and hire them out. If they have neglected safety violations and caused the boat to crash, the accident victims can seek compensation from them.
Product Manufacturers: Sometimes, the fault in a boat crash lies with the manufacturer of the product. If the vessel itself or any of the products necessary for one’s safety malfunctions, thereby causing injury or damage, they can be held liable in a boat accident claim.
What To Do After a Boating Accident
If you are ever in a boating accident, you should take the following steps:
Escape a Sinking Boat: If the boat has a hole and is filling up with water, you must wear your life jacket, find floating debris and climb on it immediately and signal for help.
Assist Victims: If a boat you've boarded is involved in a boating accident and you are not hurt, you must find out if anyone else is. Help the victims who have gone off the boat to get back on if you can.
Seek Medical Attention: You should see a doctor even if you feel like you were not hurt in the boating accident. A doctor will examine you to find out if you have sustained any internal injuries during the incident. You might want to go to counseling to sort through the psychological trauma from the accident. You must also keep records of the bills from your doctor's visit as they will come in handy in the future.
Report the Accident: If you or someone you know was in a boating accident, then you must file an incident report with the law enforcement as soon as you can. The US Coast Guard makes it mandatory for the boat operator to file an accident report when the following occur:
1. If someone is severely injured
2. If someone dies as a result of the accident
3. If there is significant damage to the boat or property (usually when it is equal to or more than $2000)
4. When the boat is destroyed or if it sinks
5. When someone gets missing during a boating accident
However, if you're not the boat driver, you can still file an accident report with the local authorities. You must do this if you want to take up a case against whoever was responsible for the accident.
You must note that when reporting these situations, you should not volunteer unnecessary information. If you believe that you were responsible for the crash, you should not offer apologies or own up to it until you get legal advice from a boating accident lawyer. You would want to ensure that you are not derailing the investigation with the information you offer.
Making Claims for Injury or Damages
You can either make insurance claims or injury claims if you sustained an injury after a boating accident. Below, we explore how to make these claims.
Making Insurance Claims
If you owned the vessel involved in the crash, you could make an insurance claim from your insurance company. No matter who was responsible for the accident, you should notify them as they might still be liable to pay for the damages under your insurance coverage.
If you were in a boating accident but didn’t own the boat, find out if the owner has insurance. Unlike mandatory car insurance, boat insurance isn't compulsory in some areas in the U.S. If the boat owner has insurance, then you might be able to make a claim against their insurance carriers.
Suppose another person was responsible for the incident. They might be liable to compensate you for injuries or property damage. You should find out about their insurance as it may be able to contribute to your settlement.
An experienced personal injury attorney will ensure that you get all the help you need in finding who to make the insurance claims against.
Taking Legal Action
In the case of negligence on the part of the boater, you may be able to take more extreme action to get compensation from the responsible party. This way, you can get compensation for medical bills, property loss or damage, psychological trauma, pain, and suffering, etc. An experienced boat accident lawyer will help you determine if this is the right course of action to take.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer Today!
Boat accidents can be traumatizing, especially if you sustain a physical injury or severe damage to your property. If you or anyone you know has been involved in a boating accident, you should immediately contact us at VG Law Group. Our team of experienced attorneys will examine the peculiarities of your case and help you make a personal injury claim. We will ensure that you get fair compensation for any injury or damages sustained because of the accident. Book a consultation with us today.