Recreational boating is a popular leisure activity enjoyed by many people; unfortunately, it can sometimes turn into a life-threatening situation. If you have ever been in a boating accident, you know how quickly a relaxing day on the water can turn into a chaotic and scary scenario. Boating accidents may result in serious injuries. This traumatic experience may lead to long-term mental anguish, as well as severe and potentially life-changing physical injuries. Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer attorneys have represented victims of boating accidents who have suffered severe injuries for decades. In fact, Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer attorneys have represented victims of boating accidents not only in the United States but also in other countries, including the Cayman Islands and the Galapagos Islands.

The road to recovery can be difficult after an accident, and knowing what steps you should take after you have been injured can be confusing, especially after a boating accident. Since a boating accident is not the same scenario as a car accident, you may be wondering who is responsible for your injuries, along with other questions, such as:

  • To whom should you report the accident?
  • Should you hire an attorney?
  • Will insurance cover the damage to your boat and your medical expenses?
  • Who is liable?

There are so many questions that may not be immediately clear after a boating accident, leaving you wondering what you should do.

What Should I Do After I Have Been Involved In A Boating Accident?

Talking to an attorney should be a high priority. An attorney will be able to guide you through the entire legal process. However, you need to be aware of the general steps you should take after involvement in a boating accident. Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer has the experienced trial lawyers to navigate the investigation and prosecution of a boating accident matter involving serious personal injury or death.

Report the boating accident to the proper authorities

The US Coast Guard defines a “boating accident” as a situation where a boat passenger dies or becomes seriously injured, a boat passenger disappears, and death or injury is suspected, or a vessel causes or sustains damage.

Federal Law requires that you submit an accident report (CG-3865 Recreational Boating Accident Report) for any boating accident that results in death, an injury requiring medical treatment beyond first aid, a disappearance that indicates death or injury, or damage to a boat above $2,000 (including total loss). Reports should be made within 48 hours of the accident if a person is killed, injured, or missing. If only the boat or property were damaged, you have up to 10 days to report the accident to your state’s primary boating authority.

There may be other reporting requirements depending on in what state the accident occurred. These reports are essential for establishing regulations and safety standards, identifying and remedying boat defects, quantifying statistical data, investigating boating accidents, and measuring the effectiveness of boat safety programs.

Visit a licensed medical professional as soon as possible

If you aren’t taken to a hospital right away, you should visit a medical professional as soon as possible to get an evaluation. Even if you don’t think that you are seriously injured, it is imperative that you visit a medical professional as some injuries, like brain injuries, don’t manifest until days or even weeks later. You will need to keep a record of all of your medical bills and medical records if you plan on filing a personal injury claim in the future.

What Are My Legal Rights After A Boating Accident?

If you have been injured in a boating accident, you need to know your legal rights. If someone else’s negligence caused your injuries, you could be entitled to seek financial compensation for your boating accident injury. When you file a personal injury lawsuit, a successful claim may result in compensation for economic loss such as lost wages and loss of earning capacity if you are rendered permanently disabled as well as the costs of medical treatment and lifecare expenses (past, present, and future). In addition, non-economic claims for damages may be substantial, such as physical pain and mental suffering, loss of life’s pleasures, disfigurement, embarrassment, and humiliation.

Remember that being able to prove that you were hurt is not the same as being able to prove that someone else was negligent. You must be able to prove not only that you were injured, but also that your injury resulted from someone else’s willful negligence.

Boating Accident Statistics

Every year the US Coast Guard compiles information to deliver statistics on recreational boating accidents. The report for 2018 shows:

  • There were 633 fatalities due to boating-related accidents.
  • 77% of boating fatalities were caused by drowning.
  • Property damage totals were $46 million.
  • Alcohol is the leading contributing factor that results in boating accidents.
  • The most common types of vessels involved in boating accidents were motorboats and personal watercraft.

There are many precautions that people can take to protect themselves from being another statistic. The US Coast Guard encourages everyone to wear life jackets, enroll in a boating safety course, keep an eye on the forecast, attach the engine cut-off switch, get a free boat safety check, and refrain from intoxicated driving.

Common Causes of Boating Accidents

Boating accidents can happen in many different ways, including:

  • Recklessly operating a boat. Recreational boating is fun, but if the captain is acting recklessly or carelessly, that can ultimately lead to serious boating accidents. Allowing a passenger to sit in a non-designated seating area while the boat is moving can also be a serious safety violation. Other examples of reckless behavior include splashing other boats, jumping waves in another boat’s wake, violating low wake rules, inattention to other boats in the vicinity, failure to yield to other boats, failure to maintain a safe distance from other boats, and filling the boat beyond maximum capacity.
  • Slippery boat deck. Slip and fall accidents can happen anywhere, but on a boat, it can be especially dangerous due to water and other hazards on the deck. A slip and fall incident on a boat could lead to a broken bone, head injury, or even falling in the water, leading to a potentially life-threatening situation. It is essential to wear proper shoes and to be aware of where you are walking when on a boat.
  • Driving around at high speeds. It doesn’t matter whether you are on a lake or the open sea, driving around at high speeds can be dangerous due to other watercraft and hazards in the water. Boaters driving at excessive speeds may also lose control of the vessel or crash into another boat.
  • Driving while intoxicated. Just like drinking and driving a car, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It can dull your senses and cause you to make careless mistakes, which is why it is illegal to drive a boat with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over .08. Just like with a DUI in a vehicle, a boater can face criminal charges, hefty fines, suspension of boating privileges, and possibly even jail time.
  • Inexperienced driving. Driving a boat is a lot different than driving a car. There are specific rules and regulations that a boat captain should know before getting behind the wheel of a boat. Someone who lacks experience driving a boat is much more likely to get into a boating accident, whether it is a collision with another boat or hitting a swimmer or a jet skier. A mistake as simple as hitting the wrong gear or not turning in time can be disastrous. If needed, there are classes available to teach prospective boaters how to navigate a boat properly.
  • Passenger recklessness. The captain of the boat is responsible for every passenger on board. Even if the passenger is acting recklessly, it is the captain’s responsibility to keep everything in order. All passengers should be seated while the boat is moving. If a water skier is acting recklessly on the water, the captain should refuse to tow them. When towing a skier or a tube, you should always have someone in the boat to watch what’s going behind you while you drive.
  • Falling overboard. Falling overboard is a common boating accident. If there are unexpected changes in the speed or direction of the boat, they may cause someone to fall overboard. If that person can’t swim, hits his or her head during the fall, or if the fall overboard goes unnoticed, a fall from a boat can turn into a very dangerous situation.
  • Inclement weather. A beautiful day with sunshine and blue skies can quickly turn into bad weather without much warning. Before going out boating on the water, the captain should always check the forecast as a precaution. The forecast isn’t always accurate, so bad weather may come as a surprise. Large waves or high winds can potentially capsize a boat. Making sure all safety features are working correctly beforehand is crucial in ensuring your boat is seaworthy. 

Tips for safe boating

  • Drive sober. The risks involved with drinking and boating are high.
  • Keep an eye on the forecast. Don’t go out if there is a threat of storms.
  • Make sure that there is a life jacket for every passenger aboard.
  • Take a course on boating safety.
  • Give your boat a thorough look over before heading out to make sure that everything is in order.
  • Store a fire extinguisher onboard in case of a fire.

Common Boating Accident Injuries

Many people who are killed or injured in a boating accident are the victims of trauma and/or drowning. These injuries can occur in several different ways. 

Drowning

  • Most boating accident fatalities are due to drowning
  • Overboard passengers often drown
  • Very few people who have drowned were wearing a life jacket 

Trauma

Severe injuries sustained in boating accidents are often due to:

  • Propeller accidents – injuries may include deep severe cuts, amputations, and internal injuries.
  • Run over accidents – injuries may consist of damage to the spinal cord, traumatic brain injuries, and other injuries that are similar to those of car accident victims.
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning – injuries may result in nausea, lethargy, and vomiting. Prolonged exposure can result in brain damage or even death.
  • Slip and fall accidents – injuries can range anywhere from bumps and bruises to broken bones and head injuries.

Traumatic brain injuries are among the most serious of injuries. These injuries may occur if the boat crashes, throwing your body into a hard object such as a propeller or rock.

During an accident, if you hit the water before you have a direct impact with another boat or object, you are less likely to suffer a severe injury. The most serious injuries occur as a result of direct impact.

Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer attorneys have represented clients who have suffered the most severe personal injuries in boating accidents as a result of negligence by the drivers of boats as well as a result of defects with the equipment (unsafely manufactured and designed boats and their component parts).

Who is Liable for a Boating Accident?

Determining liability for a boating accident can sometimes be challenging. Generally, one of the following parties may be held liable in a boating accident:

  • the operator of the boat
  • the owner
  • the manufacturer
  • the rental company
  • a passenger

When boating accidents happen, the injured party has the right to seek compensation from the person or persons responsible. Often this is in the form of a personal injury lawsuit. Here are some examples of parties that may be held liable in a personal injury case:

  • The operator of the boat – failed to provide flotation devices for the passengers
  • A passenger of the boat – acted recklessly, preventing the operator from fulfilling his duty
  • The owner of the boat – knowingly loaned the boat to someone who was not qualified to operate it
  • The manufacturer of the boat – due to an accident that was caused by a defect in the manufacturing process
  • The rental company – due to an accident that was caused by the company failing to fix maintenance concerns

Negligence is often the most common cause of action that is associated with boating accidents. If the operator did not follow the rules and regulations of the water, improperly passed another boat, or failed to have proper safety equipment on board, the operator may be held liable for negligence.

The victim must prove that any injuries sustained were a direct result of the boating accident and that another person’s negligence caused the boating accident.

It is also important to note that laws can vary. Depending on where the accident took place, it will fall under state law or federal maritime law. Maritime law covers accidents that take place at sea or in port. You can bring any case before a local court; however, federal laws may still apply.

Do the same DUI laws apply for a driver of a boat?

Being on the water means that the operator of the vehicle has to contend with multiple distractions such as the wind, sun, engine noise, etc. Add alcohol to these distractions, and it could result in a serious boating accident. Generally, the DUI laws are very similar for operating a boat under the influence of alcohol as they are for operating a car. An operator can be convicted if his or her BAC limit is above a certain threshold, usually 0.08%. A conviction could result in jail time, expensive fines, and driver’s license suspension, among other penalties.

What Compensation Can Be Recovered?

If you were injured in a boating accident, you may be able to seek damages for:

  • disfigurement
  • medical expenses and life care expenses (past, present, and future)
  • out of pocket expenses
  • lost wages
  • lost earning capacity
  • consortium claims
  • physical pain and mental suffering

How Can A Boating Accident Attorney Help Me?

If a boating accident was due to the negligence of another individual, you should seek an attorney. You may come across challenges such as the boat operator not having insurance or liquefiable assets. An attorney can help you secure your claim for damages and get you the compensation that you deserve. Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer attorneys are experienced boating accident lawyers.

A boating accident attorney can help you gather the records needed to help your case, from medical records to insurance policy information. As your attorney reviews the details surrounding your accident, he or she will determine the best approach to take.

Recovering from your injuries and returning to the way things once were may be difficult but seeking the services of an advocate who will fight to get you the legal compensation you need for the best recovery possible is essential. If you have been injured in a boating accident and need legal counsel, please fill out the contact form at www.rayneslaw.com or call our toll-free number at (800) 535-1797. A member of our legal team will get back to you shortly to discuss your potential case.

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