Boating and using other watercraft can be an extremely pleasurable and relaxing form of recreation, yet every year thousands of boating accidents involving serious injuries, and even death, occur in the United States. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, in 2015 there were 4,158 boating accidents in this country. These accidents resulted in 626 deaths, 2,613 injuries, and $42 million worth of property damage. The fatality rate was 5.3 deaths per 100,000 registered recreational boating vessels, a 1.9 percent increase over the previous year.
These statistics should give even the most avid boaters pause. With increasingly crowded waterways, lax laws regarding training for boat owners and operators, and increased substance abuse throughout the population, there are more reasons to be cautious when boating than ever before.
If, due to the negligence of another, you suffer personal injuries or lose a loved one during a boating accident, you should contact a competent personal injury attorney to help you receive the compensation you deserve. Under these circumstances, you are entitled to be compensated for medical and/or funeral expenses, current and future loss of earnings, as well as physical and mental pain and suffering.
Causes of Boating Accidents
The majority of boating accidents occur at the end of the day or during the evening when boat operators tend to become less attentive and engage in more drinking and other substance abuse. This unfortunate confluence can lead to serious distraction from the task at hand. When coupled with foul weather, other impaired boaters, dangerous wave or wake conditions, increased speed or reckless behavior, the combination can lead to serious, even tragic, accidents.
Regulations concerning training or licensing for operating boats vary from state to state. Even though the majority of states require some form of licensing, they may only require it in particular situations or not enforce any type of renewal. It is therefore incumbent upon boat owners and operators to take steps to ensure the safety of themselves, their passengers, and other boaters on the waterways they travel.
Boater negligence takes many forms. Even in fair weather on calm waters, the boat operator has the responsibility of remaining vigilant, monitoring the water for unexpected hazards. This person, licensed or not, also has a responsibility to understand not only how to handle the boat, but to be prepared for emergencies. The owner/operator of the boat is also required to:
- Operate the boat at a safe speed to have time to react to sudden dangers
- Make sure everyone onboard is wearing a life jacket*
- Prevent underaged, untrained passengers from taking control of the boat
- Remain sober
- Maintain the boat’s mechanical functioning
- Make sure that the boat is equipped with emergency equipment, such as flares
- See that the boat is not overloaded or unbalanced
- Know the rules of navigating on the water**
- Understand the nature of weather and water changes and how to handle them
- Pay close attention to weather alerts
* 90 percent of drowning victims were not wearing life jackets
**According the U.S. Coast Guard’s annual report, operator inexperience is the third most
common cause of boating accidents; only 15 percent of deaths occurred on vessels where
the operator had taken a nationally-approved boating safety education certificate.
If you have suffered serious injuries or the loss of a loved one in a boating accident, it is essential that you retain a personal injury attorney to assist you in receiving the compensation you deserve. You may be able to settle with the owner or operator of either boat (if two are involved in the accident) or with the manufacturer of a defective part of the boat or safety device, With the help of a skilled lawyer, you should be able to receive recompense for your medical expenses and/or funeral costs, loss of wages and benefits (both current and future), disability support and compensation for pain and suffering.
Legal assessment of negligence will be determined by evaluation of many factors — driver alertness, boat maintenance, provision and distribution of safety devices — among others.
It is important to note that even if your injury in a boating accident is the result of someone else’s negligence, it may be difficult to receive compensation. This is because many people do not carry boaters’ insurance and since neither motor vehicle insurance nor homeowners’ insurance cover boating accidents. It is, however, possible to file a lawsuit against the owner and/or operator of the boat for damages. With strong personal injury attorneys like Chadwick & Tignor, P.C. of Tennessee, you will be assured of support and a vigorous defense of your rights. C&T can be contacted via their convenient website form or at 615.379.7900.
How Insurance Coverage Affects Your Case
Even if someone else was at fault, that does not mean that you will be able to recover damages from that person. If the person has no boaters’ insurance and no assets, he or she will not be able to pay you damages. Motor vehicle insurance does not cover injuries on boats. Homeowner’s insurance might provide insurance coverage for these injuries, but not everyone has homeowner’s insurance, and not all boat owners have boating insurance coverage through their homeowner’s policy. Nor will you be able to file a claim against your own homeowner’s insurance for this type of injury. Unlike motor vehicle coverage that usually includes uninsured benefits, homeowners’ insurance policies almost never provide coverage for the actions of other people who do not have insurance.