As summer approaches, those who spend time on the water must be wary of potential boating accidents. In 2015, the U.S. Coast Guard reported 4,158 recreational boating accidents in the United States and its territories. Those accidents resulted in 626 deaths, 2,613 injuries and approximately $42 million in property damage. Often times, the parties involved in boating accidents seek legal relief. When looking for a lawyer to represent you in a boating accident personal injury/wrongful death claim, it is important that your attorney be experienced in assessing the factors inherent in these types of cases. The lawyers at Decof, Decof & Barry offer the following factors that every lawyer should look at in a boating accident case:
1. What caused the boating accident?
Generally, accident-causing factors are split into two categories: (1) Operator Error; and (2) Defective Product. Accidents caused by “operator error” include those caused by operator inexperience, intoxication, inattention, excessive speed, and hazardous water conditions. Accidents caused by a “defective product” may involve malfunctioning controls and safety equipment, as well as equipment packaged without proper instructions.
2. Who were the parties involved?
Boating accidents may occur between commercial operators and/or non-commercial operators. A commercial operator is a person who, for compensation or hire, transports people or property. Contrarily, non-commercial operators include those who operate a boat for leisure or pleasure. Both commercial and non-commercial operators may partake in water activities, such as tubing and water skiing, on boats or personal watercrafts (commonly known as jet skis and wave runners).
3. What injuries resulted?
As stated above, 626 people died from boating accidents in 2015. A “wrongful death” claim may be brought if a family member has been killed in a boating accident. With respect to the 2,613 people injured in boating accidents in 2015, there may be claims for personal injury and negligence. If the accident was caused by a defective product, there may be a products liability action.
Moreover, claims may be made in an effort to recover for property damage. If you are involved in a boating accident that is attributable to another’s fault, you may be entitled to recover for the damage to your boat or personal watercraft.
4. Where did the accident occur?
The location of an accident may impact what laws apply to the case. Two location categories are analyzed to determine the appropriate governing law: (1) Navigable Waterways; and (2) Non-navigable Waterways. While federal law governs “navigable waterways,” state law sometimes governs “non-navigable waterways,” such as small ponds that are confined within one state.
5. Were any safety precautions taken?
Not only may taking safety precautions prove favorable in the eye of the law, but a few simple steps may prevent death or greater bodily harm in the event of a boating accident. The answers to the following questions may impact your claim:
- Did the operator complete a Boating Safety Education Course?
- How many occupants were on board?
- Were the occupants wearing life jackets?
- Was the boat traveling within appropriate speed regulations?
It is a good idea to check the boating safety education and certification courses offered in your state. Click here to access the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management’s boating safety information.