Boating Accidents

Boat sales are increasing. (1) And, as recreational boating activities go up, the potential for accidents leading to serious injuries or death does, too. Have you been injured in a boating incident? If so, you need to take legal action.
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Boating Accident Data

“In 2019, the Coast Guard counted 4,168 accidents that involved 613 deaths, 2,559 injuries and approximately $55 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents.” (2)

The U.S. Coast Guard also reported: 79% of fatal boating accident victims drowned and 86% of those were not wearing life jackets. (3)

The Coast Guard tracks statistics on recreational boating and publishes the results every year, including data for each state. (4) The 2019 findings for New York include: (5)

  • 165 total accidents.
  • 17 fatalities.
  • 68 accidents which resulted in property damage.
  • Property damage totaled more than $5.6 million.

Damage and Injuries

Significant property damage is just the tip of the iceberg. Damage to property can be repaired, but your body may not always recover if it is damaged.

Serious injuries suffered in a boating accident can result in permanent consequences or death. These injuries can lead to financial hardships with ongoing medical costs and possible lifelong disabilities.

If you or a loved one has been seriously injured in a boating accident, you may want to consider litigation to gain compensation to offset these expenses and any resulting pain and suffering.

Were you or a loved one injured in a boating accident? You may be eligible for compensation.

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Boating Accidents Happen Many Different Ways

You may have been in a boat when another boat crashed into you. Or you may have been standing on a dock, or sitting in a yacht club or marina restaurant.

Maybe you were out on the water – waterskiing or swimming – when the next thing you know, you’ve been hit by a boat. It was moving where it didn’t belong and the captain didn’t see you.

You even may have gotten seriously injured while you were using a boat – because a defect caused it to crash or explode. If the manufacturer made a defective vessel, you may suffer because of it.

Causes of Boating Accidents

According to Boating Safety, “11 mundane events cause the most critical boating accidents.” (6)

Their list includes: (7)

  1. Absence of safety gear, e.g. life jackets.
  2. Alcohol.
  3. Failure to keep watch.
  4. Falling overboard.
  5. Fire.
  6. Insufficient gas.
  7. Mechanical failures, e.g., electrical.
  8. Running aground.
  9. Sinking.
  10. Speeding, especially at night.
  11. Weather.

Some of these causes may be directly due to operator inexperience or inattention, and negligence. And there may be more than one cause contributing to the same accident.

Accident Example

For example, a boat running aground might do so because the operator failed to keep watch, was speeding, drunk, or both.

Or you might find yourself stranded on the water, due to a lack of gas. This could happen because a marina failed to check the boat’s gas tank before letting the operator take it out on the water.

Then a storm comes up. The storm might bring rough waves which rock and pitch the boat until it sinks.

The boat sinks, sending everyone overboard, because no one checked the weather forecast for the area. Or, someone ignored warnings of inclement weather.

It is easy to see just how dangerous boating can be when ordinary safety measures slip. This is how serious, and even fatal, injuries can occur.

Injuries from Boating Accidents

A Recreational Boating Report by the New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation indicates the types of injuries most often sustained in recreational boating accidents.

These include: (8)

  • Death.
  • Drownings.
  • Amputations.
  • Back injuries.
  • Head and neck injuries.
  • Spinal injuries.
  • Burns.
  • Internal injuries.
  • Hypothermia.
  • Broken bones (fractures).
  • Dislocations.
  • Sprains and strains.
  • Teeth and jaw injuries.
  • Abrasions, contusions, and lacerations.

The more serious of these injuries can lead to expensive medical treatments, financial hardships, and stress, along with pain and suffering.

If you or a loved one have been in a boating accident, you should explore your legal alternatives.

Are you facing financial hardships after a boating accident? Call us now for a free consultation.

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Legal Options

The first step is to determine who is responsible for the incident leading to your injuries. You need to know this in order to file a personal injury claim to recover damages.

In New York, there is a statute of limitations (time limit) on personal injury claims. Personal injury claims must be filed within three years from the date of the accident. (9)

In certain types of cases, the time limit even may be shorter than three years. In New York, there is a 90 day Notice of Claim requirement. This must be filed if a municipal agency or municipality, or even a state agency, is involved.

It’s important to reach out to an attorney as soon as possible, to discuss and learn these rules and regulations. If you don’t, you may miss out on your legal window of opportunity.

Also, legal responsibility can be a complicated matter because accidents occurring on the water sometimes fall under state and local laws and at other times fall under maritime law.

Maritime Law

Maritime law (sometimes called Admiralty law) is the collective group of laws and procedures governing a wide range of activities on the water. This includes navigation, shipping, commerce, and recreation. (10)

Congress regulates U.S. Admiralty law and “placed Admiralty under the jurisdiction of the federal district courts.” (11) However, admiralty courts have limited authority and “state courts may have jurisdiction where the matter is primarily local.” (12)

What this means, in general, is if a recreational boating accident happens on a lake or river, it is likely covered by local and state laws. However, if it happens out at sea, it falls under maritime law.

Boating Jurisdiction Matters

Jurisdiction is important because maritime law and civil law are different.

The Practising Law Institute explains the two types of law developed differently. They have different purposes: civil law settles disputes between citizens of a single nation, while maritime law resolves disputes between parties who may be from different nations. (13)

Legal Options Depend Upon Your Status

Additionally, your legal options depend upon your status on the boat or ship involved in the accident, such as whether you are a passenger, crew member, or operator.

“The status of the individual [on a boat or ship] determines what you can sue for and what relief you are entitled to,” says Advocate magazine. (14)

Also, the legal concept of “duty of care” applies to boating accident cases just as it does to other personal injury cases. In a boating accident case, the operator owes the passenger a duty of care.

“Duty of care” means the operators must act in a way any reasonably prudent persons in their position would under similar circumstances. (15)

Advocate magazine explains, “passenger status creates the duty of the vessel owner to exercise reasonable care for the passenger’s safety.” (16) This is so because passengers place themselves in the care of the boat and crew until they reach the destination port.

Suing for an Accident

Lawsuits may also be filed by crew members and employees against the ship’s owner if it is unsafe or unseaworthy. (17)

Likewise, an owner/operator of a boat may be able to sue the manufacturer for flaws and defects in the make or design that led to an accident.

Nevertheless, to be successful your boat accident lawsuit requires experienced attorneys who not only understand state and local laws, but also the intricacies of maritime law.

W&L Can Help You

With more than 30 years of experience, our personal injury team has helped clients win verdicts and negotiate settlements worth millions of dollars.

Here are two of our successes:

  1. Boating Industry. (2020, July 16). May sets records in growth for new boat sales. Retrieved from https://boatingindustry.com/news/2020/07/16/may-sets-records-in-growth-for-new-boat-sales/
  2. U.S. Coast Guard Accident Statistics. (2020, June 2). 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.uscgboating.org/library/accident-statistics/Recreational-Boating-Statistics-2019.pdf
  3. Ibid.
  4. U.S. Coast Guard. Boating Safety Division. (2020, August). Statistics. Accident Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.uscgboating.org/statistics/accident_statistics.php
  5. U.S. Coast Guard Accident Statistics. (2019). 2019 Recreational Boating Statistics. Retrieved from https://www.uscgboating.org/library/accident-statistics/Recreational-Boating-Statistics-2019.pdf
  6. U.S. Coast Guard Boating Safety. (2019, March 1). Top 11 Causes of Boating Accidents. Retrieved from https://www.boatingsafetymag.com/boatingsafety/top-11-causes-boating-accidents
  7. Ibid.
  8. New York State Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. (2019). 2019 Recreational Boating Report. Retrieved from https://parks.ny.gov/documents/recreation/boating/RecreationalBoatingReport2019.pdf
  9. New York State Senate. (n.d.). The Laws of New York. Consolidated Laws. Civil Practice Law & Rules. Article 2 Section 214. Retrieved from https://www.nysenate.gov/legislation/laws/CVP/214
  10. Cornell Law School. Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Admiralty: An Overview. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/admiralty
  11. Ibid.
  12. Ibid.
  13. Practising Law Institute. (n.d.). The Scope of Maritime Law. Retrieved from https://legacy.pli.edu/product_files/Titles/6728/131980_sample01_20150515151255.pdf
  14. Advocate. (2017, November). Maritime Premises Liability? Not Really. Retrieved from https://www.advocatemagazine.com/article/2017-november/maritime-premises-liability-not-really
  15. Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute. (n.d.). Duty of Care. Retrieved from https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/duty_of_care
  16. Advocate. (2017, November). Maritime Premises Liability? Not Really. Retrieved from https://www.advocatemagazine.com/article/2017-november/maritime-premises-liability-not-really
  17. Ibid.

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