Boating Laws and Regulations
When using any kind of watercraft, make sure local laws and regulations are followed at all times. In California, anyone operating a boat is required to be at least 16 years old if the boat has more than 15 horsepower. Anyone who is under the age of 25 and operating a boat must finish an approved safety course before they can legally operate a powerboat.
While boating, pay attention to the speed of the boat when close to the shore. It is illegal to operate the boat at more than five miles per hour if there are swimmers or surfers within 10 feet of the boat. It’s also illegal to go more than five miles per hour if the boat is within 200 feet of any beach that typically has swimmers.
Like with driving, it is illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Boaters with a blood alcohol content of more than .08% can be charged with boating under the influence if they are stopped or if they cause an accident. When a boating accident does occur, many situations do require it to be reported to the authorities.
When to Report a Boating Accident
The law does require many boating accidents to be reported, but not all of them. It’s not necessary to report an accident if there are no injuries or minimal damages. Boating accidents do need to be reported if the following is true.
- Someone Dies – If someone dies while boating, the accident must be reported to the authorities. It does not matter what caused the death.
- Someone Disappears – If someone disappears while boating, the authorities must be alerted immediately. This way, it is possible to start the search for the person as soon as possible.
- Someone is Seriously Injured – If someone is injured and requires medical attention, the accident must be reported. It is not necessary to report minor injuries that can be handled with a first aid kit.
- The Boat Receives Significant Damage – If the boat is totaled or if the damages exceed $500, it is necessary to report the accident. The accident doesn’t need to be reported if the damages are minor and inexpensive to fix.
Those who are unsure whether a boating accident needs to be reported can speak with a lawyer about the situation. Lawyers experienced with maritime law know how to tell if the accident will need to be reported and, if so, can help their client with creating and submitting a report.
How to Handle a Boating Accident
Boaters should know what to do if an accident occurs. The very first thing to do is seek medical attention for any injuries. First aid kits should be on board and alerting the coast guard about the accident can allow for faster medical assistance for severe injuries. If someone goes overboard, do not jump in after them without a secure way to return to the boat. It is better to toss something into the water to help them climb out. Someone who is drowning can easily pull others down with them, without meaning to, and this could lead to more deaths or more severe injuries.
If the accident meets the above requirements, it is necessary to report it. When reporting the accident, avoid admitting guilt or fault for the accident, as this could mean any claim for compensation is denied. Stick with the facts and avoid saying anything that could be construed as an admission of guilt. After reporting, gather as much information as possible about the accident, including photos of injuries or damages, contact information for witnesses, and insurance information for anyone who may be at fault. All of the information gathered can be used to help determine who is liable and to show how much compensation is needed for the injured person.
Determining Liability for Gaining Compensation
It’s not always easy to determine who may be liable for a boating accident. This is one aspect of personal injury law that is often more complicated than it seems. Those who are injured while in a boat or due to being hit by a boat will want to work with a lawyer who understands personal injury and maritime laws. Some of the potentially liable parties for a boating accident include the following.
- Boat Operator – The operator of the boat may be liable if they were not attentive or failed to follow safety protocols while in charge of the boat. They can also be liable if they were under the influence while in control of the boat.
- Boat Staff – Other staff members on the boat could be liable for the accident if they do something to cause a crash or injuries.
- Boat Designer – If there is a defect in the boat’s design and an accident results, the designer of the boat could be liable for any resulting injuries.
- Boat Manufacturer – If something was not done correctly when the boat was constructed, the manufacturer could be held liable for any injuries that result from the mistake.
- Other Boaters – If the accident occurred due to one boat hitting another, the boat operator that caused the accident could be liable and may be required to pay compensation for anyone injured on the boat that they were operating as well as the one that was hit.
Getting the Right Help Before Accepting a Settlement
When a boating accident does happen, the insurance company for the liable party may be willing to offer a small settlement. It’s generally not a good idea to accept this settlement, as it’s usually far lower than what the injured person may be entitled to for their injuries. Instead, it’s always a good idea to seek legal assistance before accepting the settlement. Once a settlement is accepted, it can be difficult or impossible to seek more money if it turns out the settlement was not sufficient to cover all accident-related injuries and damages.
Maritime laws can be complex and are different from other laws, so it is important to work with someone who has experience with boating accidents. This provides the injured person with the advice and help they need to make sure any settlement accepted will be sufficient. Compensation does vary based on the extent of any injuries or damages as well as the potential for general damages. General damages are those that do not have a set dollar amount, such as loss of enjoyment of life for anyone who is permanently injured as a result of the accident.
If you’ve been in a boating accident, knowing what to do next could be crucial and can help you limit the extent of any injuries. Once you’ve received medical care and reported the accident if required, the next step should be to work with a lawyer who has experience with personal injury and maritime laws. This way, you can get the help needed to obtain compensation for your injuries. Call our office today to learn more about how we can help or to set up a consultation and discuss your case in detail with a lawyer.
FAQs About Boating Accident Injuries
It’s not unusual for you to have many questions after you’ve been injured in a boating accident. You will want to have a consultation with a lawyer to get answers that are specific to your case. Before your consultation, however, read through the following to get more general information about what to expect and what you should know while moving forward.
What Steps Should be Taken After a Boating Accident?
After a boating accident, seek medical care immediately for any injuries. It is possible to contact the coast guard for assistance if someone sustains serious injuries and requires faster medical attention. Once this is done, the boating accident may need to be reported. From there, it’s a good idea to start working with a lawyer to gain compensation for any injuries from the liable party.
What is the Top Cause of Boating Accidents?
The leading cause for boating accidents is inattention or distraction of the boating operator. A boater who is not paying attention can easily miss hazards in the water and end up causing an accident. Other common causes include failing to look out for hazards, speeding, inexperience, equipment failure, and boating while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Any of these situations can lead to severe injuries for anyone involved as well as significant damages to the boat.
What Types of Injuries are Common in Boating Accidents?
Boating accidents can cause severe injuries, including traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, broken or fractured bones, crushed bones, and more. They can also lead to drowning and, in fact, 40% of all drownings are attributed to boating accidents. Some of those who are injured in a boating accident may end up traumatized, as well, and will need to seek mental health care on top of the medical care they may need.
What Types of Lawsuits are Typical After a Boating Accident?
If anyone is injured in a boating accident, they can start a personal injury lawsuit to gain compensation from the at-fault party. If someone dies as a result of the boating accident, their next of kin may look into a wrongful death lawsuit. Both types of lawsuits include attempting to obtain compensation for injuries, though a wrongful death lawsuit also includes compensation to cover more expenses, such as funeral and burial costs.
What Can be Done to Prevent a Boating Accident?
Following safety procedures can significantly reduce the potential for a boating accident to occur. These include wearing a life jacket while on the boat, checking equipment before using the boat, and avoiding drugs or alcohol while operating a boat. It is also important to make sure someone is paying full attention to the boat when it is moving, as inattentiveness is the leading cause of accidents.
Is it Required to report a Boating Accident?
Yes, but not all of the time. Boating accidents need to be reported if someone dies or disappears, if there are serious injuries that require medical care, or if the boat suffers damages that exceed $500 to repair. Boating accidents that do not meet these requirements do not need to be reported.
Who is Liable if a Boating Accident Occurs?
Liability can be complex for boating accidents, so it is a good idea to work with a lawyer to determine the correct liable party. Liable parties can include the boat operator, the staff on board, the designer of the boat, the manufacturer, and other parties.
What Types of Compensation Can be Obtained From a Boating Accident?
Compensation will depend on the injuries sustained. Economic damages include coverage for medical bills, future medical expenses, property damages, and lost wages. General damages can include loss of enjoyment of life for permanent injuries, loss of companionship for the loss of a loved one, and more. Punitive damages may be awarded in some situations. If someone dies as a result of the accident, compensation can also include funeral and burial costs.
Is it Necessary to Hire a Lawyer After a Boating Accident?
Injured persons should always work with a lawyer after they have been injured due to someone else’s negligence or direct action. This provides the person with the opportunity to seek compensation for the injuries and to make sure the amount received is sufficient to cover all accident-related expenses. This applies to boating accidents, as well. Anyone injured in a boating accident will want an attorney on their side to handle the legal parts of the situation and make sure the insurance company offers a sufficient amount of compensation.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim After the Boating Accident?
In most cases, injured parties have two years to file a claim for a boating accident. However, there may be some exceptions to this. If the statute of limitations runs out and a claim is not filed in time, the injured person may no longer be able to seek compensation for their injuries. This will mean any expenses will need to be paid out of pocket instead of through a settlement. Working with a lawyer enables the injured person to make sure they do not miss any important deadlines and do not run out of time to file a claim.
If you’ve been injured in a boating accident, these FAQs may answer some of the questions you have about the situation. For more detailed answers, you will want to have a consultation with a lawyer. Call us today to set up your consultation and to get the chance to learn more about what could happen in your specific situation.