Boat accidents are common and pose a high risk of serious injury and death to the victims. Getting injured in a boat ride also exposes you to the risk of drowning. If the accident resulted from someone’s negligence or an intentional act, you are entitled to personal injury compensation. At the Clay County Personal Injury Attorney, we investigate the accident and fight for the best compensation on your behalf. We understand how complex personal injury cases can be and we are here to guide you through the process.
What Are Boat Accidents?
Boat accidents cover a wide range of incidents related to boating. They include any activity or occurrence that threatens the safety of the boat and its occupants. The US Coast Guard outlines three scenarios which are used to determine the occurrence of a boat accident
- A person on a boat dies or sustains injury beyond the help of first aid
- A person on a boat disappears and is thought to be dead or injured
- A boat causes damage or is damaged
Boat accidents include:
- Collisions between boats
- Collision with submerged objects in the water
- Collision with a wave
Boating accidents could occur due to the operator’s
- Negligence: This consists of all actions and non-actions of the boat operator that leads to a boat accident
- Inexperience: Boat operators in Florida should have an operating license and relevant education and training to operate a boat
- Carelessness: Carelessness occurs when the boat operator ignores safety rules such as texting while operating the boat. In certain cases, the boat operator fails to pay attention to the path they are following increasing the chances of colliding with another boat, running over swimmers and colliding with fixed objects
- Over speeding: Speeding over the limit increases the chances of collision and accidents such as passengers being thrown on the floor of the boat or overboard
- Weather: Bad weather causes conditions such as fog and storms which reduce visibility, and make it hard to navigate the boat
- Defects on the boat: Defects can arise due to failure to regularly maintain and fix issues with the boat. In other cases, the manufacturer may sell a defective boat which may lead to an accident cause injuries
- Boating under the influence: A boat operator should not operate a boat while intoxicated
In personal injury lawsuits after boat accidents, the plaintiff needs to prove the negligence of the respondent to secure a claim. That is, the operator was responsible for the boat accident which led to injuries or damages.
When you are involved in a boat accident, you need to ensure the local authorities are aware of the accident as soon as possible. Filing an accident report should be done within 48 hours of the accident where injuries or death are involved and within ten days where only property is damaged. The accident report should include details about the events leading up to the accident, the accident and the moments after the accident.
Boating Laws, Regulations and Requirements
Florida has laws that hold every user of waterways responsible for waterway safety. In addition, boat operators have the responsibility to take actions that will prevent the occurrence of collisions in the waterways. Boat operators are expected to follow three basic navigation rules:
- They should practice good seamanship
- They should constantly be on the lookout
- They should maintain a safe distance between vessels and maintain a safe speed
Power-driven vessels such as motorboats are required to give the right of way to various vessels including:
- An anchored or disabled vessel
- Vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver
- Vessels engaged in commercial fishing, and
- A sailboat under sail
Boating activities could occur during the night. In this situation, boating operators should take the necessary precautions such as having navigation lights. During the night, the operator should be on the lookout for other boats and use the appropriate lights to indicate their position and actions such as overtaking. Other rules applicable during the day such as giving the right of way to sailboats should be adhered to at all times.
Common Injuries in Boat Accidents
There are a number of common injuries for which you can file a personal injury claim after a boat accident. These injuries can result in temporary or permanent damages, result in your inability to work, and in some cases, death. Note that you’ll need proper medication immediately after suffering from these injuries to avoid more damages.
Drowning is one of the most common injuries from boat accidents. Regardless of whether the victim is a good swimmer, they may drown due to the impact of the fall into the water, being unconscious from an earlier head injury or are incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs.
- Brain Injuries
Boat accidents can result in brain injuries due to the impact of a collision. The collision could drop the passengers to the floor of the boat where they may injure their heads. In case the victim falls into water, they may suffer oxygen deprivation which leads to damage in the brain cells. Another common cause of brain injuries in boat accidents is the carbon monoxide released from the running engine of the boat.
- Spinal Injuries
Spinal injuries most result from the impact of collisions or spinal compression. Spinal compression occurs when the boat keeps bouncing up and down due to the impact of waves.
Lacerations are common in accidents which people are thrown overboard, or the boat moves too close to people who are swimming. The propeller blades can cause deep and severe lacerations to the victims and in some cases, amputations.
Whiplash is a common injury where the accident involves a sudden movement of the head and body causing trauma to the neck.
Electrocution occurs where the boat uses electrical systems. When electrical components are left exposed, they may come into contact with water causing electrocution. In some cases, they may cause an electrical burn to the victims.
Death is a common occurrence in boat accidents. Death can occur immediately during the accident or as the victim is healing from the injury. Death often leaves the family, friends, and relatives emotionally and psychologically scarred.
Negligence in Boat Accidents
Negligence is the general rule in personal injury cases arising from boat accidents. Negligence occurs when the boat operator fails to exercise his or her duty of care towards the passengers by engaging in an action or failing to act in situations that threaten the safety of passengers and other people in the water. You have to prove the negligence of the respondent to recover damages the injury has caused.
In addition, you have to prove that your injury is a result of the negligence of the respondent. In personal injury cases resulting from boat accidents, the respondents can be the boat operator, the boat owner, passengers, the boat manufacturer, the lifeguard and any other person who was involved in the accident. The cause of the boating accident determines the party at fault and the level of their liability, here are some of the common cases:
- Collision with Another Vessel
Where two motorboats collide, the operators of both motorboats have a liability to any passengers who are injured in the accident. Where the negligence of one of the operator caused the accident, the other operator can sue him or her for negligence. Boat operators are required to adhere to the navigation laws in Clay County. Where they violate these laws and cause personal injuries, they have liability and should reimburse damages to any injured parties. In collision cases involving a motorboat and a sailboat, the motorboat operator is at fault for failing to give way to the sailboat.
- Collision with The Wake of Another Boat
The law requires boat operators to be on the lookout for possible hazards in the water. Determining liability in cases of collision with wakes is often tricky. Some of the factors used to determine the party at fault include the size of the wake, the speed of the boat, visibility, boat traffic in the area, whether the boat is a motorboat or a sailboat and whether the operator warned the passengers of their approaching the wake. Where the other boat creates a wake in a no-wake zone or a crowded area, they are negligent.
- Hitting A Wave
A wave is a natural occurrence. The conditions surrounding the accident such as the speed of the boat and visibility determine whether the boat operator is at fault.
- Collision with A Submerged Object or Land
When the boat accident resulted from hitting a submerged object, the fault of the boat operator is determined by examining the prevailing circumstances. These circumstances include visibility, weather, the speed of the boat and whether the boat operator is using navigation tools such as nautical charts.
- Lack of Safety Equipment On the Boat
Boat operators are required to have basic safety equipment such as life jackets, navigation lights, flares, fire extinguishers, life rings, and loud whistles. Boating accidents that lead to drowning may occur due to the absence of safety equipment such as life jackets. Where the boat is stranded in the water, devices such as whistles and flares will help in calling for help from passing boats. Therefore, lacking basic safety equipment is a negligent act on the part of the operator and could lead to injury or the wrongful death of passengers.
- Boating Under the Influence
Boating under the influence is one of the common causes of boat accidents, especially in recreational boating. It is against the laws of Florida for boat operators to operate boats while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If your boat operator is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and his misjudgment leads to an accident and injury, then you can file a claim against the operator for being negligent.
To prove negligence in a boating accident, you need to show that:
- The respondent had a duty of care to the injured party
- The respondent breached their duty of care
- The respondent's breach of the duty of care resulted in your injury
Damages Available for Boat Accident Injury Cases
Injuries sustained in boat accidents fall under personal injury. The damages are paid for injury, permanent and temporary disability, medical bills, loss of earning capacity, lost wages, pain and suffering, mental distress and wrongful death. Where the boat accident causes the death of your loved one, you can file a wrongful death lawsuit to cover for financial loss and funeral expenses. The amount of damages you receive in a personal injury lawsuit depends on how well you prove the respondent was negligent.
Proving negligence begins at the time of the accident. You can record a personal statement detailing the events of leading up to the accident, take pictures after the accident where possible, record witness statements and their contact details and seek medical attention. You should also get in touch with a personal injury attorney to help you with filing for a personal injury claim.
Boat Accidents On Commercial Watercrafts
Where you sustained injury due to the negligence of an employee of a boat company, the employer is responsible for any accidents and injuries under the rule of vicarious responsibility. The employer is directly responsible for the actions and non-actions of their employees. The boating company may also be responsible due to their negligence in failing to properly train their boat operators, failure to provide adequate safety gear, failure to supervise the employee and failure to conduct regular maintenance on their boats.
Where the fault lies with the manufacturer, the employer can file a claim against the manufacturer for creating a defective boat. If the employer or employee had no fault in the accident due to a defective boat, then the manufacturer’s insurance will cover for resulting damages. The employer is found liable for any accidents resulting from their defective products under the products liability laws. Some of the defects on the boat could include manufacturing defects, inadequate warning for defects, and design defects. In such cases, the plaintiff should prove the respondent manufactured, sold or distributed the product, the product contained any form of defect, the plaintiff suffered harm from using the boat and the defect contributed to the harm on the plaintiff.
Boat Accidents in Recreational Boats
Sometimes, an accident can occur when you and your family or friends are out having fun on a recreational boat. In such cases, the driver or captain of the boat is responsible for the safety of the persons inside the boat. He or she is legally held responsible for ensuring that they adhere to navigation rules and regulations. They should exercise care for the people on the boat, other watercraft users and swimmers who are in the water.
Filing A Personal Injury Claim
When you or your loved one sustain an injury from a boat accident, you need to file a lawsuit against the at-fault party. In Florida, the statute of limitation for personal injuries is four years from the date of the accident. You are supposed to file the claim within this period to give you a chance at recovering damages from the injury.
Filing a personal injury claim begins with filing a claim to the insurance company of the party at fault. Filing the claim allows you to negotiate a settlement with the insurance company before taking your disputes to court. At this stage, it is best to hire a personal injury attorney who will help you negotiate the most suitable compensation for the injuries you sustain. When filing a claim, your lawyer will prepare a demand package, an introduction letter and attach relevant medical records. He or she will also include an initial demand for monetary settlement of a particular amount.
Where the insurance company accepts the liability of the at-fault party, the negotiations for settlement begin. The claims administrator will provide an initial settlement amount which sets the stage for negotiations. Your attorney then makes a counter-offer. The negotiations go back and forth until an agreement, or an impasse is reached.
When the insurance claim adjuster and your attorney cannot agree on the settlement offer, then the case proceeds to a lawsuit. The case may still be ended with a settlement or proceed to trial. Where the case proceeds to trial, you can expect the case to drag on for a considerable amount of time. Your lawyer should provide you with enough information to help you make the most favorable decision. When you decide to proceed to trial, you will be required to go through pretrial motions, depositions, jury selections, cross-examination of witnesses, recitation of jury instructions, closing arguments, deliberations by the jury and the final jury verdict.
Choosing A Personal Injury Attorney
Personal injury cases are often complex. To guarantee you are compensated fully for your injury, it is advisable to hire an attorney to help you while navigating the legal process. The attorney you hire should meet certain standards and have qualities that will increase your chances of winning the case. Some of these standards and qualities include:
The lawyer you hire should be licensed to operate in Clay County. Since this is your location, it will be easier to schedule meetings and consultations. In addition, their licensing would prove that they are legally allowed to represent your claim.
- Knowledgeable in Personal Injury Cases
You should hire a lawyer who has experience in handling personal injury cases. A lawyer who has gathered experience working on personal injury cases understands the ins and outs of the practice and can prepare a solid and convincing case, as well as negotiate for higher compensation for both economic and non-economic damages.
- The Reputation of the Lawyer
You can learn about the reputation of the lawyer by checking online reviews for testimonials. Select a lawyer who other clients are happy to work with.
- Disciplinary Record
Check online whether the lawyer has any disciplinary issues. These issues include lawsuits filed against him or her, suspensions and disbarment. Select a lawyer who has a clean disciplinary record.
- Success Statistics
You should examine the number of cases the lawyer has handled as well as the wins from these cases. The higher the success ratings, the better the lawyer.
- Years of Experience
Lawyers with more years of experience are more settled in personal injury cases. They know what works and what doesn’t work in such cases. Therefore, they are more likely to approach your case from a winning angle.
- Make The First Contact
Making the first contact with the potential lawyers you have identified gives you a feel of what you can expect from them, their customer relations and whether you would want to work with them. Make contact with as many as you can then select the one who meets your expectations and is relatable. When you contact these lawyers, ask them questions relevant to the case as well as questions related to their profession.
- Your Budget
Lawyer charge different prices for handling personal injury cases. In most instances, lawyers will work on a contingency basis, meaning they get paid when you win the case. In most cases, they charge 1/3 of your settlement claim. You should be aware of what the lawyer charges to determine whether they are the best fit for you.
The process of choosing a good personal injury lawyer could seem tasking. However, taking the time to select the best in the industry increases your chances of successfully recovering compensation for damages you sustain from a boat accident.
If you have been injured in a boat accident, contact Clay County Personal Injury Attorney to schedule a free consultation with our legal team. Our team will analyze your case, and if you let us, we will represent you in court as you fight to receive your injury settlement. We understand personal injury cases and have successfully represented many clients. If you are in Clay County, Florida, call us today at 904-494-8242 to discuss your case with us.