Personal Injury Lawyer

Several unfortunate boating accidents have recently been in the news. Two boats collided on the Colorado River. Nine people were injured and at least three passengers died. One passenger is still missing.

None of the boaters in the Colorado crash were wearing life jackets. Whether enough life jackets were available for all the passengers is unclear.

The cause of the collision is under investigation. It seems reasonably clear, however, that the operator of at least one of the boats was careless.

Boat operators, like drivers of cars and trucks, are expected to obey safety rules and to operate boats with caution. And just like drivers, boat operators can be held accountable for personal injuries and wrongful deaths that they cause by their negligence.

Negligent Boating

In another recent accident, a 7-year-old girl and her father were being towed on an inner tube behind a ski boat when they were hit by a pontoon boat. The father was injured but his daughter was killed.

Boat operators have a duty to maintain careful observation of the water in the direction of the boat’s travel. Swimmers, water skiers, jet skiers, rafters, scuba divers, and other boaters may be found in any part of a lake or river. The failure to watch the water is the usual cause of boating accidents.

Just as distracted driving is an increasingly common contributor to traffic accident statistics, distracted boating places everyone on the water at risk. Boat operators who are sending or reading texts, watching videos, scrolling through contact lists, or doing anything else that diverts their attention from the water are operating the boat negligently.

Other acts of negligent boating include:

  •   Operating too fast at night or in conditions of poor visibility
  •   Failing to have required lights at night
  •   Failing to have a life jacket on board for each passenger
  •   Carrying more passengers than the boat can safely handle
  •   Allowing a child to operate a boat without supervision
  •   Failing to assure that children are wearing a life vest at all times

Operating a boat while impaired by the consumption of alcohol is just as dangerous as driving after drinking. A high percentage of boating accidents are caused by intoxicated operators. While most drivers stop drinking before they drive, it is common for boaters to have alcohol on board their watercraft. Boat operators who are drinking will often fail to realize that they have consumed too much alcohol to continue operating the boat safely.

Boating Accident Injuries

When boating accident victims die, death is usually caused by drowning. Other deaths are caused by propellers, being hit by another boat while in the water, or serious injuries that result from fires or explosions on a boat.

The serious injuries that boat passengers may experience include:

  •   Amputations
  •   Wounds and resulting infections
  •   Head and brain injuries
  •   Spinal injuries
  •   Internal injuries

Survivors who were underwater before being revived by CPR may face disabling brain damage if they were deprived of oxygen for too long before they began to breathe again.

Survivors who do not fall overboard may still suffer from injuries caused by falling within the boat, including:

  •   Broken hips and other fractures
  •   Lacerations and infections
  •   Neck and back injuries
  •   Torn or stretched muscles, ligaments, and tendons
  •   Nerve damage

Burns and disfigurement are among the other possible consequences of boating accidents.

Sources of Compensation for Boating Accidents

The victims of accidents caused by a boat operator’s negligence are entitled to compensation, including reimbursement of medical expenses, lost wages, the cost of coping with a disability, and pain and suffering. Commercial boat operators are nearly always insured, but there is no guarantee that a private boat operator will have insurance.

Most states do not require boat owners to carry liability insurance, although a couple of states require liability insurance if the boat has a motor of at least 50 horsepower. Owners who take out a loan to purchase their boats may be required by the lender to obtain liability coverage as well as property damage insurance. In addition, marinas typically require liability insurance as a condition of mooring the boat at their facilities.

Homeowners policies may cover boats, although they typically exclude boats that are larger than a canoe or boat accidents that occur on water unless the policy owner purchases additional coverage. However, people who can afford a boat often realize that they should purchase liability insurance to protect their other property.

When no insurance exists, it may be possible to recover compensation from the operator’s other assets. A personal injury lawyer will investigate all sources of compensation in order to maximize the available recovery for injury victims.

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