Boating is a common recreation activity for many people in Seattle, Kirkland, Bellingham, and Olympia during the summer time and when it is warm out. There are many lakes around the area, including Lake Washington, Lake Union, and Lake Sammamish, not to mention the Puget Sound. People boat for many reasons: to explore the natural world, for sport, to fish, take a vacation and sightsee. Boating is typically a fun and pleasurable activity as it allows us to enjoy going places we land mammals couldn’t go with our own two feet. Unfortunately, even in the world of boating, accidents sometimes happen.Washington State Boating Laws
According to the US Coast Guard, there are over 4,000 boating accidents per year in the United States, resulting in a few thousand injuries, a few hundred deaths, and upwards of $50 million in property damage. No one wants to get hurt, let alone die, when they board a boat. If you’re reading this you aren’t dead, so that’s a very good start! However, if you have been injured in a boating accident you may have recourse to sue for damages.
The key distinction that must be made in order to build a personal injury liability case for a boating injury is negligence.
In this case, negligence is defined as the failure of whoever was responsible for operating the boat to take necessary precaution measures, act with “reasonable care,” and ensure the safety of the boat and its passengers. For instance, if the captain of your luxury cruise gets drunk while on duty and crashes the ship into the shore or a jetty or another boat, whereupon an accident occurs and passengers are injured—he has demonstrated a clear case of negligence!
As with most accidents, however, negligence isn’t always so easy to discern or prove. Basically, you must demonstrate that the accident was caused by someone else, not you, and was not an act of nature or an otherwise unavoidable eventuality of boating.
There are four main kinds of negligence in boating accident injuries:1. Collision with Another Boat
When your boat collides with another boat, the fault of the accident will be attributed to one or both of the boat operators. In nearly every imaginable circumstance, colliding with another boat is an avoidable accident that is caused by negligence—in this case, failure to pay attention! If you are a passenger on a boat that collides with another boat, you likely have a very strong case for a personal injury liability claim. If you were the operator of a boat that collided with another boat, you must prove that the operator of the other boat was a fault. For instance, if you were anchored in a safe and legal place, and a speedboat came along and struck your vessel, you have a great claim.2. Hitting the Wake of Another Boat
Hitting the wake of another, typically larger boat is a more difficult case to prove. Boat operators are required by boating laws and regulations to take all necessary precautions to avoid hazardous situation, which means being aware of other boats passing by and the wake they may create for your boat.
However, liability could be attributed to the operator of the other boat if he or she violated boating safety regulations. But keep in mind that being on a boat entails the navigation of many waves, so you need to be prepared to handle a small amount of turbulence.
Determining negligence for injuries sustained when hitting the wake of another boat involves assessment of various factors, including: the size of the wake in proportion to the size of the boat you were on; the speed of both boats involved; visibility conditions that impact the ability to detect the wake of the other boat (and for the other boat to detect the presence of your boat); the amount of traffic in the area of the boat accident; and the failure of the operator of your boat to warn passengers of oncoming turbulence.
In order to determine whether negligence was involved in your boating accident injury, the court will look at whether either of the two operators of the boats involved did or did not act with “reasonable care” to ensure the safety of the boat and its passengers.3. Collision with an Underwater Object or the Land
Hitting something underwater in a boat is, at the least, annoying and, at the worst, disturbing. This kind of boating accident is often times another tricky one in which to determine negligence. Weather and visibility can certainly have a serious impact on the boat operator’s ability to navigate around underwater objects—even a jetty or the coastline.
Once again, common sense applies. If your boat operator fails to prepare for your trip by not using GPS or charts in unknown and potentially dangerous areas, he may be liable for the accident and your injuries. But accidents can occur even when all precautions are taken. To determine liability, or if negligence occurred, an honest and accurate assessment must be made of the boat operator’s attempts to maintain safety.4. Failure to Maintain Adequate Safety Equipment
All boats are required by law to have specific safety equipment in case of accidents or mishaps. Life jackets, fire extinguishers, life rings, and flares are just a few of the items that can be used in an emergency situation to prevent undue injuries.
Failure to have safety equipment on board can result in more serious injuries and complications following a boating accident or injury. Because boats are required to have safety items, any damage caused by not having these should be directly attributable to the boat operator.Common Boating Injuries
If you have been injured on a boat, you may be facing serious injuries. These injuries may include the following:
- Broken bones
- Head injuries
- Back injuries
- Knee injuries
These injuries rarely just heal on their own. Rather, they take the effort and coordination of a team of healthcare providers to get you back to health.How The Jackman Law Firm Can Help
After suffering serious injuries from a boating accident, you need an experienced and passionate attorney who can help you. The Jackman Law Firm can help you recover the following:
- Money for medical bills
- Money for pain and suffering
- Money for lost wages
- Money for out of pocket expenses
If you were married at the time of your injury, your spouse may be able to obtain money as well for what is called “loss of consortium.” As you can imagine, obtaining a lot of money, or the money you deserve for your injuries, may not be easy. Depending on the particulars of your case, there may be insurance coverage from the boat that harmed you. If there is, we have the experience and track record of successfully helping other people in similar situations win large settlements and win large verdicts in court. Let us help you when you need it most.
Feel free to call for a free consultation.