Recreational boaters swarm the waterways as the temperature rises across the United States. Sailors, rowers, swimmers, water skiers, and leisure boaters are all anxious to get out on the water for some fun in the sun. Ponds, lakes, rivers, harbors, and seas are all crowded with them.
It’s vital to keep in mind that incidents involving recreational boats occur more frequently than you might think. In actuality, the U.S. Coast Guard recorded 5,265 recreational boating accidents in 2020, resulting in 767 fatalities, 3,191 injuries, and over $62.5 million in property damage.
Operator inattention, inappropriate lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, operating the boat in hazardous conditions, and boating under the influence are some of the leading causes of accidents (BUI).
A particularly difficult boating activity is sailing. Sailing, as opposed to other forms of boating, like paddling or motorized boats, calls for a thorough understanding of the weather, wind patterns, and sail handling. Therefore, even though sailboats normally do not travel as quickly as other boats, there are a number of risks associated with maneuvering and managing the boat.
Risks and mishaps that may befall anyone on the boat include:
- Collisions under the boat with rocks or other items
- Accidents involving a dock
- Getting stuck (such as on the shore or on a sandbar)
- Accidents involving other boats
- Getting lost at sea
These kinds of mishaps might cause the boat to sustain significant damage (and other property as well). Additionally, accidents can result in injuries, such as drowning in more severe circumstances, head and neck injuries, abrasions, and broken bones.
State Tort Law or Federal Maritime Law?
After meeting with a lawyer, one of the first questions you might have is whether federal or state law will be used in your case. In general, a case will fall under federal admiralty jurisdiction and the general maritime law if it meets a “locality” test and a two-prong “nexus” test, including whether or not the injury occurred on “navigable waterways.” However, these issues are extremely complicated, so you should consult an experienced attorney before filing your lawsuit.
If the accident didn’t happen on a navigable waterway, state law would govern your case, and it will be filed in a state court. According to federal law, navigable waterways are “those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are currently used, or have been used, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce.”
Again, to find out which law will apply to your claim and to get a reasonable definition of navigable rivers, you need to speak with an attorney about your particular circumstance.
The difference between a wake accident and a wave accident is that no other boat can be held accountable. Therefore, the circumstances above will generally determine whether the boat’s operator was careless.
Impact with a Land, a Rock, or a Submerged Object
The boat can still strike a submerged object like a rock, even in ideal weather and visibility. Boats may go aground, collide with a jetty, or strike the coast in bad weather and with limited visibility.
Depending on the specifics of the collision with a fixed object, the operator may be held accountable. For instance, the operator is generally not likely to be deemed irresponsible if they struck a rock while carefully and slowly traveling while using nautical maps for the area.
However, it would be negligent if they were speeding through the thick fog without maps or a GPS and hit a jetty.
Lack of the Necessary Safety Equipment on Board
Even tiny pleasure boats must comply with federal and state boating safety laws and regulations by having a variety of safety gear on board, including life jackets for every passenger, throwable life rings, navigational lights, flares, loud whistles, and fire extinguishers. While a lack of the required safety equipment won’t likely result in an accident, rescue operations could be more difficult.
Flares and whistles enable the passengers to alert passing boats if the boat becomes incapacitated. Life rings and life jackets make it considerably simpler to bring someone back on board if they go overboard. A claim of negligence against the boat’s owner could result from the lack of adequate safety equipment on board.
The Impact of Insurance Coverage on Your Case
Even if another party was at fault, that does not automatically entitle you to compensation from them. The person will not be able to compensate you for your losses if they do not have boaters’ insurance and no assets. Injury on a boat is not covered by auto insurance.
Although not everyone has homeowner’s insurance and not all boat owners have boating insurance coverage through their homeowner’s policy, homeowner’s insurance may provide insurance coverage for these injuries. You also won’t be able to make a claim for this kind of accident under your own homeowner’s insurance.
The activities of other persons who do not have insurance are almost never covered by homeowner’s insurance plans, in contrast to motor vehicle coverage, which frequently includes uninsured benefits.
Who Is Responsible for a Sailing Mishap?
Many factors may be at fault for a sailboat accident. In many situations, the boat’s navigator can be held accountable for any carelessness shown when operating the vessel. For instance, if they were required to alter their course in order to avoid colliding with another boat but did not, they may be held responsible for any harm or injuries caused by the collision. If it is determined that the boat’s operator was under the influence when the accident occurred, more serious problems may occur.
Other sources may give rise to additional legal liability problems. For instance, the manufacturer of the boat or any equipment on the boat can be held accountable for the accident if there was a product flaw with the boat or any equipment on the boat (such as a faulty navigation tool).
Last but not least, boat rental firms may also be held accountable for providing customers with intentionally flawed or damaged boats. Similar liability may even be extended to careless individuals participating in a sailboat trip or boat charter.
What Legal Actions Can Be Taken After a Sailing Accident?
Property damage in a sailing disaster can be significant, and sailing casualties can be serious. Legal action may be necessary for many instances to properly resolve the compensation concerns for the party or parties who are not at fault. In most cases, a monetary damages award can be used to pay for costs like doctor and hospital bills, property repair or replacement (like when a boat or dock is damaged), and other losses like missed wages. Compensation for wrongful deaths may also be due, as in drowning cases.
Other remedies might also be applicable in situations where product liability is a concern. For instance, a harmful product or boat may be the subject of a product recall. Class action lawsuits may also occur if the same risk harms numerous individuals.
Do I Require Legal Counsel for Help with a Sailing Accident Lawsuit?
As was previously indicated, sailing accidents can be extremely deadly and involve a complex jumble of many rules (which can vary by state). You might need to engage a personal injury attorney in your area if you require assistance or legal research for a sailing accident claim.
Your attorney can advise you throughout the procedure and can also help you file your claim. Your lawyer can also speak on your behalf at hearings and meetings if you need to appear in court.