Scuba diving may sometimes be considered an ultra-hazardous activity, and there are many reasons that scuba diving accidents occur. People sometimes scuba dive when they are out of shape.
As a result, they are unable to complete the same tasks they used to be able to complete. Deficient equipment is another common cause of scuba diving accidents. Running out of oxygen or using oxygen equipment that is poor in quality/defective can lead to scuba diving injury as well. Other causes of scuba diving accidents include:
- Insufficient or poor scuba diving training;
- Scuba product or equipment failures;
- Interference from wildlife, animals, or other divers;
- Miscommunications during dives; and/or
- Various other causes.
In some cases of scuba accidents, like interference from wild animals, no one can be held responsible for any occurring injuries. Often scuba divers are trained and aware of the dangers of diving where there is wildlife like sharks.
But in cases where the rented equipment failed, even though it was used properly, or the lead diver was negligent and put the other divers in danger, then it is likely that someone can be held responsible.
How Can a Plaintiff Recover Damages for a Scuba Diving Injury?
Personal injury torts are usually filed on grounds of negligence. However, many scuba diver instructors and schools will require students and divers to sign a liability waiver before they dive. This will release the school or instructor from legal responsibility in the case of injury or accident. This makes it much harder for a plaintiff to recover damages.
When assessing damages in a personal injury tort, courts and judges will consider assumption of risk by the plaintiff. If the plaintiff assumed risk knowingly by engaging in a dangerous or risky activity, it will be difficult to collect damages.
Contributory or comparative negligence is a legal term used when the plaintiff had some responsibility for the negligent conditions or circumstances that led to the injury. If a judge finds that comparative negligence is present, damages may not be awarded to the plaintiff, or they may be reduced.
What If the Plaintiff Waived the Right to Sue?
If the plaintiff signed a release of liability waiver before sustaining injuries in a scuba diving accident, it will be much harder to collect damages. However, there may still be some conditions under which damages can be awarded even if a liability waiver was signed.
The contract or liability waiver must be legal and complete in order to fully protect the scuba diving instructor. Minors cannot give consent or legally waive their assumption of risk on their own, so suits can be filed on their behalf even if they signed a liability waiver. In addition, if the owner or instructor was negligent or grossly negligent, it may still be possible to collect damages.
What is Needed to Prove a Scuba Instructor was Negligent?
In some cases, the cause of a scuba diving injury is the negligence of a diving instructor. In order to prove negligence, it is necessary for courts to support the following elements of proof with the proper evidence:
- Duty of Care: the diving instructor must first owe a duty of care to the plaintiff. In the case of scuba diving instruction, the instructor will usually be held to the same standards of care that an instructor with similar training, background, and certifications.
- Breach of Duty: the court must then prove that the instructor breached their duty of care owed to the plaintiff. An example of this would be if the instructor failed to properly run through the pre-dive safety checklist for a dive.
- Causation: the court must also show that the breach of duty was the direct cause of the plaintiff’s injuries. For instance, if the diver failed to do a pre-dive check, and equipment failed as a result, causing injury to the student diver, they might be found liable for the injuries
- Damages: lastly, the court must show that the instructor’s negligent conduct resulted in real, measurable damages to the plaintiff. This can usually be shown through hospital bills and other expenses that result from the injury.
Gross negligence generally follows a same structure of proof; however, the instructor’s conduct must be particularly egregious or dangerous in order for gross negligence to be found. An example of this would be where the instructor knowingly provides oxygen tanks that are certain to fail during a dive.
What Types of Damages are Available in a Scuba Diving Lawsuit?
Scuba diving injuries can be serious and can result in various legal remedies. In most cases, a damages award will be issued to the plaintiff to compensate them for their losses. These can include losses like hospital bills, pain and suffering, lost wages, and other costs. In cases where a fatality occurred as a result of the defendant’s negligent conduct, wrongful death damages may also be applied as well.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help with a Lawsuit?
Personal injury suits are difficult cases and the area of law is complex, especially if the plaintiff has waived the right to sue. If you have been injured in a scuba diving accident or need to defend yourself against a scuba diving suit, it is important to retain a personal injury attorney near you to protect your interests during settlement negotiations and in court.