Recreational Boat Accidents and Liability
When the weather heats up across the United States, the waterways also fill up. Ponds, lakes, rivers, harbors, and seas are crowded with recreational boaters, sailors, and swimmers, all eager to take to the water for a little fun in the sun. But it’s important to remember that recreational boat accidents happen more often that you may imagine. In fact, the U.S. Coast Guard counted 4,158 accidents that involved 626 deaths, 2,613 injuries and approximately $42 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents in 2015 alone. Some of the main causes of accidents include operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed, and boating under the influence (BUI).
Below you will find relevant information about recreational boat accidents and liability, including which laws apply to your case, and where to go for legal assistance.
Recreational Boat Definition
When we hear the term "recreational boat," we might be unclear exactly what that means. Typically, a recreational boat can mean any of the following watercrafts:
- Personal Watercrafts (Jet Skis & Wave Runners)
- Kayaks, Paddleboards & Canoes
- Center Console Runabouts
- Cabin Cruisers
- Inflatable & Semi Rigid Inflatable Boats
- Go-Fast boats
Who is Responsible in a Boating Accident?
Typically, victims or their families may be able to sue the operator of the boat for negligence or for failure to provide reasonable safety, the owner of the boat, the manufacturing company, the rental company, or other passengers who acted in a negligent or reckless manner such as throwing someone in the water without a life vest, knowing he or she cannot swim.
Federal Maritime Law or State Tort Law?
Once you meet with an attorney, one of the first inquiries you may have is which law will apply to your case: federal or state. While these matters are highly complicated and require a skilled legal professional to help determine where you should file your lawsuit, basically speaking, a case will fall within 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."
According to federal law, navigable waterways are those waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide and/or are presently used, or have been used in the past, or may be susceptible for use to transport interstate or foreign commerce. If the accident did not occur on navigable waterways, state laws will control your case and will be filed in a state court. Again, you should consult with an attorney regarding your specific situation to determine which law will be applicable to your claim and for a common-sense definition of navigable waterways.
Recreational Boat Accidents and Liability: Related Resources
- Wrongful Death
- Proving Fault: What is Negligence?
- Water Safety Tips: US Army Corps of Engineers
Get Professional Help With Your Recreational Boat Accident Claim
Whether it's a pontoon or a sail boat, if you or someone you love has been the victim of a recreational boating accident, it's important to know your legal rights and how to go about getting compensation for your injuries. You can start the process today by contacting a personal injury attorney licensed in your state.
Contact a qualified personal injury attorney to make sure your rights are protected.