Boating Accident Lawsuit
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Boating Accident Lawsuit: How to File a Claim and Recover

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

With so many beautiful waterways, boating is a popular way to spend time with your family and best friends in Michigan. Regrettably, though, it can also lead to boating accidents, which result in high medical bills and devastating property damage.

If you’ve been involved in a boating accident and are unsure what to do next, contact an experienced boating accident attorney to learn whether you can file a lawsuit. Knowing what information you need to file a claim is essential. It can help you recover the compensation you deserve to pay medical bills, replace lost income, and dispose of damaged property.

Here’s all you need to know to file a successful boating accident claim.

Types of Boating Accidents

In 2018, 4,145 boating accidents occurred on the waterways in the United States. A boating accident involves an incident that causes injury or harm to one or more persons, including physical injuries and property damage.

The four most common types of boating accidents are:

  • Collision with another boat or watercraft: Both boat operators are usually partially at fault in collisions like this. Those injured may file a claim against both or just one depending on the circumstances.
  • Hitting a boat’s wake: Hitting another boat’s wake can jolt the one you’re on, knocking passengers down or even overboard. This can occur when no proper lookout is onboard, but other factors will also play a role. If the accident occurs in a no-wake zone, the boat creating the wake may be held accountable as well.
  • Hitting a wave: Waves happen, even on lakes, especially when the wind picks up. With no other boat operator to hold liable, you as a passenger must determine if you believe the boat operator was negligent.
  • Collision with a fixed or submerged object: A fixed or a submerged item may be a rock, land, or other object. Operator liability depends on the specific circumstances.

Other less common boating accident causes include fires, explosions, carbon monoxide poisoning, and accidents involving towable objects.

Causes of Boating Accidents

Boat operators owe a duty of care or legal obligation to operate safely, much like car and truck drivers. Common causes of boating accidents are like those found in car accidents, including:

  • Operator inattention
  • Careless or reckless operation
  • Boat operator inexperience
  • Operating at an unsafe speed
  • Failure to have a proper lookout

Federal and State Boating Laws

Boating accidents are mired in complexity, sometimes involving both federal and state law. The waterways are heavily regulated, and you must understand all the applicable laws when filing a boating accident lawsuit in order to recover on your claim.

Federal laws, or maritime laws, govern boating accidents that occur on transportation channels for both people and goods, called navigable waters. They also cover accidents involving commercial maritime activities.

In Michigan, state boating laws govern the non-navigable waterways. These laws cover boat registration, educational requirements, boat operator duties, speed regulation, and safety.

Depending on the accident’s location and type, both federal and state laws may apply. Working with an experienced boat accident attorney in Michigan can help you determine which laws apply to your case and how best to file your claim.

Boating Accident Lawsuit

Establishing Liability and Negligence

Establishing liability and negligence is at the heart of your boating accident lawsuit claim. To recover damages, you must prove that another party was negligent and that their negligence caused the boating accident.

One example of this is intoxication. In Michigan, a boat operator under the alcoholic influence at the time of an accident could be held liable in civil and criminal court. As a result, the authorities could confiscate the operator’s boat.

There could be several liable parties in a boating accident, including a boat operator, a boat owner, an employer, or a manufacturer. Whoever is liable dictates what you need to do when filing an accident claim.

Once the liable party is identified, you will need to prove three things in your claim. These include:

  • The liable party (e.g., boat operator) owed you a duty of care
  • The liable party breached that duty of care
  • The breach resulted in your injuries

Common Boating Accident Lawsuit Types

Boating accident lawsuits typically fall into one of the following types:

  • Boat operator negligence: The boat operator is liable because of reckless or distracted driving, intoxication, being improperly trained, speeding, or several other reasons.
  • Defective boat parts: The accident is attributed to a defective boat or faulty boat parts. Liability of this type can lead to a product liability claim against the manufacturer.
  • Passenger injury: If injured on someone else’s boat, an accident victim may file a lawsuit against the boat operator or a third party.
  • Work-related injuries: If injured while working onboard a boat, you can probably seek compensation through the Jones Act, which is similar to a workers’ compensation program.

Compensation in Boating Accident Lawsuits

If you’ve been injured in a boating accident, filing a personal injury lawsuit can help you recover both economic and non-economic damages. A few of the types of damages you can recover compensation for include:

  • Medical expenses for past, current, and future treatments
  • Lost wages due to inability to work
  • Property damage, including costs to repair or replace your boat
  • Physical and mental pain and suffering

Your personal injury attorney will thoroughly evaluate your case and determine any other potential damages to seek.

What to Do After a Boating Accident

If you’re planning a day out on the water, it’s best to be prepared in case of an accident. If one does occur, follow these steps to ensure everyone’s safety and help your lawyer create a successful lawsuit later.

  • Assess the accident scene: Determine if there are injuries and make sure everyone can access a safety flotation device if not near land. Drop anchor to note your location.
  • Call for help: Call 911 if cell service is available or make a distress call over your VHF radio.
  • Collect information: Safely collect information at the scene, including contact information for all involved. If there are witnesses or uninvolved passengers, ask for their information as well. Take photographs of damage and injuries if possible.
  • File a boating accident report with law enforcement.
  • Consult with a boating accident attorney: The sooner you meet with an attorney, the fresher the details of the accident will be in your mind. An experienced attorney knows what questions to ask to determine liability, how to work with insurance companies, and whether you have a lawsuit.

Before meeting with your attorney, make notes about the accident. What were you and your passengers doing at the time of the accident? Were you loading the boat with gear or disembarking? Were there equipment failures? Describe the environment, including any submerged or partially submerged objects.

Filing a boating accident first requires the compilation of essential information, including accident details, identification of liable party or parties, medical records, property estimates, and various other records. To ensure you are filing a solid claim which will lead to a successful outcome, work with a personal injury attorney highly experienced in boating accident law.

Contact Your Michigan Boat Accident Attorneys Today

If you’ve been involved in a recent boating accident, either as a boat operator, passenger, or worker, contact the dedicated boat accident lawyers with Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. We will review the circumstances surrounding your boating accident and determine how best to file your claim and recover the compensation you deserve. Contact us today at 866-MICH-LAW to schedule a free consultation.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Emily is a writer and legal professional with experience as a law firm paralegal and non-profit legal administrator. Prior to her legal career, Emily earned her Bachelor's Degree in International Affairs and worked with a government consulting group out of Washington, D.C. Today she splits her time between the Florida coast and the North Carolina mountains.



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