How a Boat Accident Lawyer in Livonia Can Help You

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

Livonia, Michigan residents are flocking to Michigan’s waterways from Newburgh Lake to Lake St. Clair as the temperatures continue to warm. The boat owner and operator should know how to handle boating emergencies, follow distress protocols, be familiar with Michigan’s boating laws, and properly inspect a boat before setting sail.

In Michigan, not all boat owners are required to complete a boating class to learn how to operate a boat safely. As a result, there are a large number of inexperienced and untrained boaters on the water.

It’s vital to be aware of the laws associated with boating, especially in Livonia, Michigan, during the summer and early fall. Consider hiring a boat accident lawyer in Livonia with years of experience working recovering compensation for those suffering injuries or the loss of a loved one in boating accidents.

What You Need to Know About Michigan Boating Laws

Boating accidents still occur despite the boating laws in Michigan designed to keep people safe out on the water. Failing to have a flotation device onboard or being hit by an inexperienced watercraft operator are just a couple of scenarios that could have serious repercussions. The best way to avoid injuries and watercraft damage is to adhere to safety regulations and ensure the operator of your boat has the proper training.

Michigan Boating Age Requirements

Boat operators who had not received boating safety instruction accounted for 77% of deaths compared to just 12% of boat operators with national boat safety education certificates.

Michigan’s boating laws have a significant impact on everyone’s safety when out on the water. Children under 12 are permitted to operate a watercraft as long as the motor has no more than 6 horsepower. However, children under the age of 12 can operate boats up to 35 horsepower if they have received a boating safety certificate and are supervised by someone 16 or older. Boats with more than 35 horsepower are always prohibited for minors under 12.

Michigan Personal Watercraft Age Requirements

PWCs (also known as jet skis, scooters, and wave runners) are not allowed to be operated by anybody under 14. When operating a PWC at the age of 14 and 15, the operator must have a boating safety certificate and be accompanied on the PWC or within 100 feet of it by their parents or a legal guardian at least 21 years old.

Anyone over 16 and born after December 31, 1978, may operate a PWC with a boating safety certificate. Anyone born on or before that date can operate a PWC without restrictions.

Michigan Life Jacket Requirements

In 2020 boating accidents, 86% of drowning victims had no life jackets. Several laws regulate boating in Michigan’s waterways, some enacted by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) and others that are Michigan life jacket laws. These include:

  • A personal flotation device (PFD) is required for every person onboard or being pulled, such as a water skier. Every PFD should be the right size and fit for their weight and chest size. The PFDs must be accessible and in good condition.
  • Children under the age of six must wear (Type I or II) life jackets when riding on the open deck of a boat.
  • Michigan law requires that a vessel less than 16 feet long, or a canoe or kayak, have either a worn (Type I, II, or III) or throwable (Type IV) PFD for each person on board.
  • For a vessel longer than 16 feet, one USCG-approved throwable device must also be available for use.
  • If you are operating or being towed by a PWC, you must wear a USCG-approved PFD and not an inflatable.

Michigan Boating Under the Influence

Alcohol consumption is the primary factor in 18% of deaths in fatal boating accidents. Just like driving under the influence, operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is prohibited in Michigan waters under these conditions:

  • The amount of alcohol in your body is 0.08 grams or more per 100 milliliters of blood, per 210 liters of breath, or per 67 milliliters of urine.
  • Your system contains any quantity of a controlled substance listed in Schedule 1 of the Public Health Code under section 7212.

Each subsequent offense often carries a higher penalty, including fines or imprisonment. If you cause death or serious injury while operating a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, this is considered a felony under Michigan law.

Michigan and Local County Watercraft Laws

Reckless boating is illegal in Michigan. Several things are prohibited, such as swerving in and out of traffic and harassing wildlife. According to Michigan law, if you’re within one mile of the coast on the Great Lakes, you can go no faster than 55 mph. The state specifies the distance that must be maintained when operating a boat or towing someone. Boats and personal watercraft must maintain a safe distance from shore, docks or rafts, other vessels, and designated swimming areas.

Michigan has general regulations and laws for boating and watercraft usage, and each county also has its own set of rules. For Livonia, Wayne County has certain boating restrictions and speed limits on lakes and rivers and also dictates safe distances from shorelines.

Involvement in a boating accident requires the legal services of an experienced boating lawyer in Livonia. You need someone who is familiar with the applicable state and federal boating laws and has worked on similar cases in the past to help you navigate the complex legal terrain.

Understanding Liability in Michigan Boating Accidents

Typically, motor vehicle accidents causing injury are avoidable if the drivers take appropriate safety measures. Unlike motor vehicle accidents, boating accidents involve unique liabilities that can be complex to assign without a boating lawyer. As you speak with your lawyer, they can help you understand what goes into determining liability in a boating accident in Michigan.

Boating Accident Mandatory Reporting

The accident may be investigated by everyone, from local police to the Coast Guard, depending on the location. You should notify law enforcement right away if there were any serious injuries or deaths. It is the boat owner and operator’s responsibility to report a death or an injury on their boat within 48 hours to Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources.

Filing a Claim for a Boat Accident in Michigan

Michigan boat accident claims may be subject to different regulations depending on the body of water where the boat accident occurred. Any boat or PWC accident on the Great Lakes is subject to admiralty and maritime jurisdiction. Boating and PWC accidents that happen on inland lakes or ponds are under general negligence laws. Due to these laws, claims may be filed in either the federal court or the local state court where the accident occurred.

General Negligence in Boat Accidents

If someone injures you in a boating accident on an inland lake, they are subject to general negligence law. You will need to show that the person who harmed you did not take reasonable care and that this failure caused your injuries or wrongful death.

If an accident occurs and other parties sustain injuries, you could be held liable if you are operating a PWC involved in the collision. Owners/operators are liable for all damages caused by the accident. Damages include medical expenses, lost wages, pain, and suffering, among others. A boating accident lawyer can assist in the process of determining negligence.

Defective Boats and Personal Watercrafts

The boat manufacturer might be responsible for damages if the boat’s defect in its design or construction led to the accident. A manufacturer is generally liable for defective products or parts in a product liability case. Personal watercraft and boats may also be subject to this broad product liability law.

Personal Watercraft (PWC) Accidents

Inexperienced operators and irresponsible handling and maneuvering are some of the reasons PWCs are involved in so many crashes annually. In a PWC accident, injuries can be serious or even deadly, including brain injuries or spinal cord injuries. Those who survive a wreck but do not have appropriate life jackets or flotation devices may drown after the fact. For this reason, you, as the operator or owner of the watercraft, must ensure there are always adequate thrown or worn flotation devices on board.

It may be possible to sue the responsible party for devastating collisions when a jet ski operator or boat operator is at fault.

Injuries from Boat Accidents

Victims may survive these collisions but suffer serious or fatal injuries. Depending on the extent of the brain damage, non-fatal drowning injuries can cause long-term disabilities such as learning disabilities, memory loss, and loss of basic functions.

For a lawsuit to succeed, an injured plaintiff must prove the operator’s negligence resulted in the crash. An experienced Michigan boat accident lawyer can help the victim of a boat accident establish and prove liability.

What are the Settlements for Boating Accidents?

There are two types of compensation for damages sustained in boating accidents in Michigan. The determination of non-economic damages depends on the facts of each case, and there is no fixed formula for doing so. The following are among them:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of enjoyment of life

The economic damages often referred to as financial losses, are easier to quantify and are given in absolute dollars. These include:

  • Lost wages and income
  • Medical bills and expenses
  • Physical therapy
  • Property damage, including boat repair or replacement costs

The surviving family members of a deceased boating accident victim may file a wrongful death lawsuit if the death is the result of negligence or reckless boating. It is sometimes possible to obtain compensation for the victim’s pain and suffering before death. Additionally, the family may want compensation for the loss of companionship resulting from the untimely death.

How to Prepare Before Meeting Your Boat Accident Attorney

Seek legal representation immediately following a boating accident to ensure you know your rights. During an initial consultation, the lawyer will ask you questions that will determine liability and whether you can file a claim.

If you want to file a boating accident claim, you will need several important documents, including your boat accident report and property estimates. Your attorney will need you to answer these questions:

  • How did the accident occur? What were you and your companions doing at the time of the accident?
  • Was the boat operator under the influence?
  • Did the boat include personal flotation devices (PFDs), and was it adequately maintained?

Contact a Boat Accident Lawyer in Livonia

Boating is a great way to enjoy the outdoors in Michigan. However, it can be dangerous if you are unaware of Michigan’s boating laws and regulations.

Following a boat accident in Livonia, Michigan, it is in your best interest to contact a boat accident lawyer at Cochran, Kroll, and Associates, P.C. We can provide you with sound legal advice, including how to determine liability in the accident and the process of filing an insurance claim.

Our accident lawyers bring a wealth of experience across many practice areas, including auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, and medical malpractice. We also work with residents of Southeastern Michigan, including Ann Arbor, Flint, Dearborn, Southfield, and Sterling Heights.

To schedule a free consultation for legal services with one of our experienced boat accident attorneys in Livonia, Michigan, give us a phone call at 1-866-MICHLAW (866-MICH-LAW) today or fill out our online contact form to request a callback.

FAQs

What are my chances of getting compensation if I delay filing my claim?

In Michigan, personal injury claims must be filed within three years. Legal advice is essential after any accident. To avoid missing out on claim compensation for your injuries, you should speak to a boating accident attorney at our law firm as soon as possible.

Do I need to accept an insurance company’s settlement offer?

A boat accident attorney specializing in personal injury cases can offer you advice on accepting compensation amounts from your insurance provider. The insurance company may try to get you to settle before you fully understand how much compensation you are entitled to. A boat accident attorney can negotiate with the insurance companies on your behalf to prevent costly mistakes that would hurt your claim.

Do I have to pay upfront to work with a Livonia boat accident lawyer?

We provide free initial consultations with no strings attached. Our consultations are confidential discussions with an experienced Livonia boat accident attorney about the specifics of your case. At Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C., we work on a contingency basis meaning there is no fee for our clients unless we win your case.

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.

Jasmine Holt is a freelance writer specializing in legal content marketing for attorneys and law firms. She hopes to provide better legal advice to the general public using her previous experience working with a franchise company and a law firm. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and traveling.

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