Motorboats, sailboats and other recreational watercraft cause some of the most serious and long-lasting injuries experienced by our clients. People are injured on all varieties of pleasure boats as well as commercial ship operations.
These injuries arise during water sports, leisure boating and even while conducting business activities on boats and ships. Crash claims run the full gamut, from boats crashing into bridges and trestles to boats colliding with other boats, as well as boats slamming into rocks or other submerged objects. Accidents and injuries also occur when boats confront waves or large wakes caused by another boat.
One of our cases, for example, involved two couples on a small pleasure boat that were tossed violently into the air and seriously injured when a large wake was created by a speeding tugboat. Our law firm was able to trace the identity of the speeding tugboat from descriptions given by the two injured couples. We filed a federal lawsuit and recovered damages for our victims.
Boating accidents are usually attributable to the following:
- Inexperienced Operators. Many boaters aren’t properly trained or educated in the operation of their watercraft, and haven’t taken or completed the recommended or required boating safety classes.
- Unlicensed Operators. Many boaters don’t treat licensing requirements seriously, and they operate their vessels on public waterways without the proper license or credentials. Some operators have lost their licenses because of prior offenses.
- Inattentive Operators. The lake is filled with day-dreaming fishermen, party cruisers, and other inattentive boaters who aren’t paying attention to boating conditions and other boat traffic.
- Unpredictable Weather. Movies, books, and news stories are filled with true accounts of boaters who failed to prepare for changing weather patterns and got caught in life-threatening circumstances. Boaters often under-estimate the effect of high winds and other bad weather, and they over-estimate their abilities and experience in dealing with such situations. Boaters also negligently fail to maintain proper safety equipment on board in the event of adverse weather-related emergency.
- Defective Equipment. Equipment failure can lead to dangerous circumstances. Boating operators are responsible to maintain their watercraft in a safe and operational manner. This includes proper maintenance of engines and exhaust systems, safe boating surfaces and cabins, and properly-working lights and horns.
- Speeding and Reckless Boating. Boating operators are responsible to navigate at an appropriate speed, based either on posted or regulated speeds or based on the prevailing circumstances. Careless and reckless boating involves negligently blocking, interfering with or splashing other watercraft, jumping a wake in the vicinity of other boats while operating a personal watercraft, and allowing passengers to ride on the bow, transom or gunwales while a boat is moving.
- Intoxicated Boating. Operating a boat while under the influence of alcohol is a crime in the same way driving a motor vehicle under the influence is outlawed. Violators not only face fines and other penalties, including license suspension, but they are endangering their lives and those of their passengers, and other boaters.
- Failure to Yield. When two vessels are approaching one another, the boating operator must know the rules of the sea; that is, to avoid the risk of a collision, the operator must know whether to maintain course and speed, to yield, or otherwise. Failure to yield because of negligent failure to follow navigational rules can result in accidents and injuries.
- Passenger Misbehavior. Unruly, drunk, or disruptive passengers, who stand up when they should be sitting, who move improperly around the boat or who enter areas that they should not occupy, can be the cause of boating accidents. The operator may be “asleep at the wheel” and thus negligent in not getting control of such passengers.
- Waterskiing Mishaps. The operator of a boat is responsible for controlling the behavior, the position, and the activity of any skiers being pulled by the boat. A designated observer should be on board, and proper boating speed, navigation and control should be maintained to avoid skier mishaps.
- Overloading. When operators overload their vessels with more people than they can safely carry, they are placing everybody at risk. There may be an inadequate number of lifejackets aboard, and the combined weight of the passengers may exceed the maximum vessel weight allowed by the manufacturer. In the event of an emergency situation involving an overloaded boat, it may become difficult to carry out rescue operations.
- CO Poisoning. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a recurring risk on boats that have gasoline-powered engines or onboard generators. CO poses a problem when generators vent toward the rear of the boat where passengers may be congregating. CO that accumulates in the air space beneath the stern deck or on and near a swim deck can kill someone in seconds. The situation is riskier when boats travel at low speeds or idle for long periods of time. The boat operator is responsible to install and maintain proper equipment, educate his passengers about the risks, and ensure that exhaust outlets are not blocked or otherwise malfunctioning.
When a boating accident occurs, the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick immediately springs into action. We investigate all admiralty and maritime laws, all applicable regulations governing operator conduct and equipment maintenance, and all potential sources of insurance coverage. We explore whether proper safety procedures were followed and whether the necessary safety equipment was provided and utilized effectively, including life jackets, life rings, navigational lights, flares, loud whistles, and fire extinguishers.
Water-related accidents may also involve jet skis, wave-runners, and other personal watercraft. The term jet ski is actually a trademark for a kind of personal watercraft (PWC) manufactured by Kawasaki, and wave-runners are a trademarked PWC product manufactured by the Yamaha Motor Company.
The Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick targets negligent and reckless behavior that leads to boating accidents and other injuries on public and private waterways.