Boating on our lakes, rivers, and the ocean is a recreational activity that many California residents enjoy—sometimes on a year-round basis. However, this is not always a safe leisure activity. Some boating excursions can turn tragic if the operator or guests are injured or killed in a boating accident. According to the United States Coast Guard, in 2016 there were 4,463 boating accidents that resulted in 701 deaths and 2,903 injuries.
If you or a family member suffered serious injuries in a recreational boating accident, you may not know which party owes you compensation for your injuries; you might not even be aware of the types of compensation you can demand. However, the experienced trial attorneys at Case Barnett Law are committed to fighting for justice and the compensation that our clients deserve when a negligent party caused their injuries in a boating accident. We can guide you through the process of filing your claim, investigate your accident, collect the evidence that you need to prove your case, and negotiate a settlement for the compensation that you deserve.
What Are the Causes of Boat Accidents in California?
While some recreational boating accidents are unavoidable, many are not. The fact that they could have been prevented can make the injuries or deaths feel even more heartbreaking. Common negligent actions that cause boating accidents include:
- Boat operator inattention. Like drivers of other types of vehicles, a boat operator must be attentive to the operation of his boat at all times and be alert for dangerous weather or water conditions, boats, and swimmers nearby. When a boat operator is distracted by talking on a cellphone or texting, talking to passengers, or eating and drinking, his distraction can easily cause a tragic accident.
- Operator inexperience. Like motor vehicles, boats take skill and experience to operate. When operators lack experience and training on how to handle the hazards that they could face on the water, they can make a poor judgment or can fail to spot a dangerous situation. The result may be that a person on the boat is seriously injured or killed.
- Excessive speed. Speeding while operating a boat can be very dangerous. An operator could lose control of his boat or collide with another nearby vessel, a dock, or another obstacle in the boat’s way.
- Intoxication. When a boat operator is intoxicated on alcohol or drugs, his decision-making skills, ability to judge distances, and reaction times—all necessary to operate a boat safely—are impaired. Intoxication is a factor in many serious injuries and fatal boat accidents.
- Inadequate lookout. A boat operator needs to appoint a person whose job it is to look out for hazards and for other nearby watercraft. When a boat operator fails to appoint someone to do this or the lookout is not attentive to his duties, an accident can follow.
- Navigational rule violations. Boat operators are required to know and follow navigational rules. When they do not know these rules or violate them, a collision or other accident can result. The boat operator may be held responsible for compensating accident victims.
- Weather conditions. Obviously, no one can control the weather. A boat operator who takes his boat on the water in dangerous conditions or does not operate his boat safely for weather conditions may be considered negligent if an accident occurs.
- Mechanical breakdown or defect. If a mechanical breakdown of the boat or a parts defect is the cause of an accident, an injured victim may have a claim against the boat repair facility or the boat and boat parts manufacturers, as well as against a negligent boat operator.
What Compensation Could You Deserve for Your Injuries in a Boating Accident?
Victims of a boat accident can suffer devastating injuries, such as traumatic brain injury, spinal cord damage, amputation, burns, broken bones, or drowning. They can be off work for months or longer while receiving medical treatment and recovering from their injuries—if they survive the accident. Fortunately, they may be entitled to the following types of compensation from the negligent party:
- Past and future medical expenses.
- Past and future lost wages and lost earning capacity if the person becomes disabled as a result of his injuries.
- Property damage.
- Pain and suffering.
- Wrongful death damages, such as reasonable funeral and burial expenses, medical bills, and loss of support and companionship, if the family member died as a result of his injuries.
When Should You Retain an Attorney for Assistance With Your Boat Accident Claim?
While in a few cases you can settle your boat accident claim on your own, most often you would be at a serious disadvantage if you did not hire an experienced boat accident attorney. When can you settle your claim by yourself? If you suffered only minor injuries with medical expenses of only $2,000 or less and the insurance company agrees to compensate you, you may be able to represent yourself.
In other cases, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible after your accident. Even if you believe the insurance company is offering you a fair settlement, you should take advantage of most attorneys’ offer of a free consultation to be certain that you are not waiving important rights and are truly receiving what you deserve.
In these situations you definitely need the assistance of an attorney:
- The other party was at fault in causing your accident, and you suffered injuries.
- There is a dispute as to fault or the seriousness of your injuries.
- You suffered partial or total disability.
- The insurance company is offering less in settlement than you deserve or has denied your claim.
How Could Settlement of Your Case Work?
Most boat accident claims will settle before trial. However, it could take time to get to this point in your case. Unlike other law firms, we are not afraid to take our cases to trial if that is necessary to obtain the compensation that our clients deserve and enjoy conducting trials.
At Case Barnett Law, we would begin your case by interviewing you and then conducting a thorough investigation of your accident. This process may involve many steps, such as visiting the accident scene, interviewing witnesses, and hiring any necessary experts. We will also collect all the proof of your damages, such as your medical records, medical bills, and lost wage and benefits documentation. Once you reach your maximum level of recovery or receive a final prognosis from your doctor, we will prepare a demand package to send to the negligent party’s insurance company and attempt to negotiate a settlement for your case.
If we are unable to settle your claim for what you deserve, we will file a lawsuit on your behalf and aggressively litigate your case. This can involve a lengthy discovery phase where we send out written questions to be answered, demand the production of documents that could help your case, and take depositions of the negligent party, his expert witnesses, and others. During this time period, we will continue to attempt to settle your claim when this may be productive.
The judge will schedule your case for trial if it is not resolved. However, keep in mind that litigation is lengthy, and it could take a long time before your case is heard at a jury trial. In addition, the insurance company may back down as the trial date nears and offer a reasonable settlement.
Let Case Barnett Law Help You With Your Boat Accident Claim
Our experienced boat accident attorneys are dedicated to fighting aggressively to help you obtain compensation that you deserve. We will provide you will the personal attention that we give all of our clients. We will update you regularly on your case and will seek your input on important decisions on your case. Call our office today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation and learn about your legal options.