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Boat Accident Lawyers in California Helping Victims Recover
If you have suffered an injury in any boating accident, you should consult with a boat crash lawyer about your legal rights. Injury victims have the right to be compensated for the losses they suffer as a result of their injuries. A boating accident attorney can help determine who is at fault for causing the accident, what insurance coverage and other sources of compensation are available to you, and how much your claim is worth. You don’t have to fight the insurance company on your own. Let the experienced boat accident attorney at Arash Law protect your legal rights so you can focus on recovering from your injuries.
California Boating Accident Statistics
According to the California Division of Boating and Waterways, fifty people died in boating accidents in California in 2016. The ten prior years had similar fatality numbers (ranging from a low of 38 to a high of 55). This fact means that about four people die every month in boating accidents in California.
A fatal drowning or injury is the worst possible outcome of a boating accident, but it is not the only consequence. The Division also reports that there were 266 injuries reported from 2016 boating accidents and nearly $4 million in property damage. The injuries resulted in lost wages, medical bills, and other economic damages that likely exceeded $4 million. The numbers show just how costly a boating accident can be.
How Boat Accidents Happen
Many factors can lead to a boating accident. If a boat operator is negligent and the negligence leads to an accident that causes injuries, he or she has a legal obligation to compensate the victims for their losses. This is why a boat accident lawyer’s first job is to determine whose negligence caused the accident. Here are some of the many ways that a person can be negligent in operating a boat:
- Splashing other boats
- Jumping a wake in the vicinity of another boat
- Violating low wake rules
- Failing to observe other watercraft in their vicinity
- Failing to maintain a safe distance from other boats or water vessels
- Failure to yield to another boat, jet ski, water skier or watercraft
- Overloading a boat with too many passengers or cargo
- Excessive speed
- Operating a boat while under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or Prescription medications (this can also be a crime)
- Operating a boat without sufficient experience or skills
- Failing to check weather conditions, or ignoring weather warnings
- Slippery boat deck
- Improper boat maintenance
- Proper safety gear is not on the vessel
- The boat operator is distracted
- Vessel collides with another boat or underwater object
- Contact with propellers
- Failing to know the “rules of the road”
- Overcrowding and overloading the vessel
Boat Operators are Responsible For Their Passengers
A boat operator has a legal duty of care that prevents operating a boat in an unsafe manner. The operator has the duty to identify and remedy any unsafe conditions on that boat. Unsafe conditions can include the conduct of passengers. If passengers are sitting in unsafe areas, or rocking the boat, or distracting the operator, it can be unsafe to continue boating. The operator has a duty to make these conditions safe. If he or she fails to do so, and an accident occurs, the operator can be liable for any injuries that occur. Boat operators must stop their passengers from engaging in any unsafe behaviors.
California Boating Law Requires Sounds and Alerts
There are many boating regulations and statutes that help ensure the safe operation of boats in California. Operators must follow these safety regulations to prevent accidents. If you fail to do so, you can be found negligent, which means you are legally obligated to compensate any injury victims for their losses. One of the most important safety regulations involves using your horn to alert other boats to your presence. Sounds or alerts are required in the following conditions:
When two motorized boats are traveling in the same direction, and the driver of one boat decides to pass the other, he or she must communicate appropriately with the other boat. The California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways has a guide that outlines the horn or whistle blasts that are appropriate in various scenarios.
During any period of limited visibility, it is vital to make sure that other boaters are aware of your presence. This includes dawn and dusk when sunlight is not at full brightness. It also includes overcast conditions. Most importantly, it includes fog. Fog is especially dangerous for boat operators. Be sure to use your horn and alert everyone in the vicinity to the presence of your boat.
Sharing Narrow Channels
Some vessels, such as deep-draft liners and freighters, can only navigate in narrow channels. Other boaters should never impede the safe passage of these vessels. When possible, boats should keep to the right side of a narrow channel. It’s also important to know that rules regarding anchor lights are different in these areas.
This is not, of course, a complete list of all situations in which you should use a horn or other sound system. Use your judgment and make your presence known any time you feel it is safer to do so. You should also be sure to check local boating regulations before heading out on the water. Different waterways have different rules – even within the same state. Boat operators are responsible for following all local regulations that apply to whatever area they are currently boating in.
Your Reporting Obligations
California law requires boat operators to report accidents that involve death, serious injury, or significant property damage. The Division of Boating and Waterways maintains a helpful website that provides information on how to make such a report. Reporting is required if:
- the boat accident resulted in a death or disappearance,
- the boat accident caused injuries that required medical attention beyond first aid, or
- there is more than $500 worth of property damage caused by the accident (or the vessel is completely lost, regardless of its value).
Failure to make a required boating accident report is a misdemeanor. If convicted, a defendant faces a fine of up to $1000, six months in jail, or both. A conviction could also affect your future boating privileges.
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Tips for Avoiding a Boating Accident
Boat operators have a legal obligation to operate their boats with due care. This means they must take reasonable steps to prevent avoidable boating accidents. Here are some basic tips all boaters should follow to avoid the risk of injury, death, disappearance, and drowning that are associated with boating accidents:
Start with a Boating Safety Course
A boat operator must know how to safely operate a boat. This means that he or she should be familiar with local regulations, state laws, safety procedures, and other critical information. You should also be sure you are comfortable operating your particular boat before going out into open water. Even if you have operated boats before, you might not be familiar with how this particular vessel handles. It’s like driving a rental car: before heading into traffic, you need to do a quick check of all your safety equipment. You should be sure that you know where everything is and how to use it. When you are comfortable with operating the boat, practice slowing in the harbor, or in areas where there is plenty of space between you and other boats. It is advisable to stay close to shore until you are comfortable heading into open water.
California law prohibits operating water vessels while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Even if you are not convicted in a criminal court, you can still be found negligent in a personal injury lawsuit. More importantly, you are exposing yourself, your passengers, and all other water users to the risk of death. It can be tempting to relax with a drink while you are out on a boat, but if you are the operator, the law requires you to stay sober.
It is also important to understand that this law applies to marijuana, as well. There are not set concentrations of marijuana that give rise to a presumption of impairment the way there are with alcohol. This can make it difficult for prosecutors to get convictions on impairment cases involving marijuana. But even if you are not charged criminally, and even if you use it for medicinal purposes, you can still be found negligent for operating a boat with marijuana in your system.
Check the Weather Before You Go Out on the Water
Weather is a contributing factor in many boat accidents. It is important to check the weather before you get out on the water. There are many websites and apps that can give you highly detailed weather reports. There are also websites that can give you specific information about water conditions and waterways that should be avoided. If you fail to take such a simple precaution, it is likely that you could be found negligent for getting into a boat accident related to the weather conditions.
Monitor the Weather During Your Entire Trip
Weather changes, and out on the water, it changes quickly. It is not enough to simply check the weather once before you launch. You must continue to monitor weather conditions for the entire duration of your trip. You should also keep current on Coast Guard warnings, currents, and other important news updates.
Be Sure You Have Proper Safety Equipment
As the operator, you are responsible for making sure there is proper safety equipment on board. This means that there are enough flotation devices for all your passengers, that they are in good working order, and that there are the right sizes for everyone (including children). You should also carry flags, flares, whistles, and other equipment that will help alert other water users to your presence. Your boat should also carry equipment to respond to emergencies on board. This includes a fire extinguisher, a first aid kit, and a radio or other means of calling for help if your mobile devices have no signal.
Maintain Your Boat Regularly
Like cars, boats require regular maintenance. Maintenance is even more important on a boat because it is not used as often as a car. Fluids can leak or dry out, parts can get brittle and crack, and many other problems can occur when you leave a boat in storage for long periods. You should get your boat inspected regularly. Hire someone to perform regular maintenance on your boat, and be sure this person is qualified to perform the work required. If you take a poorly-maintained boat out on the water, and an accident occurs, you could be responsible for any injuries that are caused.
Check Your Boat Every Time You Head Out
You may not be able to perform a full, legal inspection and scheduled maintenance every time you go out on the water. But It is important to give your boat a quick check every time you go out on the water. You should look for basic safety problems from bow to stern. Be sure that your safety equipment is present and working. Look for obvious cracks, breaks, or other damage. Check that your electronic equipment turns on, connects, and functions as it should.
Cruise Ship Injuries
Cruise ships can fall under unique jurisdictional issues. But when they are in California, they are subject to California personal injury laws. There are many ways a person could be injured on a cruise ship. You might slip and fall on a wet floor, or become sick from bad food at the buffet. Perhaps the ship’s doctor gave you inappropriate medical advice. In many cases, a cruise line will be liable for injuries passengers suffer on its ships.
Of course, just like any other boat, cruise ship injuries can occur because of the captain’s negligence. Cruise ship captains are held to an even higher standard of due care than recreational boat operators. This is because cruise ships are “common carriers.” A common carrier accepts payment in exchange for transportation. Because the operation of the boat is a commercial benefit to the carrier, it must use the utmost care and diligence in order to prevent accidents. Cruise ship captains that crash, or fail to adhere to weather warnings, or otherwise cause preventable injuries are often found to have violated this heightened duty of care they owe to their passengers. Cruise lines can also be responsible for accidents caused by poor maintenance, inadequate safety equipment, violations of regulations, and other safety issues. A cruise line must take all reasonable precautions to prevent passengers from becoming injured. If they fail to do so, they can be liable for any injuries that occur as a result.
Experienced Boat Accident Lawyers for California Injury Cases
Injuries can occur on water vessels of any size. Whether it is a large cruise ship, or a small motorboat, or even a recreational watercraft such as a jet ski, you should consult with an experienced boat attorney to protect your legal rights after any boating accident. You have the right to be compensated for your losses. The defendant’s insurance company will not protect this right for you, so it is important to hire an experienced boat injury lawyer to fight on your side.
Arash Law serves clients in San Francisco, Riverside, San Jose, San Diego, Sacramento, Sherman Oaks and throughout California. We have collected over 200 million dollars for clients across the state. Our California boat accident lawyers have decades of experience, and they know how to negotiate fair settlement offers with insurance companies. We also know how to prove cases to win at trial. Call (888) 488-1391 or contact us to schedule your free consultation