Almost 800,000 pleasure boats and other watercraft are registered in California. About 4 million recreational boaters in California take boats, kayaks, and other watercraft out of marinas and boat launches onto lakes, rivers, and the ocean for enjoyable outdoor experiences.
Unfortunately, boaters who disregard safety rules can be injured or killed in boating accidents. The Coast Guard reports that 450 recreational boating accidents in California caused 39 deaths, 235 injuries, and $6.3 million in property damage in 2021. If another boater acts recklessly, you can find yourself facing serious harm while out on the water.
If you have been injured while boating and need to pursue an insurance claim against another boater, you’re likely to find that boating accidents result in complicated claims. Insurance companies will seize any opportunity to deny or devalue your claim. You need to protect your rights after being injured in a boating accident by consulting with a knowledgeable boat accident attorney.
When you call Sam & Ash Injury Law, our team will provide personalized legal advice specific to your boating accident and injuries. Our Orange County, CA, boat accident lawyers have decades of experience protecting the rights of people like you. We have recovered more than $400 million for accident victims. If you are owed boating accident compensation for injuries caused by someone else’s negligence, we can demand What’s Right for you.
Call Sam & Ash Injury Law or reach out online for a free consultation. We’re available 24/7 to talk on the phone, text, or email on your schedule.
Common Causes of Boating Accidents
A boat is considered to have been in a reportable accident whenever there is a death, personal injury, missing person, property damage, or total loss of the vessel due to the boat’s operation, seaworthiness, equipment, or machinery, the U.S. Coast Guard says.
The 10 most common contributing factors to boating accidents are:
- Boat operator inattention
- Operator inexperience
- Improper lookout
- Machinery failure
- Excessive speed
- Alcohol consumption
- Force of wake caused by a boat’s speed
- Violation of navigation rules
- Hazardous waters
- Hazardous weather
The U.S. Coast Guard says alcohol consumption is the leading contributing factor in fatal boating accidents. Alcohol-related boating accidents account for 16% of deaths in which the primary cause of the accident was known.
Common boating accidents include:
- Falling overboard or within the boat
- Being ejected from the boat
- Sinking, capsizing, flooding/swamping, or grounding the boat
- Striking a submerged object
- Collision with another boat or object above the water
- A person being struck by the boat, its propeller, propulsion unit, or steering machinery
- Waterskiing accident or other mishap involving a towable device
- Fire or explosions on the boat or from boat equipment
- Carbon monoxide exposure
- Electrocution due to stray current on a boat
If you have been injured in a boating accident caused by someone else’s negligence or recklessness, you may have a right to seek compensation for your losses.
Common Injuries From Boating Accidents
It should come as no surprise that the most common cause of death in boating accidents is falling overboard and drowning. Many other injuries suffered in boating accidents are blunt-force trauma caused by the impact of a fall or collision. Other injuries stem from the operation of the boat, such as failure to vent gas vapors from the engine compartment.
Common injuries suffered in boating accidents include:
- Broken bones
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Traumatic brain injury
- Electric shock
- Internal organ injury
- Shoulder dislocation
- Spinal cord injury
- Sprains, strains
Boating accident injuries can be made worse if the accident occurs in an isolated area or far from shore and help is slow to arrive. Particularly in cold weather, an injured boater may develop hypothermia, which is dangerously low body temperature, or may go into shock because of an injury. Hypothermia and shock can be fatal if not treated promptly.
Who May Be Held Liable for Injuries in a Boating Accident?
Charges may be filed against a boat’s operator after an accident, such as for intoxication, speeding, running without proper lights at night, or failing to keep a proper lookout. Regardless of whether the at-fault boater is convicted of criminal charges, you will need to pursue a separate civil claim to seek compensation for your injuries.
It is best to contact a boating accident attorney as soon as you can after an accident. At Sam & Ash Injury Law, we can begin our investigation of a boating accident almost immediately after being contacted and can enlist specialists to assist us as required.
As your boating accident attorneys, our task is to determine how and why an accident occurred and who is financially responsible for your injuries. Determining liability becomes more difficult over time as memories fade and evidence literally washes away. One or more individuals could be held liable if their actions or failure to act caused the accident and your injuries. Parties who are typically found to be responsible for boating accidents include:
- Boat operator. The operator bears overall responsibility for the boat and its passengers. A boat operator might be liable for an accident because he or she was intoxicated, speeding, driving recklessly, failed to have an approved life jacket onboard for every passenger, or otherwise disregarded laws for the safe operation of the vessel.
- Boat owners. This includes individuals, companies, government agencies, and charter services. Boat owners who allow others to take their vessels out, particularly those who solicit the paying public, have a responsibility to ensure their boats are seaworthy and ready for safe operation. Owners who allow operators who are unqualified or inexperienced to pilot their boats may be held liable for accidents that could have been foreseen. Those who employ negligent boat operators may have vicarious responsibility for their employees’ errors.
- Crew members. On a boat large enough to have hired hands, negligent or reckless crew members may be held individually liable for their contributions to an accident, and their employer will have responsibility for their actions as well.
- There are many ways that people on a boat can contribute to accidents if they fail to follow the operator’s instructions or act in a reckless manner.
- Boat or boat equipment manufacturer. Sometimes, an accident investigation finds that a flaw in the design or manufacturing of the boat led to an accident. These cases may lead to product liability lawsuits on behalf of the injured.
- Marina mechanics. If faulty maintenance of a vessel, its systems, or equipment is found to be a factor in an accident, a service vendor contracted to care for the boat may be the object of an injury claim.
In some cases, multiple parties may have contributed to a boating accident and a case will result in multiple claims for compensation. As your boat accident lawyers, we would determine what party should be held liable for your injuries and calculate your full losses from the accident. We would present a demand letter to insurers who have extended coverage to the at-fault party with a description of the evidence supporting your claim.
Most injury claims are settled through negotiation. If the insurer refused to agree to a fair settlement, we would file a formal lawsuit on your behalf and be prepared to present a persuasive case in court.
Compensation for Boating Accident Victims
If you’ve been injured in a boat accident, the compensation you are owed will depend on the nature of the accident, your injuries, and how they have affected your life. We will calculate the total extent of your losses and seek full compensation for you.
Compensation that may be available in a boat accident claim includes payment for:
- Medical expenses from the treatment of your injuries
- Costs of future medical care that you need
- Lost wages and income during your recovery
- Damage to your future earning potential
- Your pain, suffering, and emotional distress following the accident.
Statute of Limitations for Boating Accident Claims
California has a statute of limitations that provides two years from the date of an injury to file a personal injury claim. If the boat accident victim is a minor, the two-year period doesn’t start until the individual turns 18 years old.
If a government agency is the defendant, you must file an administrative claim with the agency within six months of the date of the injury. The government has 45 days to respond. If the government agency denies your claim during the 45 days, you have six months from the date of the denial to file a lawsuit. If the government does not respond to your claim during the 45 days, you have two years from the date of the incident to file in court.
It is important to start a boating accident investigation as soon as possible. These cases are often complex and time-consuming. Time is required for you to recover so we know the full extent of your losses. If you fail to file your lawsuit before the statute of limitations deadline, your claim may be forfeited forever.
Contact Our Orange County Boat Accident Attorneys
Talk to an attorney as soon as possible if you’ve been injured in a boat accident in Newport Beach or the greater Orange County area of California. The legal team at Sam & Ash Injury Law is available 24/7 to take your call. We’ll move promptly to begin securing the evidence necessary to prove your claim and press hard for maximum compensation for you.
For a free case review, call us or reach out online now. We’ve built our firm’s reputation by standing up for What’s Right. We’re ready to fight for you.