Boating accidents account for some of the most serious and traumatic personal injury cases we see at Davis Law Group. All too often, disasters on the water aren’t due to random chance. Usually, when a boat is involved in an accident--whether it’s a massive cruise ship or a tiny personal watercraft--investigators find after the fact that someone caused the problem due to their own negligence.
Personal injury cases involving boats can be very complicated, due to the nature of boating accidents and common insurance issues that arise. In Washington state, the driver or owner of a boat or other personal watercraft may be held liable for an accident, just as the driver or owner of a car is liable for an accident.
However, many boating accidents happen outside the jurisdiction of state law, such as international waters, which are governed by a federal law called The Jones Act. These cases are even more complicated, and proving liability is not quite the same process as going to the at-fault party’s insurance company after an accident. It’s a good idea to consult an experienced personal injury attorney before proceeding with a boating or maritime accident claim.
Award-Winning Boating Accident Attorneys
Davis Law Group, P.S. founder Chris Davis is one of the most respected and recognized civil litigation lawyers practicing in Washington State. Davis Law Group has been named Best Injury Law Firm in Washington State by AI Dispute Resolution Awards.
If you have been injured in a boating accident, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney who is experienced in handling maritime accident claims. Mr. Davis and the entire legal team at Davis Law Group have years of experience handling serious, high-damage accident claims. Call 206-727-4000 for a free, no-obligation consultation.
Boating Under the Influence (BUI) Accidents
Alcohol use is the leading known contributing factor in fatal boating accidents; national crash data shows that in situations where the primary cause of a boating accident was known, BUI was listed as the leading factor in 17% of all deaths.
If you are pulled over by a police officer while operating a boat and you are found to be intoxicated, you may be arrested and charged with Boating Under the Influence (BUI). Like a Driving Under the Influence (DUI), this is a very serious charge that carries a heavy fine and even jail time if you are found to be a repeat offender.
Maritime Law In Civil Injury Claims
In some cases involving boating accidents, Washington state law will apply to the people involved. Boats are treated similarly to cars under Washington’s laws; it’s illegal to operate a boat under the influence, you must have a license in order to operate certain types of boat, and you are expected to keep your boat in good repair. Cases involving boating accidents on lakes and rivers will usually be covered under these laws.
In some cases, however, a boating accident will happen on land that is not subject to a state’s laws. These cases usually involve large ship disasters in open water or incidents at large ports subject to federal laws. In these cases, a maritime law called the Jones Act is in effect. The Jones Act covers professional seamen while they work offshore; it also may apply to private citizens who are passengers on cruise ships and other private vessels. The Jones Act also covers some items in the ocean that aren’t technically boats, even if they’re considered a “vessel” for legal purposes. Workers on oil drilling rigs are covered under the Jones Act, and sometimes aircraft such as helicopters may be vessels subject to maritime law if they are flown over certain areas of the ocean.
Jones Act cases are held to a different standard of proof than most personal injury or worker’s compensation cases. Unlike most worker’s compensation cases, injured workers covered by the Jones Act can seek compensation both from the owner of a vessel and the company that employed them, even if those entities are not the same. It’s often difficult for an injured victim to figure out which laws apply to their case when they’re dealing with the aftermath of a boating accident. It’s a good idea to consult with a personal injury attorney in these cases, since maritime law can be complicated.
Various Types of Maritime Accidents
“Capsizings” and “Falls Overboard” accounted for 386 fatalities, nearly sixty percent of all reported boating fatalities. Nine out of every 10 of those victims drowned . “Collision with Another Vessel” was the most reported type of accident.
These accidents resulted in 1,366 injuries and accounted for nearly nine million dollars in property damage. Twenty-six children age 12 and under lost their lives while boating in 2001. 137 boaters died in the 40-49 age group category -- the highest number reported for any age group.
Types of Boating Accident Casualties By Types of Vessels
Three hundred and fifty-two fatalities occurred with the use of open motorboats, just over half of all boating fatalities. One hundred and one people lost their lives while using canoes/kayaks in 2001. 93% of canoe/kayak deaths were caused by drowning.
Fifty reported fatalities occurred with the use of Personal Watercraft (PWC), the lowest number of PWC fatalities reported since 1993. Approximately eighty percent of all reported injuries were associated with the use of open motorboats (46%) and PWC (34%). Lacerations were the most reported type of injury for open motorboats. For PWC, broken bones were the most often reported type of injury.
"Boater Safety." Public Health - Seattle & King County. King County, WA, n.d. Web. <http://www.kingcounty.gov/healthservices/health/injury/water/boater.aspx>.
"Boating Accident Statistics." USCG Boating. U.S. Coast Guard's Boating Safety Division, n.d. Web. <http://uscgboating.org/statistics/accident_statistics.php>.
"Boating Accidents." Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission. Washington State, n.d. Web. <http://parks.state.wa.us/456/Boating-Accidents>.
"Boating Fatality Facts." American Boating Association. The American Boating Association, n.d. Web. <https://americanboating.org/boating_fatality.asp>.
"Essel-Accidents | Washington Boating Handbook." Boat-ed.com. Kalkomey Enterprises, Inc., n.d. Web. <https://www.boat-ed.com/washington/handbook/page/48/Vessel-Accidents/>.
"Stay Safe While Boating." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. US Department of Health & Human Services, 20 June 2012. Web. <https://www.cdc.gov/features/boatingsafety/index.html>.
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