Whether it be on Lake Michigan or Lake Wawasee or the St. Joseph River, Indiana has many great opportunities to enjoy the water. Whether it be a sunset cruise, water skiing, or a family trip, boats should be a fun experience for everyone involved. Those trips are often ruined when other boaters let inexperience, alcohol or recklessness endanger the lives of others. Thousands of people are injured or killed in boating accidents each year.
In 2009, the Coast Guard counted 4,730 accidents that involved 736 deaths, 3,358 injuries and approximately $36 million dollars of damage to property as a result of recreational boating accidents. Three-fourths (75%) of all fatal boating accidents in 2009 resulted from drowning. EIGHTY-FOUR PERCENT WERE NOT WEARING LIFE JACKETS! Seven out of ten who drowned were in open motorboats less than 21 feet in length. Overall, carelessness or reckless operation, operator inattention, operator inexperience and excessive speed are the leading contributing factors of all reported boating accidents. Indiana is no exception, with on-the-water injuries and fatalities being a common occurrence.
The most dangerous type of accidents are collisions with other vessels. Many forget that there are very specific nautical “rules of the road” that govern who has the right-of-way on the water. Just because you are on an inland lake or river does not mean that the rulebook is thrown out the window. The rules are easy to find and even easier to learn. http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/?pageName=navRulesContent.
A safe boater also makes sure that certain basic safety rules are followed. Children should always wear a life jacket. When something goes wrong, if they fall overboard, are injured or the boat is involved in a collision, children often panic and are unable to swim. Even children who are excellent swimmers are at risk if something goes wrong on a boat. There must be a life jacket for every child and adult on the boat. New boaters should be given a quick “tour” of even a small boat. The boat owner should explain the boat’s controls, where the anchor and navigation equipment is located and they should show where the life jackets and emergency equipment can be found. Explain what to do in the event someone falls overboard. If there is a radio, explain it’s operation. All these things only take minutes and may save a life (maybe your own.)
Unfortunately, too many people let alcohol affect their ability to safely drive their boat. Driving a boat while intoxicated is illegal, just like drinking and driving a car. Especially on our confined lakes and rivers, life or death can be decided in a fraction of a second. Numerous studies have shown that alcohol is a factor in many of the more serious boating accidents. Texting is also dangerous, even on the water. Don’t let this distraction keep you from maintaining a proper lookout.
Boat accidents are governed by a number of city, county and/or state laws. Most boat operators have a legal obligation to operate their watercraft in a safe manner. If they do not, there may be criminal charges, and the people who were injured may be entitled to sue for damages. Boat owners also need to be careful about allowing other people to drive their boats. No matter who is driving, if the boat is in an accident, the boat owner may be liable for the damages.
INDIANA BOATING ACCIDENTS
Failure to remain on the scene, provide aid and report the accident in a timely manner can be a crime. You should cooperate with rescue efforts and assist law enforcement in its investigation. Take pictures of the boats if you can. You should also report the incident to your insurance company.
Accidents involving boats often result in very serious injuries. Although most are due to unintentional operator error, other factors may also play a part in causing boating accidents. Boat accident lawsuits also can result when a boat operator causes an injury while operating a boat under the influence of alcohol or in some other negligent fashion.
If you have been injured in any kind of boat accident that was someone else’s fault, you have the right to be compensated for a wide range of things, including property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, permanent injury and pain and suffering. In the event that a death has resulted from your accident, you can file a wrongful death suit. If you have been injured in a boating accident, the following are important steps to take to prepare for a lawsuit:
See a doctor as soon as possible. Do not underestimate the injury from an accident. Back and neck injuries can be debilitating in the long term.
Get as much information as you can about your accident. Get the names, numbers and addresses of all people involved, including witnesses. You will also need to keep track of insurance information and the reporting process. Make copies.
Do not talk to anyone about your accident other than law enforcement officials. Anything you say to insurance company representatives or investigators could make it harder for you to settle your claim.
Do not sign anything, especially a release form, without talking to an attorney first.
Contact a boating accident lawyer as soon as possible. You may have a limited amount of time in which you can file a boating accident lawsuit. A competent boating accident lawyer can make sure everything gets done right.
At Sweeney Julian, we know how to handle boating accidents. Attorney Frank Julian, in addition to being an avid boater, served for years in the United States Navy and is a qualified Surface Warfare Officer. He has experience driving destroyers as well as large, deep draft vessels. Call Sweeney Julian today!