Boat Accident Lawyer
Determining liability following a boat accident can be difficult, as there may be many factors to weigh against each other. On the road, traffic laws are well-established and motorists have road markings and signs to guide them. As such, it is often fairly easy to establish liability following a traffic collision. It’s different on the water, where vessel operators have complete freedom of movement and need special training to handle a vessel. Physics are completely different on the water as well, so even when a collision does occur, it doesn’t mean anyone is at fault.
What Normally Causes a Boat Accident?
The vast majority of collisions can be grouped into one of four categories:
- A vessel collides with another vessel.
- A vessel collides with a dangerous amount of wake.
- A vessel collides with a dangerous wave.
- A vessel collides with a submerged object, like an ocean bank.
In any of these cases, the vessel operator may be negligent, or they may not. Circumstances dictate to what degree an operator failed in their duty. And negligence is what injured passengers will have to prove if they are to execute a claim.
Get Help from Our Houston Boat Accident Lawyer
Few collisions are easily defined when they occur on the water, but a personal injury attorney will consider every element of a case and ensure victims have every possible advantage during a settlement. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Who Is at Fault When a Boat Accident Occurs?
When two vessels collide with each other, both operators will likely share liability, so injured passengers may have a claim against both. How liable both operators are, exactly, will depend on how fast each vessel was traveling, whether either vessel was turning, and what kind of vessels were involved. For example, motor vessels are required to avoid sailboats in most instances, so motor vessel operators are required to yield to others.
When a boat accident is the result of a dangerous swell of wake, liability may again be split. If the wake is created in an isolated area that other vessels can easily avoid, then it is the responsibility of other vessel operators to avoid the wake. If, however, an operator created wake in a no wake zone (which is usually in most harbors and docking areas) or produced a large amount of wake in a congested area, then that operator may be considered liable.
When a wave damages a vessel, the only party that may be liable is the vessel operator. The vessel’s speed, location and the operator’s expertise will be weighed when determining liability.
There may be subjectivity involved as well when a vessel operator collides with a submerged object. If the operator was moving slowly and had navigation charts on hand, then they will likely not be considered liable. If, though, the operator was speeding through an area without any guidance, they may be considered to be acting recklessly. This is especially true when there is fog or other problematic conditions present.
A Boating Accident Lawyer Can Help You Navigate Complex Regulations
Suffering an incident on the open sea is extremely dangerous, as a vessel can be capsized, leaving people injured or worse, and this is why those that suffer this should seek out a boating accident lawyer. The regulations pertaining to maritime travel are complicated and difficult to follow for someone who is not well-versed in them, and it can be tough for a victim to know if the vessel that caused the harm was in violation of these laws.
The waterways that traffic around ships do not follow the same regulations that the nation’s roadways do. Thus, it is not always intuitive for someone to figure out who is at fault when something goes horribly wrong on the water. If the incident occurs at night, then it is even harder, and because responders to the scene may show up long after the damage is done, there may not be any authorities that can illuminate the situation right away. Because of these factors, it is best to seek out the help of a boating accident lawyer that is familiar with the complexities of maritime regulations before trying to take anyone to court over the damage.
How the Jones Act Relates to Boat Accidents
Among the regulations that track maritime traffic is the Merchant Marine Act of 1920. Also known as the Jones Act, this federal statue asserts that all vessels traveling from U.S. port to U.S. port and carrying cargo must have been built in the United States, must be owned by a U.S. citizen and must be operated by U.S. citizens. While some agencies have claimed this law is protectionism, it is an important set of statutes that ensure national security and the health of some industries in America. This is an important thing to keep in mind when an incident at sea occurs.
The reason why a boating accident lawyer will bring this to the court is that many companies that ferry cargo around the coastlines use employees that are illegal for these purposes. Many businesses try to cut costs by farming out jobs to cheaper labor or to illegal aliens, and this can be a safety risk and is in direct violation of the Jones Act. This is something that a victim is not going to pick up on right away, and likely won’t be able to investigate on his or her own. But it is crucial when there is an incident, and a boating accident lawyer has the ability and tools at their disposal to verify this for the client.
Our Boat Accident Attorneys Understand Coast Guard Regulations
In addition to the Jones Act, the Coast Guard has set up a number of navigation rules that should be followed, and any vessel in violation of these may be culpable for any damages or injuries caused. Things like operator inattention, excessive speed, reckless movement, improper monitoring methods and crew under the influence of alcohol are all major causes of harm to those traveling on the open waters, and because these incidents can cause major, permanent injury and deny a person’s ability to make a living, a victim should seek restitution with the professional help of a qualified boating accident lawyer. With expert guidance and counsel, the victim will have all of the information he or she needs upon walking into the courtroom.