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.
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.
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.