There are thousands of miles of coastline and countless waterways in the United States, which more people than ever are using for recreation and business every day. This, unfortunately, makes boating accidents involving injuries or death more common than one would prefer. Knowing who should be held responsible can be difficult when a boating accident occurs.
An experienced maritime lawyer can review the facts of your case to help you identify the potentially liable party. Boating accidents can be catastrophic, and several parties could be responsible for the injuries or death that result from the chaos. After determining whom you should sue, filing a boating accident lawsuit is a complex process because of the jurisdictional overlap of federal maritime laws and state laws.
The boat accident and injury attorneys at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A., have years of experience handling many types of boat accident cases. For a free case review, call us at (305) 204-5369.
Who Can Be Held Liable for Injuries or Death on a Boat?
Boating accidents are complicated because they can happen in numerous ways. The complexity of boat accidents means many defendants could be named in your lawsuit. The following is a list of those who could be liable for injuries or death on a boat.
The person operating the boat during the accident will typically be the first party to be assessed for fault. There are many important responsibilities that a boat operator has to their passengers or crew. Thus, there are numerous ways that a boat operator can negligently cause a boating injury or death. The following are some of the most common forms of boat operator negligence:
- Failure to provide for the safety of passengers
- Violating applicable boating laws and guidelines
- Operating the vessel under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- Operated the vessel recklessly
- Entrusted an unqualified individual to operate the boat
- Inadequate number of life-saving devices onboard
- Inexperienced or received insufficient training to operate the boat
Suppose a boat operator violated their duty of care and failed to keep the vessel in safe conditions for those onboard. In that case, they could potentially be held liable for the injuries or fatalities they cause.
Owner of the Boat
Boat owners are also commonly responsible for boating accidents. A boat owner must properly maintain their boat and provide safety equipment onboard. If injury or death were caused in a boat accident due to the boat owners’ failure to maintain their vessel, they could be held liable for negligence. They could also be held responsible if they negligently entrusted their boat to an operator that they knew to be careless or reckless.
Sometimes a boat accident is caused by the boat’s design or a component of a boat that is faulty or poorly designed. The boat or component manufacturer could be held liable when this occurs. A manufacturer can be held responsible if it is found that they made a mistake during either the engineering, testing, manufacturing, or installation phase of the product.
Rental companies are responsible for the upkeep and maintenance of the boats they rent. Rental companies have the same duties as individual boat owners but typically keep strict operating and maintenance schedules. However, a rental company could be negligent if they failed to follow safety regulations or negligently rented a boat to an unsafe operator.
Dock or Marina Owner
If the boat accident occurred while the boat was docked, the dock or marina owner might be responsible for the accident. Property owners are required to maintain their dock or marina and are liable for the injuries or deaths to customers and guests caused by their negligence.
If another passenger recklessly or negligently causes the injury or death of another passenger, they can potentially be held liable for their behavior. A negligent passenger can be incredibly dangerous to those onboard, as well as other vessels and swimmers in the water. Boat operators have a responsibility to manage dangerous passengers onboard.
Filing a Lawsuit for Injuries or Death on a Boat?
Filing a lawsuit after a boat accident involving injury or death can be confusing. Both federal and state laws govern waterways. Which court you file your lawsuit will largely depend on what legal jurisdiction the accident happened in.
Most private maritime claims are governed by federal admiralty law. Admiralty law consists of many domestic and international regulations for the operation and safety of a vessel. However, the federal jurisdiction overlaps with a state’s jurisdiction over waterways. In general, federal admiralty law will apply to waterways that share a border with multiple states. This typically includes large bodies of water, like the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and Lake Michigan. Waters are usually considered property of a state if the waterway shares no borders with another state. If the boat accident occurred in a waterway within a state’s borders, that state’s regulations would apply.
The jurisdictional requirements implicated in a boat accident will have an important impact on which court you will file your lawsuit in. The court you file your lawsuit with will be in the jurisdiction that your accident occurred in. For instance, if your accident occurred in an ocean or another body of water regulated by admiralty law, you would need to file your lawsuit in the federal court. If your accident occurred in a state waterway, though, you would need to file your claim with that state’s court. Remember, though, that attorneys need additional certification to practice in the federal court system.
There is also a deadline to file your boat accident lawsuit. The federal government and states each have a statute of limitations that provides a time limit to file your lawsuit before your case will no longer be heard. At the federal level, you will have three years to file your lawsuit. States differ on time limits, so it is important to check once you have determined the accident happened within the state. Our boating accident lawyers understand the complex world of maritime law and can help you make sure your lawsuit is filed on time in the correct court.
Our Boat Accident Injury or Death Lawyers Can Help
Our boat accident lawyers at Rivkind Margulies & Rivkind, P.A. are dedicated to helping the victims of boat injuries and death and are ready to provide you with your free case assessment. Call us today at (305) 204-5369.