If you or someone you love has been involved in a boating accident in Long Beach, California, the experienced attorneys at Madison Law Group are here to help.
Californians love the water. With such a vast coastline and gorgeous weather, it’s no surprise that so many of us take to the water for both work and recreation. Unfortunately, this also comes with a risk of boating accidents. There are many ways in which a boat can get into an accident, many of them resulting in injury for the boat’s passengers.
Common Types of Boating Accidents
Boating accidents often cause disastrous damage to both property and the people involved. The most common types of boating accidents include:
- Collisions between two boats– This most commonly happens due to the reckless or impaired behavior of one of the boat operators.
- Capsizing or sinking– This happens when a boat is unbalanced, usually due to too much weight on board. It can also happen if there is an undetected leak on the boat, or if the boat faces bad weather.
- Flooding or swamping- Boats flood for many of the same reasons boats capsize. Too much weight, a leak, or extreme weather.
- Explosions or fires- Fires on boats are most commonly caused by gasoline fumes igniting. This can be due to a malfunctioning or defective part within the vessel.
- Someone falling overboard– Most cases of someone falling overboard are caused by alcohol. Someone consumes too much alcohol and then falls off the boat. It can also happen due to rough waters or bad weather.
- A collision between a watercraft and a swimmer– This can happen if a swimmer happens to go too far off shore, or if a boat comes too close to the shore. It is almost always caused by someone’s negligent or reckless behavior.
Any boating accident has the potential to be a disaster, so it is important to know and prepare for the risks involved anytime you are on or around the water. There are many different motor vehicles on the water, and any of them are subject to be involved in an accident.
Jet Ski Accidents
Jet ski accidents tend to happen due to careless or reckless behavior of the operator. If the operator is speeding or not paying attention to their surroundings, or if they have consumed alcohol before getting on the water, accidents can happen resulting in serious injuries or even death.
Most yacht accidents happen due to bad weather, mechanical failure, or human error. These large ships can cause accidents even when all safety precautions are followed. It is important to always have an experienced operator and check for weather updates frequently before going out on a yacht.
Fishing Boat Accidents
Fishers are often subject to working in dangerous conditions. Bad weather and poorly maintained boats can lead to devastating accidents. Even recreational fishers must be careful to maintain their boats to avoid possibly deadly consequences.
Pontoon boats aren’t as stable as some other boat types, and have a higher risk of capsizing in rough waters. They are also used to carry a large number of passengers, putting more people at risk. If you plan to rent one of these boats be sure to check the boat’s safety record and the operator’s qualifications before going out on the water.
The number of party boat accidents has gone up in recent years, and every one of them has resulted in injuries or death. Party boats are generally overcrowded and many guests consume alcohol. This has led to people falling overboard and drowning, and some of the overcrowded boats have even capsized.
Maritime Injuries in Long Beach, California
A boating accident can have catastrophic consequences for anyone involved. Damage to property will be the least of your concern if you find yourself facing serious injuries due to a Long Beach boating accident. Some of the most severe types of injuries that can happen include:
Broken and fractured bones: These tend to happen most frequently when someone falls overboard and is hit by the boat or propeller. Fractures are also common in a collision, such as the boat hitting another boat, a dock, or even a particularly aggressive wave. The impact can jolt someone into a solid surface, resulting in bone breaks and fractures.
Head injuries: Head injuries are no surprise when someone is involved in a boating accident. This can happen due to flying debris, being hit while in the water, and being thrown overboard. Concussions are the most common type of head injury and usually include symptoms such as headache, dizziness, and nausea. Some head injuries can cause bleeding and swelling of the brain and are sometimes fatal.
Traumatic brain injury: Boating accidents are one of the leading causes of traumatic brain injuries. These occur when the head is violently shaken, struck, or penetrated by an object. Some traumatic brain injuries are relatively mild, resulting in a brief loss of consciousness, confusion, or headache. But some can be much more severe, resulting in extended periods of lost consciousness, coma, or amnesia. TBIs are also associated with long-term memory loss, problems with learning, speech, mood and emotion, and physical function.
Coma: Comas are most commonly caused by severe head trauma. As head and brain injuries are one of the most frequent injuries sustained in boating accidents, comas unfortunately affect many boating accident victims. Comas happen when the brain swells and bleeds, requiring intensive medical care.
Paralysis: Paralysis is a result of a traumatic spinal cord injury. It is most commonly seen as the loss of two limbs (paraplegia) or four limbs (quadriplegia). This can happen when two boats collide, or if a boat capsizes and throws someone against a solid surface. This type of injury can significantly impact a person’s quality of life, often leaving them unable to walk or communicate the way they once did.
Drowning: Drowning does not always result in death, though that is how we tend to categorize it. Drowning happens when a person is unable to breathe for a prolonged length of time. The symptoms include coughing, vomiting, confusion, and seizures. Even if the person does not die, they may suffer life-altering, permanent injuries.
Death: Unfortunately, hundreds of lives are lost in boating accidents every year. Most of these deaths are caused by the careless or negligent actions of others. Deaths also happen due to the overuse of alcohol, unstable watercrafts, and passengers not wearing life jackets. Many of these accidents and injuries could be prevented if boaters followed basic safety rules.
When Should I Report a Boating Accident?
Some minor boating accidents do not need to be reported. But there are many instances where you are required by law to report. If damages to the vessel or other property exceed $500, or if the vessel is lost, you must report this to authorities. Additionally, if there is a death or missing person, the authorities must be notified. You can access forms to report boating accidents on the California State Parks Division of Boating and Waterways (DBW) website.
How Long Do You Have to Report a Boating Accident in California?
Reports must be submitted to the DBW within 48 hours if the accident resulted in:
- A death within 24 hours of the accident
- A disappearance of a person
- A serious injury that goes beyond first aid
Additionally, reports must be filed within 10 days of an accident if:
- A person dies more than 24 hours after the accident
- Property damages exceed $500 or if there is a complete loss of a vessel.
Failure to report an accident when required by law is a misdemeanor punishable by fines and/or imprisonment.
The DBW uses these reports to develop safety strategies and make recommendations to reduce the number of boating accidents and the injuries and fatalities caused by them.
What is the First Action Required of a Boat Operator After a Collision?
A boat operator involved in a boating accident should do the following things if they are involved in an accident:
Ensure the Safety of All Passengers
The first thing an operator needs to do following a boating accident is to ensure the safety of all their passengers. This is the legal duty of the operator to help anyone injured in the accident, to administer first aid, to help those that might have fallen overboard, or get passengers to a safe location.
The boat should be stopped immediately unless stopping would cause harm to anyone on board. For example, if the ship is capsizing or if it is in an area where it could be hit by other boats, it might be a bad idea. In those cases, it might be safer to try to get to shore, but otherwise, the boat should remain at the scene of the accident.
Document the Incident
Documenting the accident is important not only in the case of a civil claim being filed, but simply because it will make insurance claims much easier if there are pictures of the scene or statements from eye witnesses to the accident.
A boat operator should also provide contact information, the vessel’s identification number, and insurance information to anyone involved in the accident.
File a Boating Accident Report
The laws pertaining to when to file a boat accident report are listed above. If the accident fits any of the mentioned criteria, an accident report must be filed with the DBW within 48 hours.
Contact An Attorney
The boat accident attorneys at Madison Law Group can help a boat operator in the event of an accident by gathering evidence and navigating the claims process. We can also help you understand your rights and options when it comes to receiving compensation for your injuries or damages done to your boat.
What if I Was a Passenger?
If you were a passenger on a vessel and experienced an accident, it is equally important to ensure your own safety and well being. If you are able, take pictures of the scene, document any injuries you sustained, and get contact information from the operator and eyewitnesses. Be sure to get the vessel identification number and insurance information of the operator, as well. Madison Law Group can also help you navigate the claims process and defend you if the case needs to be taken to court.
Who is Held Liable in a Boating Accident?
Proving liability after any kind of accident can be difficult. Boating accidents are no different. Sometimes accidents are caused by unforeseen weather events, but most of the time, they are due to someone’s negligence. In that case, you are legally entitled to hold that person accountable.
If you’ve been involved in a boating accident in California, you may not know who should be liable. Liability could fall to the operator of a private vessel, or it could fall on a contractor or company. It could be the fault of a manufacturer or a combination of all of the above. This is why it’s a good idea to reach out to Madison Law Group so we can help you determine who is at fault, and whether negligence was involved.
General Negligence Law in California
If you were injured in a boating accident, you must be able to prove that your injuries resulted from someone’s negligence before you can recover compensation from that person. Just because an injury occurred, does not mean someone was negligent. Under California law, in order to receive compensation in a personal injury case, the injured party has to prove all four of the following:
- A duty of care was owed to the plaintiff (the injured party) by the defendant (the boat operator or other party responsible for the accident)
- There was a breach of the duty of care
- The injuries sustained were a direct result of a breach in the duty of care
- There are palpable injuries or property damage done to the plaintiff
A boat operator does have a duty of care to those aboard his or her vessel. But that does not mean the operator was being negligent at the time of the accident. For instance, in the event of a collision with another boat, both parties are likely somewhat responsible. One party may have a claim against the other if the injured party was less than 50% responsible for the accident.
If a boat hits a submerged object, the operator may or may not have been negligent at the time of the accident. If the operator was navigating carefully and using charts to get through a rocky area but still manages to hit a submerged object, they will likely not be proven negligent. But if the operator was zipping through a dangerous area with no charts in poor weather, the case for negligence is much stronger.
If an operator failed to follow navigational rules, if they did not have the proper safety equipment onboard, or if they were not experienced in watercraft operation, they may be found negligent in a boating accident lawsuit.
The attorneys at Madison Law Group have experience in negligence laws and can help you determine who was at fault and if the accident was due to negligence. If you’ve been in an accident, contact us today for an initial consultation.
Who Can I Sue After a Boating Accident?
- The boating operator: If the operator of the watercraft acted recklessly or negligently
- A passenger: If a passenger was intoxicated or careless and knocked someone overboard or otherwise caused the watercraft to crash
- The owner of the boat: If an accident happened on a commercial ship, it may be possible to hold the owner responsible
- A manufacturer: If any part of the vessel is defective and this causes an accident, the manufacturer may be liable for the accident
- A jet ski rider: If a rider acts recklessly or does not follow safety rules
- A lifeguard: This is not as common, but if a lifeguard failed to perform their duty, they may be found partially liable for injuries sustained
Who is Responsible for a Recreational Boating Accident?
Most boating accidents involve recreational watercrafts such as:
- Small yachts
- Fishing boats
- Jet Skis
The operator of the watercraft has the duty of care to navigate the vessel in a safe and responsible manner. They must follow the rules of the waterways, follow boating regulations, and be vigilant of their surroundings. An operator must also avoid reckless behavior including boating under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or they can be sued for negligence.
Commercial boating accidents are a little different than recreational accidents and have different standards involved. If you were involved in an accident as a passenger on a recreational boat, you may have a claim against the boat company or the owner of the boat.
If the accident happened while you were a passenger on a common carrier (such as ferries, harbor cruises, or “booze cruises”), these vessels are held to a much higher standard of care because they are businesses inviting consumers onto the boat. In these cases, the boat company may be liable for any damages.
What if the Accident was Caused by a Boating Company Employee?
Generally if an employee was negligent, the liability falls to the employer. Accidents caused by employees are generally due to an employer’s lack of training or supervision, making the employer vicariously liable for damages. Holding the employer responsible may also prevent similar accidents from happening in the future. An employer may also be directly liable for the accident due to negligent hiring procedures.
Can I Sue a Manufacturer if the Accident was Caused by a Defective Part?
When a defective boat or part causes an accident, you may be able to recover compensation for your injuries by filing a claim against the manufacturer responsible.
You do not need to prove negligence if the accident was caused by a defective product. Product liability claims have strict liability, which means it will only need to be proven that the accident was caused by the defective product. This generally includes:
- Proving the defendant manufactured, distributed, or sold the product
- Proving the product contained the defect when it left the defendant’s possession
- Proving you suffered an injury
- Proving the defect was a major factor in your injuries sustained
Can I File a Civil Suit if I Lost a Family Member in a Boating Accident?
Compensation in a wrongful death claim might come in the form of:
- Funeral expenses
- Burial expenses
- Loss of financial support the deceased would have provided
- Pain and suffering caused by the death of your loved one
Can I Still File a Lawsuit if I was Under the Influence of Drugs or Alcohol?
Even if you were intoxicated at the time of the accident, you might still be able to file a claim against another party. California has “comparative fault” laws which means you can still be awarded damages even if you share some fault. Your damages will be reduced based on your share of the fault. This means that if you are 40% responsible for the accident, you will only be rewarded 60% of the damages you’d be entitled to if you shared no fault in the accident.
Boating Under the Influence
Operating a boat or watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal in the state of California. Similar to laws on driving a motor vehicle, you cannot legally operate a boat if your blood alcohol levels exceed .08%.
There are no laws about having alcohol or open containers on a vessel, and the .08% law does not pertain to passengers on the vessel. But if you become intoxicated and fall overboard, you may be found partially liable for your injuries. This is dependent on the circumstances and will likely require the help of one of Madison Law’s Group’s boat accident lawyers so that you understand your rights and receive the compensation you deserve.
Compensation After a Boating Accident
If you were injured in a boating accident, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries. Compensation comes in the form of economic and noneconomic damages. Economic damages can include:
- Medical bills: Hospital visits, doctor appointments, surgery, and rehabilitation are all incredibly expensive. You may be able to receive compensation for these expenses.
- Loss of income: If you were forced to take time off work to recover from your injuries, you may receive a settlement to cover any lost wages.
- Loss of earning capacity: If your injuries were so significant that you can no longer work or grow within your place of employment, you can sue for your loss of earning capacity.
Non-economic damages can include things like pain and suffering. You might be able to receive compensation for the physical and mental pain you experienced following the accident and any subsequent suffering due to your injuries.
Insurance Coverage in Boating Accidents
Insurance companies generally will offer some kind of settlement following a boating accident. However, if the at-fault party did not have boating insurance, you will not be able to receive compensation from them. In these cases, it may be necessary to file a civil lawsuit to recover compensation for your injuries. The personal injury attorneys at Madison Law Group can help you with the process of filing a claim if no insurance is involved.
The Port of Long Beach
The Port of Long Beach is one of the top trade ports in the United States, handling trade valued at $200 billion every year and supporting millions of jobs across the country. 50,000 Long Beach residents work for the Port. This heavy traffic is good for the economy, but can lead to dangerous working conditions.
Maritime workers may experience serious injuries while at work, whether they are on or offshore. Accidents that occur on open waters are governed by special laws that may provide compensation for your injuries. Those that work on vessels are typically covered by either the Jones Act or the Harbor Workers Compensation Act. These cover injuries such as:
- Slipping and falling while aboard a vessel
- Those sustained while loading or unloading a vessel
- Those sustained while repairing a vessel
These laws can compensate you for damages such as medical bills, lost income, cost of recovery, and pain and suffering.
About Longshore and Shipyard Accidents in Long Beach, CA
The Act prevents workers from suing their employers, but you may still be able to sue third party vessel owners, contractors, and manufacturers of defective products, machinery, or equipment.
Some individuals are excluded from the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act, including:
- Seamen (masters or members of a crew of any vessel)
- United States (including state) and foreign government employees
- Employees who were injured by their own intoxication
- Employees whose injuries were caused by willful intention to harm themselves or others
The Act also excludes some individuals that are already covered by a state workers’ compensation law, including:
- Those employed to perform clerical, secretarial, security, or data processing work
- Those employed by a club, camp, recreational operation, restaurant, museum, or retail store
- Those employed by a marina and are not engaged in the construction, replacement, or expansion of the marina
- Those temporarily doing business for a maritime employer (such as suppliers, transporters, and vendors)
- Aquaculture workers
- Those employed to build, repair, or dismantle a recreational vessel under 65 feet in length
- Those small vessel workers that are exempt by certification of the Secretary of Labor
The Jones Act
The Jones Act is similar to the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act in that it provides compensation for work-related injuries to maritime employees. But those Seamen or “masters or members of a crew of any vessel” would be covered under the Jones Act.
Madison Law Group may be able to help you in the event of a workplace accident. Even if you are not covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act or the Jones Act, there are many other protections put into place for those that work for or around the Port of Long Beach. Give us a call for a free consultation to see how we can help navigate the claims process.
How Can a Boat Accident Lawyer Help?
The boat accident attorneys at Madison Law Group can help you in every step of the process following a boating accident. Our list of services might include:
- Gathering evidence from the scene of the accident, including video or photographs
- Speaking with witnesses of the accident
- Helping keep track of documents or records regarding your injuries and the accident itself
- Negotiating with insurance companies on your behalf
- Filing a civil claim in court if it is necessary for you to receive fair compensation for your injuries
Contact an Experienced Long Beach Boating Accident Lawyer
If you or a loved one experienced injuries in a boating or watercraft accident, you should discuss your legal options with one of the experienced attorneys at Madison Law Group. We will fight for you so that you can focus on your recovery.