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Understanding Your Rights After A Boat Accident

Boating accidents are notorious for serious or fatal injuries. Recovering compensation is complicated by state and federal laws and the unique considerations in investigating accidents on the water.

Godwin, Morris, Laurenzi & Bloomfield, P.C., offers this FAQ to answer some basic legal questions you may have about boat accidents and liability. Please reach out to us if you need legal representation or have specific questions not addressed here.

Our experienced attorneys represent victims of boat accidents on the lakes and rivers of Tennessee, Kentucky and surrounding states. Contact us today for a free consultation.

How is a boating accident claim different from a car accident?

Boat insurance policies are unique from auto insurance policies. The accident investigation is complicated because the vessels drift or sink and don’t leave telltale evidence like skid marks. Maritime laws may affect liability or compensation, and maritime torts generally have a longer statute of limitation than other personal injury lawsuits. Jurisdiction may be disputed, such as a boat accident on the Mississippi or Tennessee River (did it happen in Kentucky or Tennessee?). The main takeaway is to seek an attorney who has specific experience with maritime law and boat accidents.

What is a maritime tort claim?

A tort is a lawsuit alleging injury caused by another party’s negligence or other wrongdoing. Maritime law is the body of laws that govern nautical vessels and crews. A maritime tort refers to vessel accidents occurring on navigable waters, including lakes, rivers, canals and harbors.

Who is liable for a boating accident?

Every boat accident is unique. The operator of the vessel is responsible for safe operation and following the “rules of the road” on public waterways. The owner of the vessel may be liable, even if they were not present, if the boat was not seaworthy or if they were negligent in entrusting the boat or personal watercraft to a minor or intoxicated person. The manufacturer of the boat or equipment could be subject to a product liability lawsuit for defects that led to injury. If the other boat was a commercial vessel, the employer and/or the boat owner would be on the hook. There could be other third parties, such as government entities or marina owners, who caused or contributed to the accident through their negligence or reckless behavior. A lawsuit can name more than one defendant.

What damages can I recover in a boat accident lawsuit?

Victims of boating accidents are entitled to the same damages as any land-based accident: medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, lasting impairment or disfigurement. The lawsuit would also cover property damage, such as boat repairs or replacement if the vessel was totaled or sunk.

What happens if the other boater is not insured?

Neither Tennessee nor Kentucky require boat owners to carry liability insurance. As a result, thousands of boat and personal watercraft owners are operating without any insurance. In the event of a collision, you may be out of luck unless you purchased uninsured boater coverage on your boat policy. Otherwise the only recourse is to bring a claim against the boater’s personal assets.

What rights do maritime workers have in boat accidents?

Crew members of a commercial vessel can bring a Jones Act claim against their employer for negligence or unseaworthiness. They could also bring a personal injury claim against a third party such as a recreational boater who caused a collision or injury.

Get A Respected Legal Team On Your Side

Our AV-rated* attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experience in injury law. Our firm is committed to maximizing your compensation and aiding your recovery. If you or a family member was seriously injured in a boat accident, we can discuss your situation in a free consultation. Call us at 901-528-1702 or toll-free [at nap_phone id=”TOLL-FREE-REGULAR-NUMBER-2″], or email us and we will respond soon.

*AV®, AV Preeminent®, Martindale-Hubbell Distinguished and Martindale-Hubbell Notable are certification marks used under license in accordance with the Martindale-Hubbell certification procedures, standards and policies. Martindale-Hubbell® is the facilitator of a peer-review rating process. Ratings reflect the anonymous opinions of members of the bar and the judiciary. Martindale-Hubbell® Peer Review Ratings™ fall into two categories – legal ability and general ethical standards.