Louisiana's many beautiful streams, lakes, and waterways – along with the Gulf Coast and the great Mississippi River – offer some of the finest recreational opportunities anywhere. However, carelessness, intoxication, and bad weather can all cause tragedies on the water.
If you're injured in a boating accident on Louisiana waters, can you be compensated? What steps should you take? Will you need a personal injury attorney's help? If you keep reading, you'll learn the answers to these questions and more about boating accidents, injuries, your rights and if you will need a Lafayette boating accident attorney.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that human error accounts for seven out of ten boat accidents and that one-third of all boating fatalities are alcohol-related. Reckless operation, careless navigation, and operating a boat while intoxicated all constitute negligence.
IF YOU'RE INJURED IN A BOATING ACCIDENT, WHO CAN HELP?
Boats do not have safety equipment such as airbags or seat belts, so even a low-speed boating collision can cause catastrophic injuries. In this state, any violation of the boating rules spelled out by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is considered evidence of negligence.
In most cases, if you're hurt in a boating mishap because the boat operator – or another boat's operator – was careless, you're entitled under Louisiana law to full reimbursement for medical expenses, lost income, and your other accident-related damages and losses.
Every boating accident and personal injury case is different, so injured victims of negligence will need to obtain personalized advice from a Lafayette injury attorney who has considerable experience handling the personal injury claims that arise from boating accidents.
TO BE COMPENSATED FOR YOUR INJURIES, WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO PROVE?
To qualify for compensation if you're injured in a boat accident, merely being injured is not enough. You and your personal injury attorney must prove your injury was caused by another person's negligence – someone else's carelessness, indifference, or failure to behave cautiously.
State law requires boat operators who are involved in boating accidents to stop at the scene, render assistance to any injured parties, and report the accident within five days to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.
State and federal law also requires even the smallest personal and commercial boats to carry life vests, flares, and fire extinguishers. If someone is injured or if a boat becomes disabled, a lack of safety equipment can trigger a negligence claim against the boat's owner and/or operator.
HOW IS LIABILITY FOR BOATING ACCIDENTS DETERMINED?
How does an injury claim that arises from a boating accident work? That answer will depend – first – on the type of accident and whether the boat you were on hit or was hit by another boat, hit a submerged object, a wave or another boat's wake, or ran aground.
Even in the best weather, a boat may hit something that is submerged, but a boat operator who collides with anything and injures someone while speeding through thick fog with no GPS device and no charts will almost certainly be found negligent and held accountable for damages.
When one boat crashes into another boat or into a wave or a big wake, the collision may knock passengers over and even throw them overboard. Liability in such cases will not always be obvious.
Liability in awake or wave accident depends on factors like the type of boat, speed, visibility, and nearby boat traffic when the accident occurred. Investigators will also determine if the boat's operator was intoxicated or otherwise impaired, and therefore liable, at the time of the accident.
DRINKING WHILE BOATING – DON'T DO IT
A first conviction for boating under the influence in Louisiana may be penalized with up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.
However, anyone who is convicted of boating under the influence with injuries will face harsher penalties. A boating under the influence conviction will be offered as conclusive evidence of liability if an injury victim pursues a personal injury claim.
WHAT INJURIES ARE COMMONLY ASSOCIATED WITH BOATING ACCIDENTS?
The most serious and catastrophic personal injuries associated with boating accidents include traumatic brain injuries, fractured bones, and spinal cord damage. Recoveries from these injuries can be lengthy and expensive. The most severely injured victims suffer permanent disability.
Spinal cord injuries can cause permanent or temporary paralysis affecting both sensory and movement capabilities. Traumatic brain injuries may leave victims with substantial physical and cognitive disabilities. Victims of these injuries will need the maximum available compensation.
HOW CAN YOU STAY SAFE ON THE WATER?
The U.S. Coast Guard offers these basic safety recommendations to anyone who owns or operates any type of boat or watercraft:
- Do not drink or use any intoxicants before operating a boat.
- Always carry flares, a fire extinguisher, and a marine-band radio.
- Always use life vests.
- Always get a weather forecast before any boating activity.
If a negligent boater is responsible for injuring you in Louisiana waters, you're entitled by law to be compensated for your current and future accident-related medical costs, your lost income and lost earning capacity, your personal pain and suffering, and all other related damages.
HOW WILL THE RIGHT PERSONAL INJURY LAWYER HELP YOU?
However, you and your lawyer must prove that the other party was negligent. A Lafayette boating accident attorney will question any witnesses, review the accident and medical reports, identify the liable party or parties, and negotiate for the compensation that is rightfully yours.
Most personal injury cases are resolved with negotiated, out-of-court settlements, but if the other party denies liability or if no reasonable settlement offer is forthcoming, your attorney can take the case to trial and ask a jury to order the payment of the compensation you need and deserve.
In some cases, even if a boater has liability for your damages, you may not be compensated. If a boat's owner or operator has no assets or boat insurance, that person will have no way to pay. Auto insurance doesn't cover boats, and many boaters have no homeowners' insurance, either.
A Lafayette boating accident attorney will investigate every detail of a boating accident and will determine which party or parties may have liability – and the ability to pay damages – before recommending any specific legal action.
After obtaining medical treatment for your injuries, speaking to an attorney who handles boat accident cases is the first step you should take. If you've been injured by negligence, obtaining the advice and services of a good personal injury lawyer is your right.
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Blase Inzina is a personal injury lawyer in Lafayette, Louisiana, and is a former insurance defense lawyer. He is licensed to practice in Louisiana and Arizona. The information on this site is for informational purposes only and should not be considered legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should speak to an attorney before taking action.