Georgia summers are the perfect time to plan a day out boating at the lake. You’re enjoying yourself as you swim and water ski. Then, the worst happens: your boat collides with another vessel, an object or an individual. One or more people are injured, and the boat itself might be totaled.
All boat owners need to be prepared for the possibility of a collision. Every summer, people take to the lakes with boats, jet skis, sailboats, and other vehicles. Many assume it’s all fun and games. But people are injured every year in boating-related accidents due to negligence.
If you’ve been injured in a boat accident in Georgia, contact Scholle Law to speak with a boating accident lawyer. We know that a fun day in the sun shouldn’t ruin your life. Let us help you recover financial damages to help you get your life back.
Call us today at (866) 592-1296 for a free, no-obligation consultation.
What is a boating accident?
According to the US Coast Guard, a boating accident includes any situation where a boat passenger is seriously injured or dies, a passenger disappears and death or injury is suspected, or a vessel causes or sustains damage.
It’s important to know what counts as a boating accident before you leave the dock so you have an idea of what to do if the situation arises. In some accidents, people aren’t prepared for occurrences such as swamping or flooding, grounding, or people falling overboard.
On Georgia lakes, boating accidents can involve individuals, motorboats, sailboats, and jet skis. Even hovercrafts are covered under this definition.
The most common form of a boating accident is when one boat, typically a speed boat, hits another vessel or hits an obstacle, like a dock, piling or a rock.
When these accidents occur at lakes, they are subject to state laws. However, if they happen at sea, they would be covered under marine law, which is a complex system of federal laws.
What To Do In a Boating Accident
Most people have never considered what to do in a boat accident.
This guide will help prepare you for what to do if you are in a boating accident in Georgia:
Report Your Accident to the Proper Authorities
Check Who Needs Medical Attention
You will need to submit a boating accident report that includes who was involved, what happened, and what property damage or personal injuries were sustained to the state’s primary boating authority.
Under O.C.G.A. § 52-7-14, you are required to report a boating accident to the authorities. You have 48 hours to do so if a person dies within 24 hours, a person requires medical treatment, or a person disappears from the vessel. Otherwise, you have five days to make the report.
Anyone involved in a boating accident should seek medical attention immediately, even if they do not feel that they are seriously injured. Some injuries, such as traumatic brain injuries, or orthopedic joint injuries involving soft tissues, can take days or weeks to manifest. The earlier you find the injury, the faster you can recover.
To fill out a report for the authorities and to file an insurance claim, you will need to collect some information from the scene of the boating accident. Be sure to take the time to find out the following:
- Contact information of everyone involved, including their name and address
- Vessel identification of all the boat operators
- Boating license information of all drivers
- Insurance company names and policy numbers of all involved
- Take as many photos as possible. Document the weather conditions, the damage, the scene of the accident, the location, the boats’ positions, and any injuries.
Call a Boat Accident Lawyer
Before you file an insurance claim, talk to a Georgia boat accident lawyerto find out how to protect your rights. Calling the insurance company immediately could result in your claim being denied or you accidentally negating your ability to file for damages if you convey the information incorrectly..
If you’re injured due to another boater’s negligence, you have the right to file a claim for damages. Call Scholle Law today for a free consultation so we can start working on your case.
Common Types of Boat Accidents
With the wide definition of “boat” in boating accident law, many types of accidents can occur on the water.
Commercial Boating Accidents
Jet Ski Accidents
Marina and Dock Accidents
Party Boat Accidents
Water Skiing and Towing Accidents
Employees who work on the water every day risk serious injuries from the vessel. Tankers, barges, tugboats, and fishing vessels all pose unique risks if they are involved in a boating accident.
People view jet skis as fun toys to play with. But the combination of speed and water conditions can make them a tragic accident waiting to happen. Many users don’t know how to properly operate the vehicle and don’t obey basic safety rules, often going too close to other operators on the water.
Large yachts may be luxurious, but they’re also at risk of boating accidents. Captain negligence and a lack of adherence to safety rules can injure everyone on board.
Many accidents actually happen when the boats are moored. Workers on docks can be injured by poorly maintained equipment. Docking can be one of the most difficult parts of driving a boat. Often inexperienced drivers will crash into docks when attempting to moor their vessel.
Accidents involving electricity wires around fixed structures like marinas or private docks can be fatal.
Alcohol is the culprit in most party boat accidents, where passengers and/or crew behave negligently. It is not uncommon for drunk passengers to fall overboard.
Being dragged behind a boat at high speeds with no protection is clearly a high-risk activity. Users face danger from other vessels, stationary objects such as docks, and injuries from hitting the water.
What is the cause of most boating accidents?
Like driving, there are rules to the water that ensure safe boating for everyone. When captains ignore this by speeding, splashing other boats, jumping wakes, and failing to yield, they can cause tragic accidents.
Slip-and-fall accidents are common on decks where people wear poor shoes and end up injuring themselves either on deck or by falling in the water.
Driving While Intoxicated
People assume that drinking on the water is fine. It’s not. Like driving a car, driving while intoxicated is a crime.
Summer boaters often rent a vessel without really knowing how to use it. Their inexperience can lead to them not knowing how to avoid dangerous situations, not being aware of safety practices, or hitting the wrong gear and causing injuries.
Passengers can easily distract the driver. If the captain is getting distracted, they can make a grave error.
Whether someone is drunk, the driver makes a sharp turn, or they slip on the deck, a fall into the water can be fatal. If the victim hits their head or doesn’t know how to swim, their life will be at risk.
Weather changes quickly on the water. Captains need to be aware of the forecast and know how to spot changes so they can turn around quickly.
Vehicle malfunctions can lead to deadly accidents. If the boat gets stuck in gear or the rudder stops working, the captain may not be able to avoid obstacles.
How To Prepare For a Boating Accident
- File a FLOAT plan.
- Tell someone where you’re going and when you will return.
- Have a noisemaker, such as a whistle, to alert potential rescuers.
- Have a VHF radio to call for help.
- Watch the weather and do not go out if storms are predicted.
- Take a boating safety class.
- Make sure everyone wears a life jacket.
- Passengers must remain seated throughout the boating journey.
- Display the appropriate navigation lighting in dark or stormy situations.
- Be aware of your position. Have a chart and compass that are up to date, and a GPS to keep track of your location.
- Observe the waters.
- Don’t assume other boaters are as knowledgeable as you. Give them a wide berth.
When should a boating accident be reported?
You should report a boating accident immediately if there is anyone with an injury or you need assistance safely removing the vehicle from its location.
Otherwise, you can wait up to five days to report a boating accident in Georgia.
A boating accident MUST be reported immediately if:
- Someone is injured and requires medical treatment
- Anyone dies within 24 hours
- Anyone is disabled for more than 24 hours
- Anyone fell overboard
How many boating accidents happen per year?
Recreational boating deaths have been slowly falling since 2016 when 701 deaths were reported. In 2019, only 613 deaths were reported.
In 2019, 4,168 boating accidents occurred in the United States. Since 2008, there have been less than 5,000 boating accidents per year.
In 2015, Georgia had 64 reported boating accidents that lead to injuries and 61 that lead to death.
If you have been injured in a boating accident in Georgia, contact Scholle Law. We understand that the average boater is just trying to do their job or have fun. We want to protect your rights to damages and ensure justice is served so our lakes stay safe for everyone to enjoy.
Boating Accident Questions and Answers
The operator or driver of a vessel must file a written boating accident report if:
- A person dies or disappears from the vessel in a way that suggests death or injury;
- A person is injured and requires medical attention; or
- Damage to the vehicle exceeds $2,000 or the vessel has sunk.
This report must be filed within five days (or 48 hours in situations with serious injuries and/or death).
When do most boating accidents occur?
Summer is the most common season for boating accidents in Georgia. These accidents are tied to inexperienced boaters who do not pay proper attention to safety regulations.
Summer draws many people to lakes, thus having a higher percentage of inexperienced boaters than at other times of the year.
Many boating accidents have nothing to do with the weather. They are primarily caused on holidays when operators make mistakes, get distracted, or are intoxicated.
Sometimes it is challenging to determine liability in a boating accident. It could be any of the following:
- The operator of the boat - for example, if they did not provide life jackets or were intoxicated
- The owner of the boat, if not the same as the operator - if they knowingly let an inexperienced individual drive the boat
- The manufacturer - If there was a defect in the manufacturing process that caused the accident
- The rental company - if the rental company had not fixed safety concerns, provided floatation devices, or shared local safety information
- A passenger - if they acted recklessly and distracted the driver
Homeowner’s insurance will cover a limited amount of damage to your vehicle. They typically have a limit of $1,000 of damage from the elements, theft, vandalism, or falling objects.
However, they do not typically cover boating accidents.
Alcohol is the leading cause of fatal boating accidents. In 2018, 101 deaths were attributed to boating accidents involving alcohol. It accounted for 23% of the deaths that year.
Drowning is the leading cause of death in fatal boating accidents, with 79% of all boating fatalities occurring due to drowning. The majority of these individuals were not wearing life jackets.
Contact us to speak with a lawyer about your accident.We’re available 24/7 and your first consultation is free.
Call 866-972-5287 or send us a message online