What exactly is a boating accident case?
A boating accident case is any case that involves a boating crash and/or any injury that happens on the water. The boating case could arise from a personal watercraft injury, jumping off a boat, swimming next to a boat that makes contact with you in some manner that causes a serious injury or death.
If you or a loved one is a victim of a serious boating accident, it is imperative that you retain a lawyer as soon as possible; but not all lawyers are experienced in Maritime Law, very few in fact. You need to make sure that the boating accident lawyer you hire is Board Certified in Maritime or Civil Trial Law and has handled maritime cases before.
Here at Zarzaur Law, we have multiple Board-Certified lawyers that have vast experience dealing with serious boating accident cases.
Joe Zarzaur is Board Certified as a Civil Trial Lawyer by the Florida Bar and is AV PREEMINENT Rated, the highest rating by Martindale-Hubbell.
What makes a boating case different from a case that happens on land?
The biggest difference between a serious boating accident case and a land-based injury case is that the boating accident case will always be governed by federal Maritime law and not just Florida law (or the law of the state in which the boating accident happens). This is a critically important distinction and when selecting a Pensacola boat accident lawyer or a boat accident law firm you must make certain that the lawyer or the law firm has experience dealing with federal maritime cases.
What about boating law is important for me to know before I seek a lawyer?
Federal maritime law has really complicated procedures that are in place to favor the boat owners and are usually working against the boating accident victim. These maritime provisions include the “limitation of liability” actions that allow a boat owner to limit their damages to the value of the vessel involved and no more. So, for example, let’s assume that someone you know is hurt badly in a personal watercraft collision. The collision involved two rented personal watercraft. Assume further that the “at fault” personal watercraft is owned by a business that rents them out by the hour. That jet ski business is required by law to have insurance for this type of collision, but that insurance will not apply at all unless you and your boating accident lawyer are able to get around the “Limitation of Liability” action that will be filed by the rental business. In this example, the personal watercraft business will file a Petition for Limitation of Liability and Exoneration. This petition if not defended by the boating accident lawyer correctly would result in an order limiting the total liability of this case to the value of the one personal watercraft that caused the boat collision.
As you can imagine (and as we see in real life), this can be a harsh result. Most personal watercraft are worth between $5,000.00 and $10,000.00. Most personal watercraft injury cases, however, are usually either catastrophic injuries or death cases. If the limitation action is not defended by your Pensacola boat accident attorney, then you or your family’s case will be limited to recovery of only $5,000.00 (or whatever the value of the offending personal watercraft).
Everyone probably can name someone they know that has had to hire a lawyer for a car wreck, but few of us know people that have had to hire a lawyer for a serious boating accident case. This means that boating accident cases are much less prevalent than car wrecks. Since there are not as many serious boating accident injuries or cases, there are fewer lawyers that have been asked to handle them. There are usually only one or two lawyers in a particular metropolitan area that handle maritime cases on a regular basis. For this reason, seeking a lawyer for serious boating accident cases deserves a higher level of discretion.
Getting Compensation for a Boating Accident
To get compensation for a boating accident, you will need to determine the cause of the accident in order to identify which party to hold accountable for your injuries. The boat operator, the boat owner, or the boat manufacturer may be responsible for the accident. Each of these parties owe a duty of care to ensure that the operation of the boat does not cause harm to others, and if they breach their duty of care, they may be held accountable for negligence.
The boat operator could be held legally responsible for the accident if they were recklessly operating the boat by speeding. They could also be held responsible if they were drinking or intoxicated with other substances while operating the boat. These are actions that would be in violation of the boat operator’s duty of care to others. If the victim in a boating accident can show that the boat operator breached their duty of care to others and their actions caused the accident, they may be held liable to the victim for any damages suffered. The victim must prove that the boat operator’s wrongdoing was the legal and proximate cause of their injury. In addition, the victim must prove that they suffered actual damages from the accident.
There could be cases where other parties besides the boat operator are responsible for the victim’s injuries despite not being operators of the boat. For example, if the owner of the boat is different from the operator of the boat, the owner might be held responsible if they failed to maintain the boat and keep it in a safe working condition. It is possible that the boat manufacturer or distributor can be held responsible if it is found that the accident was caused by a defect in the boat design or any of its parts.
Establishing who is responsible for the victim’s injuries requires a thorough investigation into the cause of the accident. Zarzaur Law has boat accident reconstruction experts who can investigate and give testimony on the cause of the accident.
What is the most common cause of boating accident injuries?
By far the most common cause of boating accident injuries is impaired driving. This is also known as boating under the influence or BUI. Being on the water means relaxing to most people and what comes along with relaxing for many people is drinking alcohol. Some that drink and drive boats do so in and reckless manner and end up causing injuries to either their passengers or those around them.
What is the most common cause of serious boating accident cases?
The most common cause of fatal boat accidents is personal watercraft collisions. Unfortunately, these mostly occur with rental personal watercraft businesses. The recipe for injury is there–mix inexperienced drivers and speed with other inexperienced drivers and then throw in a confined space that you cannot leave according to the business. What results is lots of inexperienced personal watercraft drivers, going as fast as they can and trying to avoid each other. If you were to throw any amount of alcohol or drugs into this mix, then you have a certain disaster but even without impairment, this is a perfect recipe for tragedy.
What kind of questions should I ask when speaking with lawyers over the phone to determine whether they know about maritime law?
If you or a loved one is a victim of a serious boat accident, it is imperative that you retain a lawyer as soon as possible. The insurance company for the boat owner will be notified as soon as this boating crash happens, and they will immediately dispatch an investigator to the scene to collect evidence. This gives the boating insurance company a head start and also gives them the best chance to collect evidence. So, it’s vital to retain a boating accident lawyer early in the process.
But do not hire just any lawyer, you need to make sure that the Pensacola boat accident lawyer you hire actually knows about boating accident law. Here are some example questions you should ask before ever visiting with the boat accident lawyer. You should be able to speak with the lawyer over the phone first. If you do not like their answers to these questions, then move on to another lawyer:
- Are you Board Certified in Maritime or Civil Trial law?
- Have you handled maritime cases before, if so, how many?
- Explain how the limitation of liability action will work?
- I understand that almost every boating accident case will be subject to both federal maritime law and state law, how many times have you had a case where you had to deal with both state and federal maritime law?
If anyone says that federal maritime law will not apply, then you should move on to another lawyer. The only way a boating accident case is not going to invoke federal maritime law is if the boating accident happens on a closed body of water like a small lake or pond. If it’s a body of water where boats travel or can be accessed by boats over 10 feet in length, then it’s likely going to involve federal maritime law. This is very important and any hesitation on these issues by the lawyer you are speaking with should be taken seriously by you or your family.
Here at Zarzaur Law, we have multiple Board-Certified lawyers that have vast experience dealing with serious boat accident cases. We have defeated limitation actions in nearly every one of nearly all of them required that we know the maritime law and know what to do to beat the limitation action.
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