Whether at the lake or in the ocean, spending time on a boat is all about fun.
While boats are for recreation, their use can lead to accidents when someone is negligent or reckless. Generally, boating accidents occur in the same situations as car accidents: human error, equipment failure, or poor weather conditions. Regardless of the cause, if you are injured in a boat accident and someone else was negligent, you might be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
A Look at the 7 Most Common Causes of Boating Accidents in New Orleans
While numerous things can lead to a boating accident, there are seven causes that are the most common. Sometimes, an accident is caused by a combination of these seven causes. Other times, just one of these causes is enough.
Cause #1: Speeding
Like car accidents, boating accidents might occur from excessive speeds. Speeding on a boat can be dangerous because a vessel does not have brakes like a motor vehicle. This makes it harder to stop if that boat is traveling too fast.
Going at excessive speeds on a boat can make it harder for the operator to maneuver or avoid accidents like colliding with another ship, avoiding a swimmer, or even avoiding an object (such as a dock).
During bad weather or rough water conditions, controlling the boat at higher speeds becomes dangerous. Not only can the boat collide with an object, but passengers may be thrown overboard.
Cause #2: Reckless Operators
Reckless boating does happen, and speeding is not the only type of irresponsible behavior seen on boats. For example, operators may fail to follow navigation rules like not boating in areas designated for swimmers only or boating while distracted.
Also, boating while under the influence is a common cause of boating accidents. Operators assume that because they are not in a vehicle, they can operate a boat while under the influence. When an operator is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it causes delayed reaction times just like in a motor vehicle – increasing the chances of a serious accident.
Boating While Intoxicated
In Louisiana, you can be charged with a BWI (Boating While Intoxicated). It is illegal for anyone to operate a vessel under the influence. Anyone with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more (and of age 21 or higher) can be arrested and charged with a BWI. If the operator is underage, they cannot have a BAC of 0.02 percent or higher.
Not only does a person charged with a BWI face criminal penalties, but they could face civil penalties if they were to cause an accident while intoxicated on their boat.
Cause #3: Poor Maintenance
Boats require maintenance just like motor vehicles. An owner must keep their vessel not only safe but also seaworthy. Failure to perform maintenance could cause a vessel to have a steering or engine failure. Also, failing to look for safety flaws (not having life jackets on board or not fixing broken railings, for example) can lead to accidents,
Cause #4: Fires
A fire on a boat can be catastrophic. Vessels carry excessive amounts of fuel. Therefore, a small fire can lead to an explosion. Depending on the severity, fires may lead to severe burns or might force a boat to sink.
Cause #5: Capsizing or Flooding
Any boat can sink, regardless of size. Any leak or weakness in the hull can force a vessel to take on water. When there is too much water in the hull, that boat will sink. This is especially true in rough seas.
A leak or weakness is not the only risk. A boat might capsize in poor weather, trapping the passengers inside the boat and underwater.
Cause #6: Defective Equipment
Boats are highly sophisticated machines. They rely on engines, electrical systems, batteries, fuel, propellers, and generators. All these systems must work in tandem to keep the boat operating safely. When a defect occurs in any of these systems, it can lead to anything from a collision to an explosion to sinking in the ocean.
Cause #7: Inexperienced Boat Operators
Louisiana requires boat operators to have a boating license. You must complete the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries boating program to receive your license.
Also, anyone born after January 1, 1984, can operate a boat that has more than ten horsepower if they are accompanied by a legal adult (someone over the age of 18) that has completed the course.
The state prohibits anyone under the age of 16 from operating a watercraft.
The course takes six to eight hours, and there is no charge for the class.
Who Is Liable for a Boating Accident?
Determining liability in boating accidents is not always clear. Instead, it depends on the circumstances of the case. For example, if a defective part caused the crash, the liability would possibly rest on the boat owner, the manufacturer of that part, or the company responsible for maintaining the boat.
If an operator’s intoxication causes the accident, then that operator would be held liable. However, if a third party supplied the alcohol and knew that the person was going to operate the vessel while intoxicated, then they too may be liable.
Because liability is a complicated process, it is in your best interest to speak with an attorney that has experience handling boat accident cases. An attorney can assess the situation, look at the causes of the accident, and better identify who is liable for your injuries.
Schedule a Consultation with a Boating Accident Attorney Today
If you or a loved one was injured in a boating accident, do not wait to contact an attorney.
The sooner you get an attorney involved, the easier it will be to see if you have a case and to retrieve compensation from the at-fault parties.