The five boroughs of Manhattan, including Long Island and the various counties in Westchester, are surrounded by hundreds of miles of ocean, river, lake and other navigable waterways. There are numerous types of boats available for hire, including cruise ships, casino boats and fishing charters throughout our various local communities. There are also numerous private pleasure craft on virtually every body of water throughout the State of New York. Additionally, aside from boats and yachts, personal watercrafts, such as jet skis and wave runners, have become quite popular and are found just about everywhere. Therefore, it is no surprise that boating accidents are becoming more common than ever before. This is especially true since various types of boats, yachts and personal watercrafts are traveling throughout the same waterways and may be competing for various positioning in many of the same areas. Boating is an increasingly popular form of recreation and can be very enjoyable if done responsibly.
Unfortunately, many times inexperienced or negligent boat owners and operators can ruin and turn what is an otherwise exciting time and pleasurable experience into a catastrophic event or accident which causes serious injury and extensive damage.
Any injury that occurs on or with a boat, ship, ferry or personal watercraft is considered a boating accident. Most boating fatalities are not weather related. In fact, fatalities typically occur in open vessels on inland waters during the day when the weather and visibility are good and the winds and waters are calm. Unfortunately, a number of events can lead to accidents on the water. If you or a loved one has been the victim of a boating accident and have sustained injuries and damages or someone close to you has died due to this type of accident, call the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. for a free initial consultation regarding your legal rights to obtain full and fair compensation and damages due to your harms and losses.
Common Causes of Boating Accidents
- Driver/operator error;
- Collision, capsizing, flooding or sinking due to consumption of alcohol, lack of experience in boating or related to weather;
- Driver/operator inexperience;
- Driving/boating/skiing/boarding while under the influence of alcohol or drugs;
- Equipment/instrument failure;
- Exhaust fumes and carbon monoxide poisoning;
- Explosions or fire due to improper maintenance of the fuel system or improper storage of fuel;
- Electrocution due to lightning or the vessel striking a power line;v
- Adverse weather and/or water conditions;
- Excessive speed;
- Failing to keep a proper lookout for other vessels and/or persons in the water; and,
- Improper behavior or activity on the part of a passenger or water skier.
There are federal statutes often referred to as Admiralty Laws or Maritime Laws which apply to ships three miles from shore on the Atlantic side and nine miles from the shore on the Gulf side of the United States. Included within Maritime Law is the Doctrine of Un-Seaworthiness. A vessel is deemed not seaworthy if it lacks the proper equipment or devices to allow it to engage safely in the trade for which it was intended. In addition to Federal Maritime Law, there are several Federal laws which protect employees who work on boats, such as the Jones Act and the Death on the High Seas Act. These laws are intended to protect employees who work on vessels on any navigable waters, regardless of whether those waters are considered state waters or federal waters.
Obviously, responsibility for boating accidents will vary depending upon certain factors, such as the individual circumstances surrounding the accident and your relationship to the vessel. In order to determine liability or fault, the collection of evidence becomes very important in order to determine whether there was a failure to use reasonable care by one boat operator or possibly an accident was due to the negligence on the part of operators of two or more vessels. Therefore, it is very possible that the responsibility for any accident involving more than one vessel can be shared by both operators which will need to be determined in the Court.
“Rules of the Road” is a term used for regulations that govern the conduct of boats in relation to each other. The purpose of “Rules of the Road” is to prevent vessel collisions. Therefore, navigational rules are a set of rules just as the “Rules of the Road” apply to drivers of motor vehicles. There may be two sets of navigational rules: inland and international. International navigational rules are standardized all over the world, allowing boats from different countries to follow the same rules when they meet. Inland navigational rules can vary from region to region. Nautical charts typically involve a demarcation line which shows when the navigational rules transition from inland to international so that boaters can be aware of changing standards of navigation. For purposes of determining responsibility for accidents in and around the City of New York, Long Island and Westchester counties, the “Rules of the Road” or state navigational rules are the primary method for determining who is at fault for the collision. However, the law also allows for recovery based upon a violation of a duty of care. Certainly, the law imposes duties upon vessel operators under different circumstances. The standard here is whether the acts or omissions which caused the collision were reasonable under the circumstances. In order to prevail under General Maritime Law you must prove a duty, breach of duty, and the breach of duty was a cause of your injuries and damages.
Very often, it may be necessary to retain and hire certain experts who have greater knowledge than an ordinary person relating to the use of pleasure boats and/or other types of vessels that are involved in a boating accident. The reason for this is that depending upon the size of the boat, the equipment on board the boat and/or the manner in which the accident occurred may require expert testimony. Larger boats, yachts or other vessels have navigation equipment which may not be entirely understood by a lay person as opposed to the simpler equipment on board a smaller boat. In other situations you may have a sailboat which is moving as a result of the wind versus a powerboat which may be moving irrespective of wind conditions. In any event, there may be various technical issues and elements which require some expertise in order to determine responsibility for an accident which is not as simple as motor vehicles on a roadway. Accordingly, determining the cause of a boating accident, whether it involves a large yacht, ship, personal watercraft and/or a wave runner/jet ski, requires a thorough analysis of all the facts and circumstances surrounding and leading up to the accident. Our law office is experienced in representing boating accident victims who have suffered head trauma, back and neck injuries, brain injuries, spinal cord injuries, lacerations, disfigurement, amputations due to propeller accidents, drowning and other fatalities. If you or a loved one has been injured or someone close to you has died due to this type of accident, call the Law Offices of Ira M. Perlman, P.C. & Robert D. Rosen, P.C. for a free initial consultation regarding your legal rights to obtain full and fair compensation and damages due to your harms and losses.
Reporting Requirements for Boating Accidents
The U.S. Coast Guard requires a report to be completed pursuant to 33 CFR 173.55 when there is a boating accident where someone has died or someone is injured and requires medical treatment beyond typical first aid or there has been damage to a vessel in the amount of or exceeding $2,000.00 or when there has been a complete loss of a vessel or where there has been the disappearance of somebody from a water vessel under circumstances which indicate injury or death. Unfortunately, many accidents do go unreported notwithstanding federal law requirements. Whether or not an accident has been reported does not affect someone’s rights to pursue any rightful claim for full and fair compensation and damages due to injuries sustained in a boating accident.