Federal & State Laws Governing Boats
The U.S. government has various laws in place to govern vessels on navigable waters, in other words, those stretches of water that are used to transport goods. While the federal government mainly regulates commercial water vessels, New York state has regulations and statutes concerning:
- Registration and ownership of vessels
- Licensing and educational requirements
- Mandatory accident reporting
- Duties of boat operators
- Boating while under the influence (BWI)
Causes of Boating Accidents
The U.S. Coast Guard lists the leading causes of boating accidents, in descending order of frequency, as:
- Operating a vessel while distracted
- Operator inexperience
- Excessive speed
- Alcohol use
- Mechanical failure
- Navigation rule violations
- Hazardous waters
- Force of a wave or wake
Liability for Boating Accidents
To make a personal injury claim against the operator of another vessel, you must show negligence on that person’s part, or if you’re injured as a passenger on another person’s vessel, that vessel’s operator or owner may be liable.
If you are struck by another boat on a waterway, to prove negligence and win your claim for injuries, you must prove:
- The boat operator owed you a duty of care
- The boat operator breached that duty of care
- The breach of care was the cause of your injuries
In addition to the boat operator, others who may be liable for breaching their “duty of care” include the boat owner, the manufacturer, boat mechanics, an employer of the boat operator, and even other passengers.
It is important to remember is that the statute of limitations in New York for filing a personal injury claim is three years from the date of the accident that caused the injury.
New York does not require boat insurance in order to register a recreational vessel, but lenders do, so most motorized boat owners likely will carry insurance. If you wish to file a claim with your insurer and/or with the other operator’s insurance company, you must do that as soon as practicable. They’re not going to wait three years.
Under a personal injury claim, you can recover compensation for medical expenses, loss of income, pain and suffering, disability, and more, but remember that New York uses the pure comparative negligence standard. This means that your percentage of fault for the accident will reduce your compensation by that same percentage.
As an example, say the jury awards $30,000 in compensation, but it finds you to have been 20% at fault. That means your compensation will be reduced by $6,000 to $24,000. Under the “pure” standard, you can still collect compensation even if you’re 90% or more at fault, but that would mean the other operator could file a claim against you for 90% of his losses and damages.
Turn to Experienced Attorneys
Accidents involving waterborne vessels can be infinitely more complex than vehicular collisions on the road. If the other vessel’s owner or operator has no insurance, either serious negotiations or a lawsuit are likely on the horizon.
If there is insurance and you report the accident to the insurers involved, they will likely sic their adjusters on you. Their primary goal is to reduce your claim to the lowest dollar amount — or to deny it altogether. They will use every trick in the book to get you to say something that they can use against you to pin the blame on you or otherwise find a reason to low-ball or reject your claim.
You don’t want to go it alone against the big insurance companies or against the insurance-less operator of the other vessel and his attorneys.
In addition, there may be claims against others besides just the boating operator whose negligence caused your injuries. We can pursue your claim on many fronts, negotiate with the insurers and others, and when necessary, take the whole matter to court.