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Boat Accidents

Posted by attorney John Zinda

On April 14, 1912, there were 2,235 passengers on board the R.M.S. Titanic. A shudder shook the 900 foot vessel: it had hit an iceberg. The iceberg then “knifed open" the side of the hull and six “watertight" compartments began taking in water. These events caused the famous tragedy we all know about today- the sinking of the Titanic. That ill-fated night, 1,522 individuals died and only 713 individuals were rescued. While in the twenty-first century boat safety has improved significantly, no boat is accident-proof.

In recent news, boat accidents have been making headlines again. In San Francisco, a bachelor party on board a 45 foot boat in San Francisco Bay began sinking. While no one was injured, the event was a surprising twist that was alarming at times to those on board.

In South Africa, four people died after a charter boat capsized off of South Africa’s Hout Bay and three more remain missing. The family members of the victims who died in the incident are reported to be “…besides themselves and totally devastated."

Then there is the horrible instance that occurred this month in Hong Kong: after two ferries collided, at least 38 individuals died. Rescuers picked up 123 survivors, while several of the passengers remained missing. This crash was the deadliest in Hong King since 1971.

According to 2011 statistics by the US Coast Guard, there were 4,588 boat accidents involving 758 deaths, 3,081 injuries and approximately $52 million worth of damage to property. Common boating accidents involve any of the following:

  • Capsizing
  • Falls
  • Ejections from the vessel
  • Fire or explosions
  • Collisions with another vessel or object
  • Water skiing mishaps
  • Striking a submerged object
  • A person struck by a vessel or propeller
  • Carbon monoxide exposure
  • Electrocution

While boating is a popular American past-time, it is not risk-free. Fishing, water skiing, tubing and wake boarding can quickly turn dangerous, when individuals do not employ care. What are ways you can avoid a boat accident?

  • Know how to operate your boat safely: take a boating safety course and in the beginning, start in an uncrowded location and have an experienced operator give you lessons
  • Keep in mind that if you are not old enough to operate a car, than you are probably not old enough to operate a boat
  • Keep life jackets on board
  • Give swimmers and other watercraft plenty of space
  • Use lights in the evening
  • Do not drink while boating

Boating under the influence is one of the most common causes behind a boat accident. When an individual boats under the influence, he/she impairs their peripheral vision, night vision, focus, ability to distinguish colors, judgment and cognitive abilities. In fatal boating accidents, alcohol is the leading contributing factor.

If operator inattention, improper lookout, operator inexperience, excessive speed or machinery failure were involved in an accident, these are all grounds for a personal injury lawsuit. Damages that you can fight for include medical bills, repairs for your boat, lost wages, disability expenses, emotional distress, and so forth. Keep in mind that in Texas the statute of limitations is two years, so don’t make the mistake of procrastinating.

Additional resources provided by the author

Zinda and Davis, PLLC is a personal injury firm based in Austin, Texas. The firm has over 10 years of experience representing clients and handling a wide range of cases including animal bites, car accidents, child abuse, construction accidents, workplace injuries and wrongful death. The firm is accredited by the Better Business Bureau,® has been named among the “Top 40 Under 40 Trial Lawyers” and is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum .® Contact the firm today if you need help pursuing your legal options in the aftermath of an accident!

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