Were you injured in a boating accident? Contact a boat accident lawyer for a free case evaluation.
If you or a loved one have been seriously injured in a boating or water sports accident caused by someone else’s negligence, you may have cause to pursue legal action. As the injured victim, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for your medical treatment, missed time from work, and pain and suffering. However, you will likely need a boat accident lawyer who has the experience and legal acumen to get you the full compensation that you deserve.
For more than 60 years, the boat accident lawyers of Munley Law have helped clients throughout Pennsylvania. Our boating accident attorneys have earned national recognition for their work on behalf of injured victims. We have been named among the Best Lawyers in America, and have received the highest possible peer and client review ratings from Martindale-Hubbell. Contact a boat accident lawyer now for a consultation, free of charge.
How Boat Accidents Happen
There are many causes of boat accidents including:
- Careless and Reckless Operation of a Boat Many boat captains operate their boats in a negligent or careless manner that can lead to boating and water accidents. This can include things such as allowing boat passengers to sit in inappropriate places on the boat while it is moving; splashing other boats; jumping a wake in the vicinity of another boat; violating low wake rules; failing to observe other watercraft in their vicinity; failing to maintain a safe distance from other boats or water vessels; boat operator inattention; failure to yield to another boat, jet ski, water skier or watercraft; overloading a boat with too many passengers or cargo.
- Excessive Speed It is very important that boats and all watercraft including jet skis, maintain a safe speed. Many accidents happen because of speed and boaters can lose control of the watercraft and easily crash and have a serious accident. Safe speeds ensure that boaters can see swimmers, other boaters, objects and hazards in the water.
- Alcohol Use All boat and watercraft operators must obey the same laws as a driver behind the wheel of a car. You cannot drive a boat impaired or have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeding 0.08. If you choose to operate a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substance, you’re breaking the law and endangering the lives of your passengers and fellow boaters. In Pennsylvania, if you operate a watercraft while under the influence, you could face fines between $300 and $12,500, up to five years in jail, and/or suspension of boating privileges for one year. If you refuse to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test, the Boating Commission may suspend your boating privileges for up to 18 months.
- Inexperienced Boat Driver Often the driver of a boat may not have the skill or experience need to properly operate a boat and this may lead to a boat crash, water-skiing accident, tubing accident or swimming accident. It is important to know as much as possible about the experience level of your boat captain, before you board a boat or participate in water activities on a boat. There are certain rules and regulations that boating captains should know about and there are several classes on boating that are offered to teach boaters how to navigate the boat.
- Boat Passenger Carelessness or Recklessness A boat captain or operator is responsible for all passengers on their watercraft. The boat operator must keep all passengers seated while the boat is moving, and make sure their line of sight is clear and unobstructed. Boat drivers should never tow a skier who wants to ride in a reckless manner. When pulling a skier, a designated observer must be in the boat.
- Bad Weather All boaters and water sport enthusiasts must check your safety equipment, listen to the forecast and create a float plan that details where and when you will be boating. Keep in mind that high winds can make waters very treacherous.
Tips for Avoiding a Boating Accident
Keep these tips in mind before going out on the water:
- Stay sober. Although many equate boating or fishing with liquor, as you’ve already ready you can face serious trouble with the law.
- Keep an eye on the forecast. If rough weather is coming your way, plan your boat trip for another day.
- Make sure there are flotation devices for every passenger on board.
- Take a course on boating safety.
- Make sure you check your boat from bow to stern before heading out.
- Keep a fire extinguisher on the boat in case of fire.
Liable Parties in a Boating Accident
Just as there are a number of parties who may be held liable in a car accident, so too are there in boating accidents.
Liable parties in a boating accident may include:
- Another boat operator on the water
- A boat owner
- The boat manufacturer
- An employer
In order to determine if one of these parties, or multiple parties, are liable in a boating accident, negligence must be established.
The elements of negligence in a PA boating accident that must be proven to establish liability are:
- There was a legal duty owed to the plaintiff
- The defendant breached that duty
- The plaintiff suffered an injury
- The defendant’s breach caused the injury and resulting damages
If you are struggling with the determinant of negligence in your boating accident case, a boating accident lawyer can help.
What Are the Most Common Factors in Boating Accidents?
According to 2021 data from the United States Coast Guard, the five most common factors in boating accidents include:
- Operator inattention
- Operator inexperience
- Improper lookout
- Machinery failure
- Excessive speed
While many people may think that the majority of boating injuries result from accidents in choppy waters, however, that isn’t the case.
In fact, most boating accidents occur in fair weather conditions with calm waters, minimal to no wind, and good visibility.
Reducing Fatalities in Boating Accidents
It is common knowledge that drinking and boating do not mix, yet alcohol consumption remains one of the leading causes of boating fatalities. Further, where the cause of death can be concluded, more than 80 percent was due to drowning. Of those victims who drowned, less than 20 percent were wearing life jackets.
Knowing this, some of the best ways to reduce boating fatalities and protect other boat operators may include:
- Avoiding alcohol consumption while operating a boat.
- Make sure that the necessary safety equipment is on board. This includes life jackets for every person on the boat, anchors, etc.
- Load passengers and gear carefully.
- Follow all state, local, and federal boating laws.
PA Boating Laws
The Pennsylvania Fish & Boat Commission makes the rules and regulations surrounding the operation and use of watercraft throughout the Commonwealth. Learn more about the laws Pennsylvanians must follow before operating a boat.
Who needs the Pennsylvania Boating Safety Education Certificate?
Anyone born on or after January 1st, 1982 must have a Pennsylvania Boating Safety Certificate to operate a motorboat greater than 25HP or another personal watercraft.
How many personal flotation devices (PFDs) are required on a boat?
At least one U.S. Coast Guard-approved Type IV PFD (ring buoy or seat cushion) is required on all recreational boats measuring 16 feet in length or longer, as well as wearable PFDs for each person on board. There are exceptions for personal watercraft, canoes, and kayaks.
In addition, anyone aged 12 or younger on board any water vessel that is less than 20 feet long, as well as canoes and kayaks of any length, must be wearing an approved PFD while underway.
Is alcohol permitted on boats?
If you have a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more, you are considered to be boating under the influence of alcohol (BUI). Under Pennsylvania law, boating under the influence is punishable by up to two years in prison, loss of boating privileges for one year, and/or fines of up to $7,500.
Under the “Zero Tolerance” regulation, people under 21 cannot operate a vessel with a blood alcohol content above 0.02%.
Does my boat or watercraft need to be registered with the state?
The Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission handles all registration for watercraft in the state. Under their regulations, all vessels that are propelled by machinery, including gasoline, diesel, and electric motors, must be registered and issued a Pennsylvania Boat Registration Card by the Commission. Recreational vessels such as yachts and sailboats that use gasoline, diesel, or electric motors for auxiliary power also must be registered.
What should I do if I’m injured in a boating accident?
If you are one of the thousands of Americans who are injured in a boating accident each year, there are certain steps you need to take after being involved in a boating accident if you are hoping to recover compensation for your injuries.
The first step following a boating accident is to seek medical attention and report the accident to the proper personnel. In general, this is the Coast Guard, The Fish and Boat Commission, or local authorities, that will send medical help, and begin to assess the situation, specifically in situations where severe injury or death has occurred.
You’ll also want to gather information about the other boats involved in the accident. This includes details like name, contact information, insurance information, etc. In addition, you’ll want to speak to any passengers and eyewitnesses to gather their information as well. No matter who you are speaking to, do not admit fault.
Once on land, you’ll need to do the following:
- Notify your insurance company
- Contact a boating accident attorney
Handling a PA boating accident on your own is often complex as many boating accident claims may be challenged on safety measures and weather concerns. But at Munley Law, we work diligently to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve for your boating accident injury.
Contact a Boat Accident Lawyer at Munley Law Now
The experienced boating accident attorneys at Munley Law have represented hundreds of victims of boat accidents. We have learned, through years of experience, that injuries and deaths from boating and watersport accidents are often caused by the negligent and careless actions on the part of boat operators. We would like to help you evaluate your case today and determine who is at fault for your boating crash. We offer FREE consultations to all of our boating accident victims and we do not collect a fee unless we win for you.
Call us today at (844) 532-8879 and request your free consultation. If you are unable to come to our offices a boat accident lawyer will arrange to meet with you at home or wherever is most convenient for you. We have offices in Philadelphia, Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, Pittsburgh and many more.
Boating Accident FAQ
Injured in a boating accident? A boating accident attorney from Munley Law can help. Learn how our firm can help you in this PA boating injury lawyer FAQ.
Q. How can a boating accident attorney help me?
At Munley Law, we help boat accident victims and their families recover the compensation they need for their boating injuries. Not all personal injury firms handle boat accident or jet ski accidents, but at Munley Law, we handle most maritime claims.
Our firm can help you:
- Gather the needed evidence such as photos and videos
- Secure a copy of the police report
- Determine liability
- Calculate total losses
- Handle negotiations
- Represent you in court
Q. What makes jet ski accidents so dangerous?
Being in an enclosed boat can still leave you at risk for serious injury if you become involved in an accident. However, jet skis often leave accident victims more susceptible for severe injury, similar to how motorcycle riders can be hurt more seriously in a car accident compared to those in a typical car accident.
According to statistics by the U.S. Coast Guard, 40 to 50 people die on jet skis every year with an additional 600-700 reported injuries.
Because there is little protection on a jet ski, riders may experience injuries such as:
- Broken bones
- Neck, back, and spinal cord injury
- Traumatic brain injury
- Internal injury
Q. Is there a statute of limitations on boating accident lawsuits?
Like other personal injury cases in Pennsylvania, victims of boat accidents have two years from the date of injury to file a personal injury claim. However, if death occurs as a result of the injuries sustained in the boating accident, the family of the deceased has two years from the date of the wrongful death to make a claim.
Q. What compensation is available in a boat accident lawsuit?
If you or a loved one were a victim of a boat accident, a boat accident law firm can help you secure the compensation you need to move forward from your injuries.
Potential compensation available may include:
- Medical expenses
- Lost wages
- Diminished earning potential
- Property damage
- Pain and suffering
Q. Can I still make a claim for my injuries if I was drunk as a passenger on a boat?
If you were drunk and then suffered a boating accident injury, you still have a right to file a boat injury claim, so long as you were not the primary cause of the accident in the first place.
Under Pennsylvania’s comparative negligence rule, you can recover damages as long as you were less than 51 percent at fault. Exceeding that percentage, you will be unable to seek compensation for damages in boating accidents.
Q. What happens if our boat operator did not have the proper safety measures available on the boat? Who is at fault?
Boating accidents can often become complicated for a variety of reasons. One of those is that the boat operator did not have the proper safety devices available on the boat in the case of an accident.
In these cases, it becomes even more imperative that a boating accident attorney be called for your case right away. A Munley Law boat lawyer will be well-versed in maritime laws which dictate the importance of these protective measures and if the lack of them increased the severity of risk or injury put onto the victims.
So long as you were in compliance with the law and not more than 50 percent at fault for the accident and injuries, you may still be able to recover damages for your losses.
Q. How much is the average boat accident settlement worth?
With thousands injured every year in boating accidents, many victims call upon boat accident lawyers to determine if they will be able to secure a settlement that will recover their losses.
In general each year there are more than $55 million dollars in damages. While there is no average boat accident settlement value, a boating injury accident attorney can determine what caused the collision, who was at fault, what the total value of your injuries and losses were, and how your long-term recovery will impact your economic future.
These findings can determine the best settlement you may recover, or if the case is to go to trial.
Q. What holidays are most common for boating accidents?
According to the American Boating Association, the 4th of July, Memorial Day, and Labor Day are the most common holidays for boating accidents to occur. This can be due to a variety of reasons from more people out on recreational water vessels, the consumption of alcohol, and the presence of unskilled boat operators on the water.
Because of this, boat operators and passengers are reminded to be diligent about the risks of reckless behavior on water vessels and how they can have lifelong repercussions.
But, if you or a loved one have suffered a severe injury on a boat during the summer months, a boat injury attorney from Munley Law can help.
Q. How do I find the best boat accident attorney near me?
In order to find the best boat accident lawyer in Pennsylvania, you must be mindful that not all personal injury attorneys are equipped to handle boating accidents. But there are things you can do to ensure you find a boating accidents attorney that can help you.
The first is to do your research. Not all personal injury attorneys can handle boating accidents, and not all have the trial experience that may be needed to handle your case. Be sure to reach out to multiple law firms near you, learn what their record is, and review client testimonials to see if you will be a match.
Secondly, take advantage of free consultations. There is only so much information you can gain from Google searches and client testimonials. During the free consultation, you’ll be able to ask questions, meet the law firm staff, and determine if your personal needs will be met by working with that specific boating accident attorney.
Lastly, find out how the law firm is paid. Most personal injury law firms are paid on a contingency fee basis which means that there is no upfront cost, instead, a percentage of your award will be paid out to the victim. This percentage should not be more than the settlement or verdict you are given in the case. Further, if the boating accident lawyer does not win your case or secure a settlement, you should not owe them anything.